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The Four Major Plays: The Seagull/Uncle Vanya/The Three Sisters/The Cherry Orchard

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  1,873 ratings  ·  104 reviews
Here is Chekhov for the twenty-first century a master playwright in the hands of a master translator.
Hardcover, 294 pages
Published October 15th 2004 by Ivan R. Dee Publisher (first published 1904)
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Start your review of The Four Major Plays: The Seagull/Uncle Vanya/The Three Sisters/The Cherry Orchard
This edition has a good, thorough, introduction as well as a very useful note on the translation. As Frayn puts it in the note on the translation knowing Russian and being a playwright is an advantage in translating Chekhov's plays, and who would have thought that - an amazing idea.

Reading the plays for the first time in many years, the irony comes through very strongly, but maybe that's just one of the strengths of this translation which, in British English at least, comes across as easy and
Mary Slowik
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Warm-blooded humans
December of Drama 2015, days 28-31

Let's tackle these one by one.


"You feared a lonely death
Like a lake leaves you alone in her depths."
--bodyache, by Purity Ring

So a lot of admirers of Chekhov praise him for his success in "direct" and "honest" drama, and his instigation of a new era or new forms in drama, and I'd agree with all that. But I think what's lost in the conversation is the content, the ideas he incorporated in the plays themselves. There is a personally resonant kind of
Feb 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

These plays move me in a way which I can't describe. Or, rather, I probably could but it would be endless and personal and boring.

I think this is modern suburbia in embryo; it is also, of course, seeped in "The Russian Character."

I love Dostoevsky and Tolstoy with a deep passion but there's really no one quite like Chekhov. For that thin tissue of humanity billowing in the wind over the void "thing" he's the one you want.

How much life do we lose, in living? How much have we lost already?

Side-by-side comparison of an early monologue in The Three Sisters from Senelick and Rocamora (no spoilers), plus a few additional lines that stood out to me when I was reading both translations side-by-side (also selected from early in the play, so no spoilers).

TL;DR: Neither edition was perfect. I ended up borrowing pieces of both translations to put together a natural-sounding monologue for a class. Slightly prefer Rocamora for performing or studying, but the Senelick is slightly more
Luke Reynolds
While a few of these pieces in this collection are duds, Chekhov still holds some weight despite being an overrated dead rich white male playwright. I like the very contradiction of his comedies, that they carry more dramatic weight than initially expected. They're very much ensemble pieces, giving spotlights to each character despite their own apathy towards everyone around them. They make you laugh, ruminate, and connect everything back to you despite their settings, and I think that's the ...more
Nov 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had an audition for 'Cherry Orchard' so I thought I would read all four major plays to check off Chekhov from my list.
I liked these a lot better than I thought I would, but this is partly because I had tried to read them before in a different translation and just couldn't maintain interest. These are pretty new translations by Carol Rocamora and they read pretty well. I felt like I could understand what was happening a little better, and the humor came out more. I think I like 'Uncle Vanya'
Jun 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
If modern theatre is considered an intellectual pastime not fit for the consumption of the casual viewer, then Tchékhov's plays strike at the heart of drama's subtetlies. And rightly so for the plays, filled with undersayings, carve a complex structure out of the amalgam of thoughts and feelings that litter the human psyche.
It would be unfair, though, to describe the pieces as an unintelligible rant. In fact, the plots and characters are robust and strongly developed and despite the apparent
Diana Polansky
Mar 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Chekhov is a master.

Carol Rocamora rocks. I had her as a professor twice. She is so extraordinarily passionate about Russian literature that she seemed to become 30-40 years younger while teaching...and when she talked about Checkhov's dacha, I was able to "see" it.

The only thing I don't like about this translation is that though Carol retains Chekhov's poetry, her translation is a little too "American colloquial" at times. If I spoke Russian, I could explain this in detail, but as my only claim
Jeff Scott
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: russian, play
I find it difficult to read certain classics. Some books cast such a large shadow over literature that one's already encountered it somewhere else. It can leave the original tame in comparison. Chekhov has been inspirational with his realistic style as well as the more well known Chekhov's Gun. I think I remember countless movies ominously introducing a weapon of some sort and obviously telegraphing its use later on. It all comes from Chekhov. These are plays about loss and regret and also a ...more
Aug 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I only read "The Seagull" this time around. Have read "The Cherry Orchard" and "Uncle Vanya" previously. Will have to get to "Three Sisters" another day.

One thing I liked was that this was an up-to-date American translation. No musty period pieces here. This helped bring out the farcial aspects of the play. After all, Chekhov himself called it "A Comedy in Four Acts." Plus, "The Seagull" contains (part of) a play within the play, which is very easy to mock.

Overall, not as strong as his later
Aug 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've lived with these plays since college, and revisit them through live theater or film. Just watched The Sea Gull directed by Sidney Lumet, with Vanessa Redgrave, James Mason, David Warner - extraordinary! Vanya on 42nd Street with Wallace Shawn and Julianne Moore is a brilliant take on Uncle Vanya. Sheer genius, I never tire of the insights and perfect use of language in these plays.
Jan 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Seagull

A pretty good play, that double twist at the end of the play would be amazing to see acted out.

This seems like a normal enough play, in that artists seem continually worried about artistic integrity. The introduction of the book suggested that Nina is the character who grows the most, but I'm not so convinced. It's true that she is pursuing her passion to be an artist, but it is without support or cultivation. She does have some talent, but she doesn't nurture it. She threw herself
Andrey Pogorelov
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
It’s really hard for me to give Chekhov a rating, and 4 stars are just to express my level of excitement and awe compared to some other classics.

I didn’t pay much attention to Chekhov’s works back in school, and I’m pretty sure his drama is way to complicated for kids. Perhaps I will be revisiting his works later on to discover something new about people and life itself.

Chekhov is a true master of drama, and even if you don’t really read much drama (like myself), you should definitely give this
Marina Morais
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-books
I read "The Three Sisters" at uni for a Directing Actors module, and ended up playing Irina. A weird, but interesting experience. I probably didn't appreciate Chekhov as much at the time as I appreciate now.

The four plays are very similar and very different, but all interesting. My favourite is definitely "Uncle Vanya", which I hadn't read or watched until now. I'm curious to see it on stage!

Chekhov's style reminds me a little bit of my idol Billy Wilder's - keeping in mind, of course, the
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent in almost every way

The translation is excellent, preserving the sensibility of turn-of-the-20th-century Russia while making it easy for a 21st-century American to relate to. The notes are very helpful too. My only small complaint is that the notes for all four plays are lumped together at the very end; running footnotes at the bottoms of annotated pages would be better, as would easier access to the character list (Russian names -- especially the constantly changing nicknames -- are
David C Ward
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It seems to me that I read a lot of plays in high school literature. Don’t read many now and I have trouble seeing them as well as hearing them when I read them. I can see why these made such an impact on drama and late 19th century Russia. That said I find the theme of provincial Russian boredom and backwardness a bit tedious especially in a big chunk. Anyway, I prefer Chekhov ‘s prose but that’s just me.
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely love this collection of plays Chekhov. My favorites, Uncle Vanya and The Three Sisters, explore themes that I struggle with on a daily basis - idleness, work, repetition of life, existentialism. The Cherry Orchard was a bittersweet reminder of loss, and the causes and consequences of inaction. The Seagull was also an exploration into existentialism and the crushing work required to achieve one’s ideals and dreams, and the consequences of not achieving it (Nina/Treplev).

I love how
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Felt so romantic mood while reading Chekhov, although there was a lot unhappy love, missing of better life and complaining. But all this kind of fascinated me. It was the first time for me to read plays and takes time to get used to checking the characters from the beginning, who was who to who. Just different but I enjoyed.
Christina Hopp
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Uncle Vanya was my favorite play of them all. I really didn't like Three Sisters but Cherry Orchard ended the book on a good note, since it was a much more engaging play. Five stars because I really liked the translator's insight and beginning introduction to help me notice things I normally wouldn't on a first read.
Mar 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Written in 1897, Uncle Vanya is a tragic comedy by famous Russian playwright Anton Chekov. The characters are looking for love, but are full of frustrated regret over their wasted lives. I'm fairly certain that one of the characters, the country doctor named Antov, is a proxy for Anton Checkov himself (he was also a medical doctor).
I found this a bit difficult to get into--there's an artificial quality to the dialogue that I think doesn't translate very well on the page (or perhaps into English?). I found Uncle Vanya the most interesting of the four, largely due to its subplot about environmentalism.
Chekhov broke my heart, warmed my soul and motivated my mind. And that's what I am looking for in books. ...more
Sep 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So I didn't read this exact book, it was actually a really old copy of just his four greatest plays (trivia: can you name them?) Obviously the Cherry Orchard (I know you got that, Ms. Daniels), and The Sea Gull, Uncle Vanya, and 3 Sisters. What I really liked what that Checkov gives you a brief glance into realistic human behavior, and at different points in the drama, one character or another will step back and say, "What is life all about anyway? Why are we living this way? Can't we change ...more
Eliza Malakoff
Feb 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english-final

"I love him (Trigorin)! I love him even more than before...A subject for a short story...I love him, I love him passionately, I love him to despair. It was nice in old days, Kostya! Do you remember? How clear, warm, joyous and pure life was, what feelings we had - feelings like tender, exquisite flowers...Do you remember?"

This is a beautiful piece of dialogue that captures how damaged Nina is. She loves Trigorin and wishes for a time when she did not, when she was younger and more
I'm reading these plays to prepare for an acting class I will be taking which will focus on the work of Chekhov. I'm actually listening to these on audible -- which are recordings of live performances. In addition, I listened to an audible recording of one of Chekhov's best short stories, In the Ravine, by Kenneth Brannagh.

Three Sisters: Since I listened to a recording of a performance, I wasn't fully successful at keeping all of the characters straight, but I was able to see some of the themes
Jan 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's good to read a book that is more than simple entertainment. These plays are filled with humor (albeit dry, Russian humor) and poverty and social struggles.
I used Sparknotes to get others' ideas regarding Seagull. I tried to just breeze through Three Sisters, but didn't get into it at all. I decided to take notes on the characters in Cherry Orchard and read Sparknotes for themes, etc. The extra work on Cherry Orchard paid off. Yesterday, I met with some city officials regarding a property in
Riley Haas
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

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.

Three Sisters feels to me like the most iconic of these plays - not being familiar with it
Richard S
Oct 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: powys-100
Reading this play ("The Seagull" was the play included on the Powys list, and the only one read from the collection) was like a breath of fresh air after Dante. Chekhov is a great master of humanity, and this work of artistic perfection conveys the same higher truths of Shakespeare. This play is superior to the very similar Ibsen play "The Wild Duck"; it does not contain the deliberate message, but subtle, obscure ones. It is not surprising that The Seagull continues to be performed frequently, ...more
Jul 26, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm ashamed to say that I had never read any Chekhov before this year. I decided that as an aspiring playwright, I had better get around to doing so. I loved these plays, especially "Uncle Vanya" and "The Cherry Orchard." The threat of foreclosure and ruin that hovers over the formerly affluent characters in these two plays was reminiscent of our current moment in history. The dialogue is beautiful to read. . . I now want to see more Chekhov plays actually in production. I didn't love the ...more
Ayne Ray
Oct 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best works of the Russian playwright who was also an acclaimed short story writer. Interestingly, although he gained great fame from his plays, he was at odds with director Constantine Stanislavsky (most well-known for the acting style that famously became known as "The Method," a realistic approach in which actors attempt to use their own emotions in portraying their characters); Chekhov considered the plays comedies, while Stanislavsky's productions tended to emphasize their tragic ...more
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Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (Russian: Антон Павлович Чехов ) was born in the small seaport of Taganrog, southern Russia, the son of a grocer. Chekhov's grandfather was a serf, who had bought his own freedom and that of his three sons in 1841. He also taught himself to read and write. Yevgenia Morozova, Chekhov's mother, was the daughter of a cloth merchant.
"When I think back on my childhood," Chekhov