Aleksandr Ostrovsky was the nineteenth century's major playwright, due not only to the generally high quality of his plays but also to their large number (about 50). His work, primarily prose rather than verse, falls into two periods. The first, pre-1861, includes dramas that deal with an area of Russian life Ostrovsky knew quite intimately: the society of merchants and of lower government officials. His treatment of this social sphere was quite varied, for Ostrovsky was at times attracted to and at times disgusted by his characters' milieu, attitudes, and attributes. His masterpiece from this period is The Storm (1860), in which social themes provide the background and the motivation for a tragic love story. After 1861 Ostrovsky devoted himself in part to historical topics and to plots derived from folklore as, for example, in his masterpiece, The Snow Maiden (1873). Other plays deal with the gentry in the changed, post-emancipation Russia. Some are staples of the Russian theatrical repertoire.