Russia in the 19th Century was a country full of corruption, and battles between social classes. As state secondary school and university education became more readily available, the number of educated gentry grew. As there were more people who fitted into the elitist category, rather than being serfs, the upper classes had more need to define them as truly elite, and so great competition between seemingly equal people occurred. The class system in Russia then got out of hand. This is exampled in Gogol's own life, as when he settled in St Petersburg in 1829, he had a certificate attesting his right to 'the rank of the 14th class.'
The problem of defining a person's social status stretched back to Gogol's grandfather. Gogol's real name was Ianovskii, but his grandfather had taken the name 'Gogol', to claim he was of noble Cossack ancestry, and thus climb the social ladder.
The corruption that existed in Russia around this time was an offshoot of the need to define one's social status. People needed more than ever, to be wealthy to prove their mettle amongst others. Inevitably this spread into the way the country was run, and in the civil service and other men in office undertook many malpractices including embezzling money and bribing, to reaffirm their status.
The opening scene of the play displays the true form of Russian society. The Mayor has just received a letter to inform him that his province will be visited by a government inspector shortly, and thus his, and the other heads of departments, will be exposed as effective criminals. The Mayor would be very tense in this scene, as he is terrified of being exposed. As the scene opens the Mayor would be pacing up and down in front of...