I sought out this short story after being utterly enthralled by the 2016 Florence Pugh tour-de-force Lady Macbeth. If you are a sucker for a brutal period drama chock full of female desperation-disguised-as-power, then hustle your bustle to your nearest ye olde video rental and check. it. out.
The film is phenomenal, and I was immediately curious about the source material! A little Wikipedia creeping led me to Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District a grim little tale published in 1865 by a Russian author to whom I was not acquainted. Traditionally, I don’t leap immediately to the original creation, but a line in the Wiki article hinting at a “huge” difference between the end of the film and the end of the story piqued by unabashedly morbid interest.
Really? Things could be more bleak than in the movie? DO TELL!
Well, dear reader, like much 19th century literature written by men and about women, it is de-press-ing. A much younger woman is sold (literally) to an older man- bought by his father and treated as property by both. She is locked away in a country home while her husband mysteriously roams the countryside for “business” and her father-on-law stalks the dining room hunting for traits to nitpick in the young mistress. She is forbidden from leaving the house, and if you know anything about young people being forbidden (read: Romeo and Juliet) then you know things get- quickly and completely- out of hand.
Our young mistress takes up with a rakish laborer on her husband’s land, and things take an astonishing fall directly into hell.
I’ll leave you with no spoilers, but I do recommend watching the movie. If feeling bad makes you feel good, you will be in uncomfortable heaven. Immediately after watching, you MUST read the story. Good news: it’s on Scribd! Compare, contrast, and report back to me POST HASTE!