Mochalov, Pavel Stepanovich

Mochalov, Pavel Stepanovich


Born Nov. 3(15), 1800, in Moscow; died there Mar. 16(28), 1848. Russian actor.

Mochalov trained for the stage under the guidance of his father, S. F. Mochalov, a distinguished actor of a Moscow dramatic company who had been a serf actor. After his debut in the role of Polynices in V. A. Ozerov’s Oedipus in Athens, Mochalov was accepted by the Moscow imperial theater that in 1824 became the Malyi Theater. Beginning his career during the years of the rapid growth of national consciousness and culture and during the formative period of the aesthetics of Decembrist romanticism, Mochalov imparted a strongly democratic, naturally rebellious character to the spirit of liberation that he had perceived.

Even early in his career, performing the title roles in P. Corneille’s Horace and Voltaire’s Tancrède, Mochalov abandoned the style of classicist tragedy and introduced a tragic element of a new, romantic type into his interpretation of these roles. The dramas of Ozerov were for Mochalov a transitional link to a romantic repertoire; Mochalov performed the title roles in Ozerov’s Fingal and Dmitrii Donskoi. Not overly concerned with historical color, detailed character portrayal, or impressive visual effects, Mochalov captivated his audiences with the passion and depth of his feelings and the richness and contrast of their unexpected transitions. Among his roles in melodramas and romantic dramas were the title role in H. Zschocke’s Julius von Sassen, Germani in V. Ducange’s Thirty Years, or the Life of a Gambler, the title role in Dumas père’s Kean, and Biderman in Polevoi’s Death or Honor.

A highly creative artist, Mochalov often radically reinterpreted his roles. Thus, in Molchalov’s interpretation, Meinau in Kotzebue’s melodrama The Stranger (1826) became a figure of Byronic proportions. Mochalov had a particular flare for portraying freethinking men who rebel against a society based on self-interest and violence; such roles included Karl Moor in Schiller’s The Robbers (1828) and Ferdinand in Schiller’s Intrigue and Love (1829).

Mochalov’s roles in Shakespearean tragedies were the high point in his career; he performed the title roles in Othello (1837), King Lear (1839), and Richard III (1839), and Romeo in Romeo and Juliet (1841). His most important creation was the title role in Hamlet (1837). During the political reaction of the 1830’s, Mochalov viewed Hamlet as a strong and lonely individual who perishes as a result of the enormous gap between humanist ideals and the life around him. A performance by Mochalov became a significant cultural event. Mochalov’s portrayal of Hamlet prompted V. G. Belinskii to write his well-known article “Hamlet, a Drama by Shakespeare: Mochalov and the Role of Hamlet” (1838).

Mochalov was deeply interested in contemporary Russian literature, especially drama and lyric poetry (he himself wrote poetry). Possessing a profound feeling for poetry and a special talent for delivering verse, he took the parts of Kerim-Girei and Aleko in A. A. Shakhovskoi’s stage adaptations of A. S. Pushkin’s poems The Fountain of Bakhchisarai and The Gypsies. He wrote a dramatic composition on Pushkin’s poem “The Black Shawl” (with music by A. N. Verstovskii), which he performed at concerts. One of Mochalov’s most significant roles was that of Chatskii in Griboedov’s Woe From Wit (1831); his interpretation of the role reflected the drama of his generation and revived the character of the freedom-loving hero of the Decembrist age.

Mochalov’s work gave rise to a fierce ideological and aesthetic struggle associated with the democratization of the Russian stage and its national self-determination. He contributed to the acceptance of emotional spontaneity on the stage; he emphasized that an actor must have a keen sense of his time and its progressive ideals and dramatic conflicts. V. G. Belinskii was a fervent admirer and promoter of Mochalov’s art. Mochalov’s talents were highly valued by N. V. Gogol, M. Iu. Lermontov, I. S. Turgenev, and A. N. Ostrovskii. A. I. Herzen wrote: “Shchepkin and Mochalov, without a doubt, are the two best artists that I have seen in the course of 35 years, throughout all of Europe. Both attest to the innermost powers and possibilities of the Russian character, which make our faith in the future of Russia unshakeable” (Sobr. sock, vol. 17, 1959, pp. 268–69). K. S. Stanislavsky considered Mochalov one of the geniuses of world theater.


Sobolev, Iu. V. Pavel Mochalov. Moscow, 1937.
Belinskii, V. G. O drame i teatre. Moscow-Leningrad, 1948.
Pavel Stepanovich Mochalov. Moscow, 1953. (Collection.)
Dmitriev, Iu. Mochalov: Akter-romantik. Moscow, 1961.