1896, 1897, 1901, 1904, 1993, Books, Fiction

The Essential Plays (1993) by Anton Chekhov

This is a fine collection of Chekhov’s four most famous plays.

The Seagull is my least favourite – it’s concerned with the theatre a little too much for my liking. The ending is great, though.

  • Written by Anton Chekhov
  • Date premiered: 17 October 1896
  • Place premiered: Alexandrinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia
  • Original language: Russian
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Setting Sorin’s country estate
  • Cast of Characters:
    • Irina Nikolayevna Arkadina – an actress
    • Konstantin Gavrilovich Treplyov – Irina’s son, a playwright
    • Boris Alexeyevich Trigorin – a well-known writer
    • Nina Mikhailovna Zarechnaya – the daughter of a rich landownerPjotr Nikolayevich Sorin – Irina’s brother
    • Ilya Afanasyevich Shamrayev – a retired lieutenant and the manager of Sorin’s estate
    • Polina Andryevna – Ilya’s wife
    • Masha – Ilya and Polina’s daughter
    • Yevgeny Sergeyevich Dorn – a doctor
    • Semyon Semyonovich Medvedenko – a teacher
    • Yakov – a hired workman
    • Cook – a worker on Sorin’s estate
    • Maid – a worker on Sorin’s estate
    • Watchman – a worker on Sorin’s estate; he carries a warning stick at night

Uncle Vanya is the kind of thing I would have devoured in my early twenties. It’s borderline existential the conflict between the old and the new – or the pretty and the ugly – is something that has always fascinated me.

  • Written by Anton Chekhov
  • Original language: Russian
  • Setting: Garden of the Serebryakov family estate
  • Cast of Characters:
    • Aleksandr Vladimirovich Serebryakov (Александр Владимирович Серебряков): a retired university professor, who has lived for years in the city on the earnings of his late first wife’s rural estate, managed for him by Vanya and Sonya
    • Helena Andreyevna Serebryakova (Yelena) (Елена Андреевна Серебрякова): Professor Serebryakov’s young and beautiful second wife; she is 27 years old
    • Sofia Alexandrovna Serebryakova (Sonya) (Софья Александровна Серебрякова): Professor Serebryakov’s daughter from his first marriage; she is of a marriageable age, but is considered plain
    • Maria Vasilyevna Voynitskya (Мария Васильевна Войницкая): the widow of a privy councilor and mother of Vanya (and of Vanya’s late sister, the Professor’s first wife)
    • Ivan Petrovich Voynitsky (“Uncle Vanya”) (Иван Петрович Войницкий): Maria’s son and Sonya’s uncle, the title character of the play; he is 47 years old
    • Mikhail Lvovich Astrov (Михаил Львович Астров): a middle aged country doctor.
    • Ilya Ilych Telegin (Илья Ильич Телегин; nicknamed “Waffles” for his pockmarked skin): an impoverished landowner, who now lives on the estate as a dependent of the family
    • Marina Timofeevna (Марина Тимофеевна): an old nurse
    • A Workman

Three Sisters feels to me like the most iconic of these plays – not being familiar with it I still felt like I have seen echoes of it in other works. It reminds me a little bit of The Iceman Cometh in terms of the “grass is always greener” / “I am going to do something about it tomorrow” attitude of many of the characters.

  • Written by Anton Chekhov
  • Characters:
    • Prozorov family:
      • Olga Sergeyevna Prozorova
      • Maria Sergeyevna Kulygina
      • Irina Sergeyevna Prozorova
      • Andrei Sergeyevich Prozorov
  • Date premiered: 1901, Moscow
  • Original language: Russian
  • Genre: Drama
  • Setting: A provincial Russian garrison town

To me, The Cherry Orchard is his masterpiece, both hysterically funny and profoundly moving. I know people like this and have, myself, behaved like this at times. I see too much life reflected in it.

  • Written by Anton Chekhov
  • Date premiered: 1903
  • Place premiered: Moscow Art Theatre
  • Original language: Russian
  • Genre: Drama


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