Bulgakov started writing the novel in 1928. The first version
of the novel was destroyed (according to Bulgakov, burned
in a stove) in March 1930 when he was notified that his play
The Cabal of Hypocrites (Кабала святош) was banned. The work
was restarted in 1931 and in 1935 Bulgakov attended the Spring
Festival at Spaso House, a party said to have inspired the
masked ball of the novel. The second draft was completed
in 1936 by which point all the major plot lines of the final
version were in place. The third draft was finished in 1937.
Bulgakov continued to polish the work with the aid of his
wife, but was forced to stop work on the fourth version four
weeks before his death in 1940. The work was completed by
his wife during 1940-1941.
version (12% of the text removed and still more changed)
of the book was first published in Moscow magazine (no.
11, 1966 and no. 1, 1967). The text of all the omitted
and changed parts, with indications of the places of modification,
was published on a samizdat basis. In 1967 the publisher
Posev (Frankfurt) printed a version produced with the aid
of these inserts.
the first complete version, prepared by Anna Saakyants,
was published by Khudozhestvennaya Literatura in 1973, based
on the version of the beginning of 1940 proofread by the
publisher. This version remained the canonical edition until
1989, when the last version was prepared by literature expert
Lidiya Yanovskaya based on all available manuscripts.
Mikhail Bulgakov Museum in Moscow was vandalized on December
22, 2006, allegedly by a religious fanatic who denounced
the Master and Margarita as being satanic propaganda.
The novel alternates between three settings.
first is 1930s Moscow, which is visited by Satan in the
guise of Woland or Voland (Воланд), a mysterious gentleman
"magician" of uncertain origin, who arrives with
a retinue that includes the grotesquely dressed "ex-choirmaster"
valet Koroviev (Fagotto) (Фагот, the name means "bassoon"
in Russian and some other languages), a mischievous, gun-happy,
fast-talking black cat Behemoth (Бегемот, a subversive Puss
in Boots, the name referring to the Biblical monster and
straight away denoting the Russian word for Hippopotamus),
the fanged hitman Azazello (Азазелло, hinting of Azazel),
the pale-faced Abadonna (Абадонна, a reference to Abbadon)
with a death-inflicting stare, and the witch Hella (Гелла).
The havoc wreaked by this group targets the literary elite,
along with its trade union, MASSOLIT (a Soviet-style abbreviation
for "Moscow Society of Literature", but possibly
interpretable as "Literature for the Masses";
one edition of the book also mentions that this could be
a play on words in Russian, which could be translated into
English as something like "LOTTALIT"), its privileged
HQ-cum-restaurant Griboyedov's House, corrupt social-climbers
and their women (wives and mistresses alike) – bureaucrats
and profiteers – and, more generally, skeptical unbelievers
in the human spirit.
opening sequence of the book presents a direct confrontation
between the unbelieving head of the literary bureaucracy,
Berlioz (Берлиоз), and an urbane foreign gentleman who defends
belief and reveals his prophetic powers (Woland). This is
witnessed by a young and enthusiastically modern poet, Ivan
Bezdomniy (Иван Бездомный - the name means "Homeless").
His futile attempt to chase and capture the "gang"
and warn of their evil and mysterious nature lands Ivan
in a lunatic asylum. Here we are introduced to The Master,
an embittered author, the petty-minded rejection of whose
historical novel about Pontius Pilate and Christ has led
him to such despair that he burns his manuscript and turns
his back on the "real" world, including his devoted
lover, Margarita (Маргарита). Major episodes in the first
part of the novel include Satan's magic show at the Variety
Theatre, satirizing the vanity, greed and gullibility of
the new rich; and the capture and occupation of Berlioz's
apartment by Woland and his gang.
2, we meet Margarita, the Master's mistress, who refuses
to despair of her lover or his work. She is made an offer
by Satan (Woland), and accepts it, becoming a witch with
supernatural powers on the night of his Midnight Ball, or
Walpurgis Night, which coincides with the night of Good
Friday, linking all three elements of the book together,
since the Master's novel also deals with this same spring
full moon when Christ's fate is sealed by Pontius Pilate
and he is crucified in Jerusalem.
second setting is the Jerusalem of Pontius Pilate, described
by Woland talking to Berlioz and echoed in the pages of
the Master's rejected novel, which concerns Pontius Pilate's
meeting with Yeshua Ha-Nozri (Иешуа га-Ноцри, Jesus the
Nazarene), his recognition of an affinity with and spiritual
need for him, and his reluctant but resigned and passive
handing over of him to those who wanted to kill him.
third setting is the one to which Margarita provides a bridge.
Learning to fly and control her unleashed passions (not
without exacting violent retribution on the literary bureaucrats
who condemned her beloved to despair), and taking her enthusiastic
maid Natasha with her, she enters naked into the world of
the night, flies over the deep forests and rivers of Mother
Russia; bathes, and, cleansed, returns to Moscow as the
anointed hostess for Satan's great Spring Ball. Standing
by his side, she welcomes the dark celebrities of human
history as they pour up from the opened maw of Hell.
survives this ordeal without breaking, and for her pains
and her integrity she is rewarded: Satan offers to grant
Margarita her deepest wish. She chooses to liberate the
Master and live in poverty and love with him. However, neither
Woland nor Yeshua thinks this is a kind of life for good
people, and the couple leaves Moscow with the Devil, as
its cupolas and windows burn in the setting sun of Easter
Saturday. The Master and Margarita leave and as a reward
for not having lost their faith they are granted "peace"
but are denied "salvation".
03-Major Characters in The Master
A novelist who has written a novel about the meeting of
Pontius Pilate and Yeshua Ha-Nozri. Put away in a psikhushka,
where Bezdomny meets him.
The Master's lover. Trapped in a passionless marriage; devoted
herself to The Master, who she believes dead. Does not appear
until second half of the novel, where she serves as the
hostess of Satan's Grand Ball on Walpurgis Night. (She is
named after Faust's Gretchen – whose real name is Margarita
– as well as Marguerite de Valois. Marguerite was the star
of an opera, Les Huguenots by Giacomo Meyerbeer which Bulgakov
particularly enjoyed, and a novel by Alexandre Dumas, père,
La Reine Margot. In these accounts the queen is portrayed
as daring and passionate. The character was also inspired
by Bulgakov's last two wives, the first of which loved action
and was physically daring, while the last was devoted to
his work in the same way as Margarita is to the Master.)
Mikhail Alexandrovich Berlioz
Head of the literary bureaucracy MASSOLIT, sentenced by
Woland to death for his atheistic sentiment.
Ivan Nikolayevich Ponyrov (Bezdomny - Homeless)
A young, aspiring poet. Initially a willing tool of the
MASSOLIT apparatus, he is transformed by the events of the
novel. Witnesses Berlioz's death.
Stephan Bogdanovich (aka Styopa) Likhodeyev
Director of the Variety Theatre and Berlioz's roommate.
Grigory Danilovich Rimsky
Treasurer of the Variety Theatre. At one point, Rimsky meets
the ghost of Varenukha. He barely escapes the encounter
and he is forced to flee to the train station to get away.
The night of Woland's performance is the same night that
Rimsky and the ghost meet.
Ivan Savelyevich Varenukha
House-manager of the Variety Theatre.
Margarita's maid, later turned into a witch.
Nikanor Ivanovich Bosoy
Chairman of the House Committee at 302B Sadovaya Street-former
residence of Berlioz.
Woland and his retinue
A "foreign professor" who is "in Moscow to
present a performance of "black magic" and then
expose its machinations". The exposure (as one could
guess) never occurs, instead Woland exposes the greed and
bourgeois behaviour of the spectators themselves. Satan
An enormous (said to be as large as a hog) black cat, capable
of standing on two legs and talking. He has a penchant for
chess and vodka. In Russian, "Begemot". The word
itself means hippopotamus in Russian as well as the Biblical
An "ex-choirmaster". Woland's assistant.
A menacing, fanged and wall-eyed member of Woland's retinue.
Beautiful, redheaded witch. Serves as maid to Woland and
his retinue. Remarked as being "perfect, were it not
for a purple scar on her neck" -- the scar suggesting
that she is also a vampiress.
The pale-faced, black-goggled angel of death.
Characters from The Master's novel
The Roman Procurator of Judaea.
Wanderer who became Jesus of Nazareth.
A Levite and former tax collector. Follower of Yeshua.
Judas of Karioth
Testified against Yeshua thus causing him to be sentenced
to death; later killed on Pilate's orders.
Themes and imagery
Ultimately, the novel deals with the interplay of good and
evil, innocence and guilt, courage and cowardice, exploring
such issues as the responsibility towards truth when authority
would deny it, and the freedom of the spirit in an unfree
world. Love and sensuality are also dominant themes in the
novel. Margarita's devotional love for the Master leads
her to leave her husband, but she emerges victorious. Her
spiritual union with the Master is also a sexual one. The
novel is a riot of sensual impressions, but the emptiness
of sensual gratification without love is emphatically illustrated
in the satirical passages. However, the stupidity of rejecting
sensuality for the sake of empty respectability is also
pilloried in the figure of the neighbour who becomes Natasha's
interplay of fire, water, destruction and other natural
forces provides a constant accompaniment to the events of
the novel, as do light and darkness, noise and silence,
sun and moon, storms and tranquility, and other powerful
polarities. There is a complex relationship between Jerusalem
and Moscow throughout the novel, sometimes polyphony, sometimes
novel is heavily influenced by Goethe's Faust, and its themes
of cowardice, trust, treachery, intellectual openness and
curiosity, and redemption are prominent. Part of its literary
brilliance lies in the different levels on which it can
be read, as hilarious slapstick, deep philosophical allegory,
and biting socio-political satire critical of not just the
Soviet system but also the superficiality and vanity of
modern life in general – jazz is a favourite target, ambivalent
like so much else in the book in the fascination and revulsion
with which it is presented. But the novel is also full of
modern amenities like the model asylum, radio, street and
shopping lights, cars, lorries, trams, and air travel. There
is little evident nostalgia for any "good old days"
– in fact, the only figure in the book to even mention Tsarist
Russia is Satan himself. In another of its facets, perhaps
showing a different aspect of Goethe's influence, the book
is a Bildungsroman with Ivan as its focus. Furthermore,
there are strong elements of Magical Realism in the novel.
and much-quoted line in The Master and Margarita is: "manuscripts
don't burn" (Russian: рукописи не горят). The Master
is a writer who is plagued by both his own mental problems
and the oppression of Stalin's regime in 1930s Moscow. He
burns his treasured manuscript in an effort to hide it from
the Soviet authorities and cleanse his own mind from the
troubles the work has brought him. There is an autobiographical
element reflected in the Master's character here, as Bulgakov
in fact burned an early copy of The Master and Margarita
for much the same reasons.
05- Major thematic issues relating
to Art and Women in the novel
The ironies of the relationship between social power and
Art are essential to the dramatic tension in the book. Shelley
remarks in the Defence of Poetry that "poets are the
unacknowledged legislators of the world", and as a
poet/writer, the Master is so unacknowledged that he feels
more at home in a lunatic asylum than in society, where
he is subject to the whims of the actual legislators of
the world, such as the bureaucrats of Massolit and their
political masters. But the whole novel is directed at demonstrating
to what it depicts as the corrupt philistines in power that
they are less in control than they might wish. Above all
they have no control over death or the spirit. They might
mobilize the forces of darkness themselves, but fall short
in a face-to-face contest with the Prince of Darkness --
and contests of this kind provide the content of most of
the Moscow chapters of the first part of the novel. It is
notable that Bulgakov attacks no actual political leaders.
His targets are all minions of one kind or another, albeit
comfortably placed minions, like Berlioz, the head of Massolit,
the literary bureaucracy. Despite the grand gestures of
universality – darkness and light, the world and the stars,
historical and geographical range – the novel is to a great
extent a psycho-drama playing itself out in the literary
world. The protagonists are the Academy and Bohemia. Even
Pilate and Christ clash on these terms of authority vs authenticity.
Bulgakov induces a "willing suspension of disbelief"
almost as effective as the tricks pulled off in the Variety
by Woland, Fagotto the valet and Behemoth the cat. Georg
Lukacs's remarks on naturalism and modernism in the references
given below are relevant to this novel, too – focus on either
the close-up surface texture of society, or the distant
mystery of the stars at night. Treating the doings of a
narrow circle as affairs of universal significance, and
so on. The portrayal of women shares this "cosmic"
contrast in perspectives, too (exploited to great dramatic
effect). Natasha seeks her freedom in witchdom, and Margarita
flees respectability (submission to authority) to devote
herself to the service of her lover (authenticity). She
saves him, as Gretchen saves Faust in Goethe's plays, but
likewise only because of the heroic challenge he has mounted
to the "peace of the graveyard". "Das ewig
Weibliche zieht uns hinan", Goethe wrote at the end
of Faust – "the eternal feminine draws us onward"
– and the feeling is the same in The Master and Margarita.
Most of the other female characters in the book are wives
or mistresses of males in positions with some social clout.
Or unattractive biddies.
idealism with regard to women and relationships (and the
ethos of the Middle Ages forms a clear motif in the book,
especially in the internal relations of Satan's team as
revealed in the final chapters) is nothing new in Russian
or European literature. It is perhaps surprising that such
a traditional portrayal of a woman's role is so skilfully
presented that the novel achieved cult status among women.
06- Allusions/references to other
The novel is heavily influenced by the Faust legend, particularly
the first part of the Goethe interpretation and the opera
by Charles Gounod. Also the work of Nikolai Gogol is a heavy
influence, as is the case with many of Bulgakov's novels.
The novel references Tolstoy's Anna Karenina in the luckless
visitors chapter "everything became jumbled in the
Oblonsky household". The theme of the Devil exposing
society as an apartment block, as it could be seen if the
entire facade would be removed, has some precedents in The
crippled devil (1641) by the Spanish Luis Vélez de Guevara
(famously adapted to 18th century France by Lesage's Diable
07- Textual note
The final chapters are late drafts that Bulgakov pasted
to the back of his manuscript; he died before he could incorporate
these chapters into a completed fourth draft.
08- English translations
There are quite a few published English translations of
The Master and Margarita, including but not limited to the
Ginsburg, New York: Grove Press, 1967.
Michael Glenny, New York: Harper & Row, 1967; London:
Harvill, 1967; with introduction by Simon Franklin, New
York: Knopf, 1992; London: Everyman's Library, 1992.
Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O'Connor, annotations
and afterword by Ellendea Proffer, Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1993,
Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, London: Penguin,
Michael Karpelson, Lulu Press, 2006.
Ginsburg's translation was from a censored Soviet text and
is therefore incomplete.
early translation by Glenny runs more smoothly than that
of the modern translations; some Russian-speaking readers
consider it to be the only one creating the desired effect,
though it may be somewhat at liberty with the text. The
modern translators pay for their attempted closeness by
losing idiomatic flow.
according to Kevin Moss, who has at least two published
papers on the book in literary journals, the early translations
by Ginsburg and Glenny are quite hurried and lack much critical
depth. As an example, he claims that the more idiomatic
translations miss Bulgakov's "crucial" reference
to the devil in Berlioz's thought:
ought to drop everything and run down to Kislovodsk."
"It's time to throw everything to the Devil and go
to Kislovodsk." (Burgin, Tiernan O'Connor)
"It's time to send it all to the devil and go to Kislovodsk."
Several literary critics have hailed the Burgin/Tiernan
O’Connor translation as the most accurate and complete English
translation, particularly when read in tandem with the matching
annotations by Bulgakov’s biographer, Ellendea Proffer.
Note that these judgements predate the translation by Pevear
information is available, at the time of this writing, regarding
the 2006 Karpelson translation.
09- Allusions/references from other
Various authors and musicians have credited The Master and
Margarita as inspiration for certain works.
Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses, was influenced by Bulgakov's
It is claimed that Mick Jagger was inspired by the novel
in writing the song "Sympathy for the Devil".
The grunge band Pearl Jam were influenced by the novel's
confrontation between Yeshua Ha-Nozri and Pontius Pilate
for the song, "Pilate" on their 1998 album "Yield".
The Lawrence Arms based their album The Greatest Story Ever
Told on the book and several of its themes.
The Franz Ferdinand song "Love and Destroy" was
based on a scene where Margarita flies over Moscow on her
way to the Walpurgis Night Ball.
The Canadian group The Tea Party also were inspired by this
book when they wrote their song "The Master and Margarita."
Arlie Carstens sings the line "Bulgakov to Woland's
crowd," on the Juno song "The French Letter"
from their album A Future lived in Past Tense.
Elefant, a New York City-based group, released The Black
Magic Show in April 2006. The title and first track reference
Satan's magic show.
Brakes's song "Margarita" from the album The Beatific
Visions was inspired by the novel.
The German composer York H?ller's opera Der Meister und
Margarita was premiered in 1989 at the Paris Opéra and released
on CD in 2000.
Jolie Holland has said that the song "Amen" from
her album Escondida was inspired by the book (Margarita's
flight), and that she would devote an album to it in the
The 1975 cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show is sometimes
noted for its similarities to the book. There is a complete
overlap of personality between the redheaded witch/maid
Gella and the East European accented Magenta, the maid of
Dr. Frank N Furter - who, like Woland, aims to cause chaos
and break taboos (sexual taboos, in the movie). Frank N.
Furter's servant Riff Raff echoes Behemoth and Azazello,
while the character Janet echoes Margarita - she gets her
"tensions relieved" by adultery, just like this
"saves" Margarita from a cold marriage. It may
also be argued that the anarchic, absurd "mood"
of the movie is the same as the mood of "Master and
Margarita". While it is quite possible there has been
an inspiration, this has never been confirmed by the movie's
Surrealist artist H. R. Giger named a 1976 painting of his
after the novel. The painting was later featured on the
cover of Danzig's 1992 album Danzig III: How the Gods Kill.
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
1971: Polish director Andrzej Wajda makes a movie Pilate
and Others, based on biblical part of the book ('The Master's
Joint Italian-Yugoslavian production of Aleksandar Petrovic's
"The Master and Margaret" (Italian: "Il Maestro
e Margherita", Serbo-croatian: "Majstor i Margarita")
is released. Based loosely on the book, the main discrepancy
is that Master in the movie has an actual name of Nikolaj
Afanasijevic Maksudov, while in the original book Master
is persistently anonymous.
Another Polish director Maciej Wojtyszko makes a mini-TV
series of four episodes (Polish: "Mistrz i Malgorzata").
This series have been aired on Russian Television at least
In an adaptation called "Incident in Judea" by
Paul Bryers, only the Yeshua story is told. The film includes
a prologue which mentiones Bulgakov and the other story-lines.
The cast includes John Woodvine, Mark Rylance, Lee Montague
and Jim Carter. The film was distributed by Brook Productions
and Channel 4.
A Russian movie of the same name is made by Yuri Kara. Although
the cast included big names and talented actors (Anastasiya
Vertinskaya as Margarita, Mikhail Ulyanov as Pilate, Nikolai
Burlyayev as Yeshua, Valentin Gaft as Woland, Aleksandr
Filippenko as Korovyev-Fagot) and its score was by the noted
Russian composer Alfred Schnittke, the movie was never actually
released on any media. The grandson of Bulgakov's third
wife Elena Sergeevna Shilovskaya claims, as a self-assigned
heir, the rights on Bulgakov's literary inheritance and
refuses the release. Since the beginning of 2006, however,
copies of the movie exist on dvd. Some excerpts of it can
be viewed on the Master and Margarita website
to rumours,[attribution needed] at different times Elem
Klimov, Vladimir Naumov and Roman Polanski have also thought
about making "Master and Margarita" adaptations.
A Lavish Stage production is put on by the National Youth
Theatre at the Lyric Hammersmith London, directed by John
Hoggarth. The adaptation is by David Rudkin. It featured
a cast of 35, most notably Matt Smith as Basoon, Tom Allen
as Woland, Luke Rabbito as Matthew Levi, Shane Zaza as Yeshua
Ha Nozri, John Hollingworth as The Master, Shakira Brooking
as Margarita. It ran for a month between August/September.
The Master and Margarita miniseries - Russian director Vladimir
Bortko, famous for his TV adaptation of Bulgakov's "Heart
of a Dog" and Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot",
makes a "Master and Margarita" TV miniseries of
ten episodes. The miniseries was first released on December
19, 2005. It starred Aleksandr Galibin as The Master, Anna
Kovalchuk as Margarita, Oleg Basilashvili as Woland, Kirill
Lavrov as Pontius Pilate and Valentin Gaft as Kaifa. The
project was widely successful, and is considered by some
to be closest to the book.
language stage adaptation of the novel, "Der Meister
und Margarita", directed by Frank Castorf premiered
in the summer of 2002 at the Wiener Festwochen, Vienna,
Austria and is discussed in the August/September 2002 or
08|09 02 issue of the German language theater magazine,
Theater heute. (Use the Archive link on the left at the
above site to access information for 2002 issues.)
of the novel was staged in 2004 at the Chichester Festival
Theatre, UK. 
25 2006, Andrew Lloyd Webber announced that he aims to turn
the novel into "a stage musical or, more probably,
2006 it was staged by Grinnell College, directed by Veniamin
almost 5 hour long adaptation was staged by Georgian director
National Academy of Theatre, Ballet and Opera of Ukraine
premiered The Master and Margarita a ballet-phantasmagoria
in two acts with music by Shostakovich, Berlioz, Bach et
al.Choreography and Staging by David Avdysh (Russia), Set
Design by Simon Pastukh (USA) and Costume Design by Galina
011- References and footnotes
G. Lukacs, Studies in European Realism, (Merlin, 1973)
G. Lukacs, The Meaning of Contemporary Realism, (Merlin,
^ Spaso House U.S. Embassy Moscow website
^ Master: Russian Editions. Retrieved on 2007-01-23.
^ Yahoo! News. "Russian writer's museum sacked by critic
of 'Satanic' work", 2006-12-25. Retrieved on 2007-01-23.
^ Sarvas, Mark. The Elegant Variation: A Literary Weblog.
Retrieved on 2006-10-25.
^ Moss, Kevin. Published English Translations. Retrieved
^ Weeks, Laura D. (1996). Master and Margarita: A Critical
Companion. Northwestern University Press, 244. ISBN 0-8101-1212-4.
^ IMDb. Pilatus und andere - Ein Film für Karfreitag. Retrieved
^ The Master and Margarita at the Internet Movie Database
^ The Master and Margarita at the Internet Movie Database
^ IMDB entry for the 1994 version. Retrieved on 2006-08-10.
^ Andrew Lloyd Webber (2006-08-25). Revealed: My next project!.
Retrieved on 2007-01-23.
(English) (French) (Dutch) (Russian) Master and Margarita
Amateur but very high-quality site, devoted solely to Bulgakov's
Master and Margarita (in Dutch, French, English and Russian)
(French) A French website about The Master and Margarita
Bulgakov and The Master and Margarita: Useful introduction
with lots of illustrative material.
The Master and Margarita: Excerpts in three languages
Complete online texts: The full text in Russian, and in
two English versions, Glenny and Pevear & Volokhonsky
Full text in Russian: At Alexei Komarov's Internet Library
Russians Await a Cult Novel's Film Debut With Eagerness
and Skepticism: at The New York Times
Master and Margarita at the Internet Movie Database
Master and Margarita TV adaptation articles and comments
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Master_and_Margarita"(See