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This article is about Tolstoy's play. For the unrelated 1967 Lollywood film, see The Living Corpse .

The Living Corpse ( ), also published in English as Redemption and as Reparation, is a Russian play by Leo Tolstoy. Although written around 1900, it was only published shortly after his death; Tolstoy had never considered the work finished. An immediate success, it is still performed.


The central character of the play, Fedor Protasov, is tormented by the belief that his wife Liza has never really chosen between him and the more conventional Victor Karenin, a rival for her hand. He wants to kill himself, but doesn't have the nerve. Running away from his life, he first falls in with Gypsies, and into a sexual relationship with a Gypsy singer, Masha. However, facing Masha's parents' disapproval, he runs away from this life as well. Again he wants to kill himself, but lacks the nerve; again, his descent continues.

Meanwhile, his wife, presuming him dead, has married the other man. When Protasov is discovered, she is charged with bigamy, accused of arranging her husband's disappearance. He shows up in court to testify that she had no way of knowing that he was alive; when the judge rules that his wife must either give up her new husband or be exiled to Siberiamarker, Protasov shoots himself. Hysterically, his wife declares that it is Protasov whom she always loved.

Early productions

The play was first produced in 1911 at the Moscow Art Theatermarker under the direction of Konstantin Stanislavski; a production in Saint Petersburgmarker followed close behind. Rapidly translated into many languages, it played in Berlinmarker, Viennamarker, Parismarker, and Londonmarker that same year.

Although there was no early English-language production in the United Statesmarker, the first year saw a Yiddish-language production in New York Citymarker, produced by and starring Jacob Adler, in a Yiddish translation by Leon Kobrin. The November 3, 1911 opening was one of the great events of the New York theater season that year. Several days beforehand, the New York Times ran an extensive piece by Herman Bernstein, with a synopsis so thorough as almost to amount to an English translation of the play. Typical of the Times's somewhat disdainful attitude toward Yiddish theater at that time, the Times article, written by one of their few Jewish correspondents at that time, never explicitly mentions Adler's impending production.

The Adler production, which ran for four months, has been credited with reviving the fortunes of serious Yiddish-language theater in New York, after a period of about six years in which lighter fare had dominated the scene.

After also playing in New York in a German-language production in 1916, the play was finally performed in English Broadwaymarker in 1918, under the name Redemption, produced by Arthur Hopkins; Lulla Rosenfeld indicates that John Barrymore played the lead role in 1919.


The play has been filmed numerous times:
  • (1911, silent)
  • (1918, silent)
  • (1929, silent)
  • (1930)
  • (1937)
  • (1952)
  • (1968)

External links


  • Redemption, 1918, Redemption, 1928, The Living Corpse, 1929 on the Internet Broadway Database.
  • —, "Gilbert Miller Stages Tolstoy Play", New York Times, Sep 27, 1919. p. 13
  • —, "Leo Tolstoy's Play Makes a Triumph...", New York Times, Oct 19, 1916, 7.
  • Adler, Jacob, A Life on the Stage: A Memoir, translated and with commentary by Lulla Rosenfeld, Knopf, New York, 1999, ISBN 0-679-41351-0. 367-370 (commentary).
  • Bernstein, Herman, "Tolstoy's Play, "The Living Corpse," Stirs Russia; Strong Melodrama Produced in Russia Will Soon be Seen in Berlin and Elsewhere—The Story of a Worthless Husband's Failure and Final Sacrifice", New York Times, Oct 29, 1911, SM5.
  • Gilien, Leo, "Irving Place Production of Tolstoy Play Not Its First in America", Oct 22, 1916, X7.

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