McGill University students Emily Szpiro and Emma Makin wrote and performed the following skit parodying Tolstoy’s War and Peace for a Tolstoy course taught by Professor Anna Berman.

Setting: 70s-style match game

Tolstoy: Tonight, live from burning Moscow, we have a lovely bachelorette looking for love. Who will she choose? Welcome to Match Game, or as I like to call it, What is the Fate of Russia? I’m your host, Lev Nikolaevich, and joining me is my assistant Sonya. Say hello Sonya!

[Sonya starts to speak but is cut off by Tolstoy]

What is love anyway? What’s the point? Is the family ideal enough? Of course, I already know the answer, but let’s get the show on the road anyway.

Our bachelors tonight are Captain Vaska Denisov, Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, Anatole Kuragin, and Count Pierre Bezhukov!

Our bachelorette is Natasha Rostova. She is 13 going on 30 and is in the mood for love. She enjoys dancing, singing, is intelligent (but not too much), and lives for the moment. Come on in, Natalya!

What do you think of our contestant, Sonya?

[Sonya starts to speak but is cut off by Tolstoy]

That’s great. Alright, now let’s get to the questions.

Natasha: Hello gentlemen, I’m so excited to become a woman tonight! Let’s start things off with a quickfire question for all the bachelors: it’s a crazy world we live in, and I like a man who knows what’s going on. So, in a few words, what do you think about Napoleon?

Denisov: He’s a scoundrel!

Andrei: In one word, genius. But in another, insignificant.

Anatole: Il est parfait! I adore the French.

Pierre: He’s amazing, he got rid of all of the abuses of the Revolution, but kept everything that was good about it. Also, I’m pretty sure it’s my destiny to kill him.

Tolstoy: Wow, what a stupid question to start with, when obviously the only acceptable answer is that Napoleon is a mere mortal and subject to laws greater than himself that we can never understand. He has no more influence on the historical process than a bee in a crumbling hive.

Natasha: Okay…um, Bachelor number one! Dancing and singing are some of the most important things in my life (although I’m absolutely ready to abandon them upon marriage). Anyway, if we were to attend a ball, what dance would you reserve for me?

Denisov: Oh Miss Rostova, everybody knows I dance the Polish mazurka better than anyone! More importantly, though, I have to tell you that I love you beyond words. Will you marry me?

Natasha: Um, let’s hear from the other bachelors first. Okay, Bachelor number two – if you could take me out on a date, where would we go and what would we do?

Andrei: I would take you to my father’s estate in order to gain his approval. Afterwards, we would go on a long walk, in which we would look at oak trees, the sky, and contemplate how responsible I am for my wife’s death. After this, I will probably disappear for a few months to test your devotion.

Natasha: How exciting! You’re so mysterious, I can feel my soul joined to yours already. Alright, Bachelor number three. I love my family more than anything, and I have a special bond with most of my siblings. How important is family to you?

Anatole: Oh, family is everything. I love my sister dearly – very dearly [wink]. But let’s not talk about her right now – I feel like we’re the only two people here. Ma cherie, I can tell you’re special, you’re not like the other girls. Run away with me, let’s leave this place together.

Natasha: Oh, Bachelor number three! I feel like there are no barriers between us. Okay, Bachelor number four. I love to live in the present and live everyday like it’s my last. So: is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me doesn’t destroy? Put more simply, why should I live, or wish for anything, or do anything?

Pierre: Uh…well, I… (continues to stammer)

[unsure how to respond, takes off glasses and wipes them nervously]

Um… masonry? Or…join the war?…. FREE THE SERFS! Oh bother… how would Platon respond?

Natasha: Okay, I think I’ve made my choice.

Tolstoy: But did you really though? Are you aware of every contingency surrounding you? The laws that govern every move you make? You may say you’ve made a choice, but really you’re just responding to necessity, and the perennial movement of every actor in the world, big and small, like a BEE IN A CRUMBLING HIVE. You are the bee. Napoleon is the bee. I am the bee.

Oh no, that’s all the time we have for! Sonya, sign us out.

[Sonya opens her mouth to speak but Natasha cuts her off]

Natasha: But how can it be the end? I haven’t even made my choice yet.

Tolstoy: Life goes on, Natasha. There is no end. Only stopping.

The End

Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Match Game of 1812: A Sketch by Emily Szpiro and Emma Makin

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