Study Guide

The Brothers Karamazov Book 12, Chapter 1

By Fyodor Dostoevsky

Book 12, Chapter 1

The Fatal Day

  • The chapter opens at 10 in the morning the next day, in the courtroom just before Dmitri's trial begins.
  • The narrator tells us that the trial has attracted such nationwide attention that the court has made the unprecedented arrangement of setting up a row of chairs for dignitaries by the judges. Women seem in general to favor the romantic Dmitri, whose love triangle with Grushenka and Katerina seems to have struck a chord, and men seem to favor punishing him.
  • The famous lawyer Fetyukovich has been brought in to defend Dmitri, while the prosecutor Kirillovich will present the case against him.
  • Into the packed courtroom arrives the presiding judge, a second judge, then an honorary justice of the peace, followed immediately by Kirillovich. The jurors are already settled in, although the narrator seems to frown on their composition: four low-ranking officials, two merchants, and six local peasants and townsmen.
  • The presiding judge announces the trial of Dmitri Karamazov, and Dmitri appears, followed by his lawyer. A list of witnesses is read, including four who are unable to appear: Miusov, who is in Paris; Madame Khokhlakov and Maximov, who are ill; and finally Smerdyakov, who killed himself the night before.
  • It's the first that Dmitri, and the general public, have heard of Smerdyakov's death. Dmitri shouts, "The dog died like a dog!" for which the judge quickly reprimands him.
  • The judge asks Dmitri how he'll plead, and Dmitri theatrically professes his innocence. The judge again orders Dmitri to cool it.
  • The judge orders the trial to begin. The witnesses are led away to their seating area, after being lectured by the priest and the presiding judge.

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