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A Dog's Heart (Sobač’e serdce)

Alexander Raskatov

Synopsis

Act I

Scene 1

The 1920s: a stray dog is dying of cold and hunger in a small backstreet in Moscow and in its agony it observes the humans passing by. One smartly dressed gentleman comes closer, calls the dog Sharik and gives it something to eat. The dog decides to follow him.


Scene 2

Sharik’s saviour is Philipp Philippovich, a professor of medicine renowned internationally for his research into the rejuvenation of the human body, and with a passion for opera. Two patients come to see him in his surgery. 

Scene 3

Philipp Philippovich’s standard of living brings him to the attention of the housing committee, whose head, Shvonder, asks the professor to give up some of the rooms of his large apartment. So, Philipp Philippovich calls the Big Boss, a patient of his, and threatens to stop exercising his profession if forced to relinquish any of the rooms. Shvonder and his men are obliged to accept that the apartment is not subject to the usual guidelines on the distribution of space.

Scene 4

Philipp Philippovich has taken Sharik the dog into his own home. While being waited on by Zina the maid, the professor has lunch with his assistant, Bormental, and attacks politics and Soviet society.

Scene 5

In the home of Philipp Philippovich, Sharik has found shelter and an abundance of food. While in the kitchen, the dog comes across Daria, the cook,making love to the building’s doorman.

Scene 6

With the help of Bormental, Philipp Philippovich performs an extraordinary experiment on Sharik. The pituitary gland and the testicles of a man recently killed in a fight are transplanted into the body of the dog. Sharik looks certain to die.

Scene 7

Against all odds, however, the dog survives the operation, and to everyone’s surprise, he loses his tail and his fur, begins to walk upright on two legs and acquires the ability to speak like a human being. 

Act II

Scene 8

While in bed, Philipp Philippovich has a nightmare: his colleagues, whom he has asked to judge his experiment begin singing and dancing to the bawdy song that Sharikov plays on the balalaika.

Scene 9

Sharikov (Sharik’s new name) confronts Philipp Philippovich: he accuses him of performing the operation without consent, he threatens him and claims the right to have a name (Poligraf Poligrafovich Sharikov), with the same identity documents as any other citizen.

Scene 10

Shvonder bursts in, ordering the professor to prepare a declaration regarding Sharikov’s birth. However, when Sharikov learns that identity documents can also be used for military service, he refuses to hear of going away to fight. The sudden sight of a cat triggers his animal instinct causing general commotion. In his attempt to catch the cat, he remains
locked in the bathroom, a tap breaks and the entire apartment is flooded, while outside patients and curious bystanders ask to come in.

Scene 11

In the presence of Bormental, Philipp Philippovich appears increasingly intolerant of Sharikov’s behaviour and his Soviet rhetoric. Once alone, the professor gazes thoughtfully at the jar containing the pituitary gland removed from the dog.

Scene 12

Following further outrages on the part of Sharikov, Bormental offers to kill him using arsenic. Philipp Philippovich, however, says he cannot consent to murder, even though he acknowledges the disastrous failure of an experiment that went against the laws of nature. In the meantime, Daria, Zina and Sharikov enter, the latter having attempted to rape the young maid.

Scene 13

Sharikov becomes the Moscow city cat catcher and begins to hunt down stray cats.

Scene 14

Now that he has a job, Sharikov demands that his secretary should go to live with him, at the home of the professor. Philipp Philippovich, though, dissuades the girl revealing the lies and the true origins of Sharikov.

Scene 15

The Big Boss informs Philipp Philippovich that Sharikov has brought forward charges against him, in which he accuses him of threatening to kill Shvonder and of anti-Soviet propaganda. Even so, no legal action will be taken: as the Great Leader says, the professor can consider himself a lucky man.

Scene 16

Philipp Philippovich and Bormental try to be rid of Sharikov, but he pulls out a pistol. Bormental seizes him and immobilises him. Philipp Philippovich carries out a second operation, removing the human pituitary gland and replacing it with the original one of the dog.

Epilogue

Police officers enter the apartment of Philipp Philippovich with a search and arrest warrant. The professor and his accomplices are accused of murder and hiding the body.What has actually happened is that there has been no murder at all; Sharikov has simply returned to his original state as a dog.

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