The rook drives Margarita through the sky as she contemplates her life, “fearless” with the “hope that she would regain her happiness.” The car soon arrives in Moscow and Margarita is dropped in a deserted cemetery. Azazello appears, wearing a black cloak.
This chapter and those surrounding it increase the fantastical elements of the novel. This works both as a representation of Woland’s powers and as a suggestion that they are working towards a climax. Margarita is courageous despite the incredible nature of what is happening to her.
Margarita, on her broom, and Azazello, on a rapier, fly to the apartment on Sadovaya Street. The authorities have placed men around the apartment, hoping and failing to catch its mysterious inhabitants.
These men represent the secret police, who, of course, are no match for Woland’s Satanic abilities. They remind the reader of the atmosphere of surveillance in Soviet society.
Margarita and Azazello go in and climb an impossibly long staircase in darkness. Koroviev meets them at the top of the stairs, dressed in smart evening wear and holding a small lamp. Koroviev takes Margarita into an enormous hall and introduces himself. He explains the physics-defying interior: “For someone well acquainted with the fifth dimension, it costs nothing to expand space to the desired proportions!”
Koroviev is dressed up for Satan’s Ball, described in the following chapter. His comment to Margarita indicates that Woland and his gang can exploit not just the fourth dimension—time—but a mysterious “fifth.” This fifth dimension lies outside of human perception and represents the ability to use physical space in seemingly impossible permutations. An interesting interpretation might be that Koroviev is gesturing to the separate dimensionality represented by the actual reader holding the book. There’s also a satirical target aimed at the enforced communal living in the Soviet Russia and the lack of personal space that came with it. This also explains why the apartment seems empty whenever the authorities come to search it.
After they make small talk about Moscow apartments, Koroviev moves on to their “business” that night. Margarita confirms that she has guessed who is the “host” of the evening. Koroviev explains that “Messire” (Woland) puts on an annual “spring ball of the full moon.” Margarita, he says, is to be the hostess.
Full moons are often associated with madness and magical phenomena. Spring, of course, represents renewal and rebirth—and love. All of these are relevant for the story of the master and Margarita.
Tradition has it, says Koroviev, that the hostess is always called Margarita, and she must be from the place where they hold the ball. They selected her from 121 Margaritas in Moscow. Margarita feels her heart go cold, and “the hope of happiness” making her head spin. She firmly accepts the role of hostess.
The fact that the hostess is always called Margarita is another contribution to the sense of timelessness and universality in these scenes. The events are both extremely specific—Moscow, Margarita, etc.—and representations of Satan’s eternal being. Margarita accepts because she is willing to do anything to find the master.
Koroviev leads Margarita down a corridor, talking of the “magnificent” ball to come, adding that it will be attended by “persons the scope of whose power in their own time was extremely great.” That said, their powers are nothing compared to Woland’s, continues Koroviev. He also implies that Margarita has royal blood, offering a relation to a distant French queen.
By power, Koroviev means capacity for “evil” (as will become clear in the next chapter). The historical queen he refers to is Marguerite de Valois, a French monarch in the 16th and early 17th centuries.
Margarita and Koroviev enter a small room, in which there is a candelabrum “with sockets in the form of bird’s claws” and an “artful” chess board. Azazello is there, dressed in tailcoats. The naked Hella sits on the floor, stirring a pot of “sulphurous steam.” Hella and Behemoth, who is playing chess, pause to bow to Margarita.
The candelabrum is the menorah, a lamp stand with a long tradition in Judaism and Christianity. It is, of course, a parodic modified version befitting Woland’s identity. Hella’s pot is reminiscent of witches’ cauldrons, another literal mixing together of different mythologies associated with evil.
In the candlelight Margarita sees Woland reclining on the bed, staring at her. She notices one eye “with a golden spark,” “drilling anyone to the bottom of his soul,” and the other one empty and black as a void. His face looks as though it has been “burned for all eternity by the sun.”
Woland’s eyes, now slightly different from the first chapter, signify his ability to draw the worst out of people and his eternal nature. The same is true of his face.
Woland greets Margarita, asking her to excuse his “homely attire.” He places his hand, “heavy as if made of stone and the same time hot as fire,” on Margarita’s shoulder. He shouts to someone under the bed, which turns out to be Behemoth, looking for his knight chess piece. When Behemoth reveals himself, he is dressed with a white bow-tie and opera glass, and has gilded whiskers.
Like Koroviev, Behemoth is dressed up for the great Ball. His trickery with the chess board ties in with his taste for mischief.
Woland introduces Margarita to his retinue: Behemoth, Azazello, Koroviev, and Hella, who is rubbing his knee with ointment. Behemoth analyses his position on the chess board; on the board, his king, seemingly alive, is covering his face in despair. Behemoth winks at his king, who, understanding the signal, runs off the board. Woland, exasperated by these antics, asks Behemoth to give up.
Woland has an injured knee, traditionally associated with Satan’s fall from heaven.
Hella leaves the room; Margarita takes over with the ointment. Woland says that his “attendants” insist that his knee trouble is caused by rheumatism, but he suspects it “was left me as a souvenir by a charming witch with whom I was closely acquainted in the year 1571 […] In another three hundred years it will all go away!”
Margarita taking over from Hella indicates her willingness to make a pact with the devil in order to find the master. Bulgakov’s explanation for the bad knee diverges from the usual biblical story. Woland’s story is a reference to passage in Goethe’s Faust.
Woland shows Margarita his globe, which sits on a nearby table. It seems to show an up-to-date depiction of what is happening in the world. He points to a section filling with fire, explaining that “a war has started there.”
This fits with Woland’s role as a kind of recorder of or ambassador for evil. He doesn’t necessarily fill the world with the evil but rather observes it and draws it out. The way he looms over the globe suggests his immense power.
On Woland’s invitation, Margarita looks closer at the globe. She sees a house get destroyed, and “a small female figure lying on the ground” holding a dead child. Woland says what she’s seeing is the work of “Abaddon.” He adds that “Abaddon” has a “rare impartiality” and treats both sides in a conflict equally.
Abaddon is an angel of the abyss in the biblical book of Revelation. His name literally means “destroyer.” Abaddon is impartial because mankind has an infinite ability to war with itself, symbolizing the futility and hopelessness of conflict.
Woland makes Abaddon appear; he is a gaunt man wearing glasses. Margarita asks if he can take his glasses off, which Woland says is impossible. Just then, Natasha arrives with “her hog.” Woland agrees to let them stay but insists that the hog—Nikolai Ivanovich—will not be allowed in the ballroom. Woland instructs Margarita not to “become flustered” during the ball, and to only drink water.
Abaddon’s glasses tie in with the idea of witnessing evil, which then links with the following chapter.