Vera; or the Nihilists
by Oscar Wilde
'Vera; or the Nihilists ' Summary
At the time of writing, the reform-minded Tsar Alexander II was involved in a struggle with revolutionaries who sought to assassinate him (and eventually succeeded). Though none of Wilde's characters correspond to actual Russian people of the time, the above situation was well-known both to Wilde and to the audience for which he was writing. It has been suggested that the plot was inspired by true events. In 1878, three years before the play's completion, Vera Zasulich shot the Governor of St Petersburg, Trepov. Wilde described himself as a Socialist, although Ellmann describes his Socialism as more "a general hatred of tyranny" than a specific political belief.
Marie Prescott and her husband, Mr Perzel purchased the rights to perform the play, and she was the leading actress in its first performance at the Union Square Theatre. Wilde travelled to America for the second time in his life specifically to oversee the production.
The play was withdrawn after one week. Mr Perzel stated to newspapers "the play is withdrawn simply because it did not pay," citing that he had lost $2,500 on the piece the previous week. He also implied that he had hoped Wilde himself would lecture between the acts, allowing him to capitalise on Wilde's popularity as a public speaker.
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