The Inspector General by Gogol is one of the best satirical plays that I’ve read. Gogol is well known for his satire, either subtle or presumptuous. Satire is his forte. And in The Inspector General, it is expressed in its best.
Gogol voiced strongly against the greed, corruption, and inefficiency of the government officials. His various works are proof of this. But in my view, it is in The Inspector General, that Gogol discloses his views strongly.
The story is set in a provincial town, and it exposes the greed, corruption, inefficiency, and the despotism of the local officials on an official scale, and also vanity, self-importance, and opportunism on a personal scale. These officials squander government money which is granted to improve the facilities in the town. They make the life of the people miserable by demanding exorbitant bribes for work to be done or for trade to be carried on and harass them unnecessarily just to show their power. And when the news of an official visit from Petersburg reaches their ears, these officials concoct a joint venture on how to deceive him. Could they deceive him or would they be deceived in turn?
The play conveys a powerful message and the satire is presumptuous. The comical tone that is so perfectly maintained is most entertaining. Despite the gravity of the story, it was altogether hilarious. I can’t remember the last time I’ve laughed over a play this much. It was so entertaining. Had I watched a performance, I’m sure to have died of laughter!
Gogol has expressed his views so boldly through the play that while it won him critical acclaim it also incurred severe disapproval of the “subjects” of his play that he was compelled to leave Russia. That in itself is proof of its success.
The Inspector General is undoubtedly one of the best works by Gogol, seconding only to Dead Souls, and as I’ve already said one of the best satirical plays that have come across me.