Patriotic Elegy and Epic Illusion: Schiller’s Johanna in Russia

  • John PendergastEmail author
Part of the Bernard Shaw and His Contemporaries book series (BSC)


This chapter consists of two parts. The first part examines the translation of Jungfrau into Russian by Vasily Zhukovsky, the father of Russian romanticism. Orleanskaya deva (“The Maid of Orleans”) was never allowed to be performed but was nonetheless extremely influential to a generation of Russian poets and critics. A study of his other translations of Schiller poems and ballads reveals that he consistently prefers an elegiac tone to Schiller’s heroic one and, heightening the explicitly religious content and using words derived from Old Church Slavonic, he significantly alters and diminishes the pantheistic, Ancient Greek quality that Schiller crafted so carefully for his play. The second part explores the genesis of the eponymous opera Tchaikovsky devises from Zhukovsky’s play, for which he served as his own librettist. Compounding the effect of the alterations already inherent in the translation, Tchaikovsky has others of his compositions still very much in mind as he works, including song cycles, Romeo and Juliet, and Eugene Onegin. Finding innovative links between Schiller’s aesthetic philosophy and Tchaikovsky’s compositional approach, the author argues that The Maid of Orleans negotiates an awkward path between the lyric style for which Tchaikovsky was so well known and the epic style of grand opera to which he aspired.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Foreign LanguagesUnited States Military AcademyWest PointUSA

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