Chapter 23

Satan's Great Ball

[Velikii bal u Satany]


poodle on a heavy chain

Margarita found herself in a tropical forest--the Embassy Ball?

Waltz King



enormous fireplace

fellow in tails naked woman

Monsieur Jacques and his wife

Count Robert

Signora Tofana


Think of me not as a cat, but as a fish

the marquise

Lady Minkina

Emperor Rudolf

Moscow dressmaker

Caius Caesar Caligula


Malyuta Skuratov

spray the walls of the office with poison

salamander-magician who was not burning

on the dish the severed head

each man it will be given according to his beliefs

Baron Maigel

where it spilled, clusters of grapes are already growing

poodle on a heavy chain--in Goethe's Faust, Mephistopheles first appears as a poodle.

Vieuxtemps--Henri Vieuxtemps, b. Feb. 17, 1820, d. June 6, 1881, one of the foremost violinists of 19th-century France, was called the king of the violin. He made his first concert tour at the age of 8 and from the age of 17 toured almost constantly, including triumphant visits to the United States (1844-45, 1857, and 1870) and Russia (1845-52), where he taught and performed. He also composed for the instrument, writing seven concertos and numerous concert pieces for violin and piano.

fellow in tails naked woman--this sets the pattern of dress for the evening. The invitation to the American ambassador's reception in 1935 included a hand-written note "tails or black suit." It is unlikely any of the women were naked.

Think of me not as a cat, but as a fish--Russians use the expression "dumb as a fish" [nem kak ryba] for someone who doesn't speak.

Lady Minkina--Nastasia Minkina was Count Arakcheev's housekeeper and lover. She tormented the serfs and branded the face of one maid with curling irons out of jealousy, which led the peasants to revolt and take their revenge in her death in 1825. Brokgauz-Efron also mentions that the peasants considered her a witch.

Moscow dressmaker--the prototype of the heroine of Bulgakov's 1926 play, Zoya's Apartment. Lyubov' Evgen'evna, Bulgakov's second wife, recalls that the prototype of Zoya Denisovna Pel'ts was one Zoya Buyal'skaya, who kept a brothel in the guise of a dress-shop (she was exposed in Krasnaya Gazeta).

Malyuta Skuratov--Skuratov (Grigorii Luk'ianovich Skuratov-Bel'skii, ?-1573) was a nobleman and the leader of the Oprichnik terror under Ivan the Terrible. See a summary of Eisenstein's film Ivan the Terrible and Eisenstein's humorous sketch of a costume for Malyuta!

on the dish the severed head--Berlioz's head on a platter recalls several sources. The Biblical story of Salome with John the Baptist's head on a platter. A 1925 story of Aleksandr Beliaev, "Golova professora Douelia" [Professor Dowell's Head], in which the head is revived for various demonic experiments. That the head turns into a skull may be related both to Golgotha as the place of the skull and to the Skull and Crossbones on Archibald Archibaldovich's flag. Finally, the skull being used as a cup recalls the Russian Primary Chronicle story of Prince Svyatoslav, the last pagan prince of Rus: the Pechenegs killed him, "made a cup out of his skull, overlaying it with gold, and they drank from it." (entry for 6480/972) Brokgauz-Efron also notes that at a witches' sabbath they drink from a horse skull.

each man it will be given according to his beliefs-- Matthew 9:29: According to your faith will it be done to you.

where it spilled, clusters of grapes are already growing--an inversion of the transsubstantiation of the Eucharist.