Bathory: Petr Zavodsky & the Prosaity of Virtue
Petr Zavodsky is, by most measures, the hero of Countess Bathory. She doggedly pursues justice against the evil Elizabeth; she is motivated not by gold or personal vendetta but by moral right; she is of humble birth (something we’re supposedly really big on in the US); and she overcomes many obstacles, rebuffs, and outright humiliations to accomplish what is right. There is no one else in this play that actively champions a selfless cause.
Unfortunately, the structure of the story and the elements of our production depict poor Zavodsky as a villain, or even a mere villain’s henchman.
Petr is the opposite of Elizabeth in virtually every regard. Elizabeth is highborn, wealthy, in charge, motivatedly selfish, charming, beautiful, and possesses the self-awareness of how to use these considerable advantages. Petr is common, un-moneyed, an assistant, myopic in her motivations, guileless, rodent-like (thanks to a gorgeous performance from actor Sarah Jean Tilford), and has no idea how to apply the limited advantages these attributes afford.
But Zavodsky has right on her side, dammit, and she’s gonna push that as far as it can go. Sadly, no one seems to appreciate Zavodsky’s virtue. She is unpraised, oft mocked, and never acknowledged for her efforts nor even her eventual (arguable) victory. She seems to graduate at some point from Thurzo’s assistant to the King’s, but there is no official word, and she continues to be alternately threatened or bossed around, depending on where she is.
The fact that the sexless Zavodsky is reviled by both sides, dismissed and ignored, while everyone worships either the stereotypically “male” King Matthias or the decidedly “womanly” Countess Bathory, is a point I’ll leave largely to more educated minds than my own.
It’s lucky then for Petr (and for all the young women of Hungary) that this adjunct seems utterly unconcerned with how others view her. Humble, pious, and zealous in her persuit for justice, Zavosky’s only reward in the end is that justice is done. We should all be so fortunate as to have civil servants such as she.