The first in-depth study of Catherine the Great's plays and opera libretti, this book provides analysis and critical interpretation of the dramatic works by this eighteenth-century Russian Empress. These works are shown to be remarkable for their diversity, frank satire, topical subject matter, and stylistic innovations. O'Malley reveals comparisons to and influences from European traditions, including Shakespeare and Moliere, and sets Catherine in the larger field of Russian literature in the period, further illuminating her relationship to the aesthetic debates of the period. The study investigates how Catherine expressed her social ideas throughout her drama and exploited the stage's power to promote political ideals and ideology. O'Malley sets close textual analysis within an historical framework, analyzing the major plays according to content, style, themes, characters, and relation to Catherine's life and political aims.