Presentation by Anna Kadnikova
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (Russian: Анто́н Па́влович Че́хов, Anton Pavlovič Čehov)
1860–1904 was a physician, major Russian short story writer and playwright.
Anton Chekhov was born in Taganrog, a small provincial port on the Sea of Azov, in southern Russia on January 29, 1860. A son of a grocer (his father had the official rank of Trader of the Third Guild - купeц 3й гильдии) and grandson to a serf who had bought his own freedom, Anton Chekhov was the third of six children.
Early Years and Literature
Anton attended a school for Greek boys in Taganrog, and at the age of eight he was sent to the Taganrog Gymnasium for boys (now renamed the Chekhov Gymnasium), where he proved an average pupil. Rather reserved and undemonstrative, he nevertheless gained a reputation for satirical comments, for pranks, and for making up humorous nicknames for his teachers. The writer's mother, Yevgeniya, was an excellent storyteller, and Chekhov is supposed to have acquired his own gift for narrative and to have learned to read and write from her. As an adolescent he tried his hand at writing short "anecdotes", farcical or facetious stories
Early Years and Theater
Anton Chekhov was in love with theater and literature from his childhood. He enjoyed playing in amateur theatricals and often attended performances at the provincial theater.. The first performance that he attended was Jacques Offenbach's operetta La Belle Hélène onstage Taganrog City Theater. Anton was a thirteen-year-old Gymnasium student, and from that moment on, he became a great theater lover and spent there virtually all his savings. His favorite seat in the theater was at the back gallery for it was cheap (40 silver kopeeks), and because Gymnasium students needed a special authorisation to go to the theater. The permission was given not often and mostly for the weekends. Sometimes, Chekhov and other fellow students disguised themselves and even wore some makeup, spectacles or a fake beard, trying to fool the regular school staff who checked for unauthorized presence of students.He is also known to have written a serious long play at this time, "Fatherless"(Безотцовщина), which he later destroyed
Medicine, Prose and Drama
His father had to escape from debts – and fled to Moscow. In 1879, Chekhov completed schooling at the gymnasium and joined his family in Moscow, having gained admission to the medical school at Moscow State University.
In 1880 he graduated and, soon after, devoted himself to the practice of his profession.
Medicine is my legal wife; literature is my mistress.
The year after the publication of his first collection of stories (1887) he was forced, on account of ill-health, to go south. Three years later he became resigned to a life of sickness. For almost the remainder of his years, he made his home in the Crimea, and there wrote five full-length plays, most of which were eventually successful.
Many of Chekhov's short stories are considered the apotheosis of the form while his playwriting career—though brief—has had a great impact on dramatic literature and performance. From Chekhov, many playwrights have learned how to use mood, apparent trivialities and inaction to highlight the internal psychology of characters. Chekhov's four major plays—The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, and The Cherry Orchard—have all been widely performed for decades.
The Seagull (Russian: "Чайка"), written in 1896, is the first of what are generally considered to be Anton Chekhov's four major plays. It centers on the romantic and artistic conflicts between four theatrical characters: the.
Like the rest of Chekhov's full-length plays, The Seagull relies upon an ensemble cast of diverse, fully developed characters. In opposition to much of the melodramatic theater of the 19th century, such actions as suicide attempts are kept offstage. Characters tend to speak in ways that skirt around issues rather than addressing them directly, a concept known as subtext.
The play has a strong intertextual relationship with Shakespeare's Hamlet. Arkadina and Treplyov quote lines from it before the play-within-a-play in the first act (and the play-within-a-play device is itself used in Hamlet). There are many allusions to Shakespearean plot details as well.
The opening night of the first production was a famous failure, despite a reportedly astonishing performance by Vera Komissarzhevskaya. Chekhov supposedly walked out in the middle of the performance. This failure most likely occurred because the director had never dealt with a play as subtle and un-melodramatic as Chekhov's, and was unsure of how to stage it. However, when Konstantin Stanislavski directed it in a later production for the Moscow Art Theater, the play was a resounding success.
Cherry Orchard (Вишневый сад)
THE CHERRY ORCHARD
an analysis of the play by Anton Chekhov
The following essay on The Cherry Orchard was originally published in The Social Significance of the Modern Drama. Emma Goldman. Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1914. pp. 290-3.
May be unintended, but The Cherry Orchard is Anton Chekhov's prophetic song..
Mme. Ranevsky, the owner of the cherry orchard, an estate celebrated far and wide for its beauty and historic traditions, is deeply attached to the family place. She loves it for its romanticism: nightingales sing in the orchard, accompanying the wooing of lovers. She is devoted to it because of the memory of her ancestors and because of the many tender ties which bind her to the orchard. The same feeling and reverence is entertained by her brother Leonid Gayef. They are expressed in the Ode to an Old Family Cupboard:
GAYEF: Beloved and venerable cupboard; honor and glory to your existence, which for more than a hundred years has been directed to the noble ideals of justice and virtue.
The family cherishes the estate, and especially its famously beautiful cherry orchard, but they can't begin to pay the debts that have accrued on it, nor are they willing to sell off parcels, so -- barring a last-minute marriage to money -- they're doomed to lose it.
Mme. Ranevsky is impoverished. The cherry orchard is heavily mortgaged and as romance and sentiment cannot liquidate debts, the beautiful estate falls into the hands of commercialism.
The merchant Yermolai Lopakhin buys the place. He is in ecstasy over his newly acquired possession. He the owner -- he who had risen from the serfs of the former master of the orchard!
LOPAKHIN: Just think of it! The cherry orchard is mine! Mine! I have bought the property where my father and grandfather were slaves, where they weren't even allowed into the kitchen.
A new epoch begins in the cherry orchard. On the ruins of romanticism and aristocratic ease there rises commercialism, its iron hand yoking nature, devastating her beauty, and robbing her of all radiance.
With the greed of rich returns, Lopakhin cries, "Lay the axe to the cherry orchard, come and see the trees fall down! We'll fill the place with villas."
TROPHIMOF: All Russia is our gardenI feel the approach of happiness, Anya; I see it coming ... it is coming towards us, nearer and nearer; I can hear the sound of its footsteps.... And if we do not see it, if we do not know it, what does it matter? Others will see it.
The new generation, on the threshold of the new epoch, hears the approaching footsteps of the Future. And even if the Anyas and Trophimofs of today will not see it, others will. The old age has died – and never will return. What will come next?
a pessimist? Or a prophet of the liberty?
We know just one thing for sure – the past is going away. Since “russia is a cherry orchard” and we hear
Uncle Vanya Дядя Ваня
Uncle Vanya: "This structurally and psychologically compact drama takes place on an estate in 19th-century Russia, exploring the complex interrelationships between a retired professor, his second wife, and the daughter and brother-in-law from his first marriage. Interwoven themes of weakness, delusion, and despair–balanced by an underlying message of courage and hope–make this one of the most expressive of Chekhov’s works." Amazon
The Three Sisters is a play about the decay of the privileged class in Russia and the search for meaning in the modern world. It describes the lives and aspirations of the Prozorov family, the three sisters (Olga, Masha, and Irina) and their brother Andrei. They are a family who are dissatisfied and frustrated with their present existence. The sisters are refined and cultured young women who grew up in urban Moscow, however for the past eleven years they have been living in a small provincial town. Moscow is a major part of the plot: the sisters are always dreaming of it and constantly express that they will go back. Moscow is the place where they were happiest, and to them it represents perfection. However as the play develops they seem to move further away from their dream.
"My business is to be talented, that is, to be capable of selecting the important moments from the trivial ones...Chekhov, May 1888
Brevity is the sister of talent. Anton Chekhov
The greatness of Chekhov lies in being anti-ideological and anti-pedagogical. His characters hurry in the search for answers which they never find. Mikhalkov (director of Unifinished piece for Player Piano—after Platonov)
For chemists there is nothing unclean on the earth. The writer must be as objective as the chemist. Anton Chekhov
I am neither liberal, nor conservative, nor gradualist, nor monk. . . I would like to be a free artist and nothing else and I regret God has not given me the strength to be one. I hate lies and violence in all of their forms. . .
.There is no hint of social "problems" or blame for anybody or any party -- only a tender, acute delineation of weak, delightful people. Among the naturalists of the theater, Chekhov and Synge alone have been able to achieve the classic tragic note. Their scenes rise out of human experiences, wherein love and tenderness and family relationships have had their due meed. Especially with Chekhov does one feel the presence of an understanding heart; nothing escapes his observation, yet all is rendered with sympathy and pity.
Polilogue (characters talk but don’t hear each other – they simply don’t care)
This dramatist avoids the obvious struggles, the time-worn commonplaces and well-prepared climaxes that go to the making of most plays; he rather spreads out the canvas for our contemplation, not seeking to enlist our sympathies for individuals, but showing us merely the spectacle of humanity as he sees it. In so far as he succeeds in his attempt, his work becomes art, but because few audiences are able to lend their attention to apparently casual conversation and to the delineation of ordinary characters, his plays can be appreciated only by audiences which are sufficiently educated and interested in these things. (from my personal experience – after having watched uncle vanya in theatre, my classmates were disappointed and unsatisfied – most of them simply did not understand the play)
Keep well in mind that the dialogue in Chekhov's plays is of the utmost importance. It has been well said that in this author's plays what is said is more important than what is done. Since this is so, we shall see that the dramatist does not bother to construct a plot which will interest or divert his audience.
Chekhov, Stanislavsky and Tolstoy
Chekhov is acknowledged to be the one, who, with his powerful plays, helped Stanislavsky’s theater become popular.
In his travels throughout the world with the Moscow Arts Theater, Stanislovsky earned international acclaim as an actor, director, and coach. Among his collaborators were the writers Tolstoy and Chekov. While Stanislavsky’s new method of acting supported actors in breaking from the exact lines and actions of the script, it also demanded that they pay closer attention to the important unsaid messages within the writing.
This prompted writers such as Chekov to make subtler emotionally alive work.
Many times Chekhov and Stanislavsky had a different understanding of matters, different perception of things. For example, the argued about what genre Cherry Orchard belonged to – drama or a comedy? Chekhov insisted it was meant like a comedy, whereas Stanislavsky thought it a drama. Chekhov is even known for saying “Those who think Cherry Orchard is a drama, haven’t really read it carefully and haven’t seen what I wanted them to see”
“You say you have cried at my plays. And you are not he only ones. But this is not why I wrote them, it was Alekseev [Stanislavskii] who turned them into cry-babies. I wanted something else. I simply wanted to say to people honestly: 'Look at yourselves, look at how bad and boring your lives are!' The important thing is, that people should understand this, and when they understand it , they will, without fail, create themselves another and better life. I will not see it, but I know — it will be completely different, and nothing like this life. And until it arrives, I will say to people again and again: 'Understand, how bad and boring your lives are!' What is there in this to cry about? “
Impact of Chekhov
Although contemporary Russian literary critics celebrated Chekhov, international fame came only after World War I with Constance Garnett's English translations.
Chekhov's plays were immensely popular in the United Kingdom in the 1920s and have become classics of the British stage. In the United States his fame came somewhat later, through the influence of Stanislavski's technique for achieving realistic acting. American playwrights such as Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, and Clifford Odets have used Chekhovian techniques, and few important 20th century playwrights have escaped Chekhov's influence entirely: for example, the work by British playwright Michael Frayn is often compared to that of Chekhov for its focus on humorous family situations and its insights into society.
Many writers of prose, particularly of short stories, have also been influenced by Chekhov, such as Katherine Mansfield and Eudora Welty. John Cheever has been called "the Chekhov of the suburbs" for his ability to capture the drama and sadness of the lives of his characters by revealing the undercurrents of apparently insignificant events. American writer Raymond Carver was also frequently compared to Chekhov, because of his minimalistic prose style, and tendency to meditate upon the humor and tragedy in the everyday lives of working class people. Carver like Chekhov presented his characters with compassion and didn't place judgement on them or their actions. Master of the short story, the British author Victor Sawdon Pritchett's short stories are prized for their craftsmanship and comic irony similar to that of Chekhov.
The continuously growing list of films and theater productions based on Chekhov's stories and plays includes Emil Loteanu's My Tender and Affectionate Beast (1978, see Мой ласковый и нежный зверь at the Internet Movie Database), Nikita Mikhalkov's An Unfinished Piece for a Piano Player (1976) and Dark Eyes (1987), Louis Malle's Vanya on 42nd Street (1994), Anthony Hopkins's August (1996), Lanford Wilson's The Three Sisters (1997), among many others.
Anton Chekhov – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anton_Chekhov
“Three Plays of Absurd” Anton Chekhov Available at http://www.theatrehistory.com/russian/chekhov001.html
The Social Significance of the Modern Drama. Emma Goldman. Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1914. pp. 290-3.
ANTON CHEKHOV. available at http://www.imagi-nation.com/moonstruck/clsc6.htm
Chekhov’s Quotes. Available at http://www.notable-quotes.com/c/chekhov_anton.html
«Антон Павлович Чехов» Энциклопедия «Аванта+» «Русская литература». Москва, 1998