Steve's Reviews > The Essential Plays

The Essential Plays by Anton Chekhov
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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 into the world, focusing on wealth and fame. If she had succeeded, she would have become another Arkadina. Instead, by failing, I think she remains as selfish as Arkadina, but with tempered ambitions. Nina and Kostya, could have made a great professional team and built each other up, but didn't.

Oh, should one even take the Seagull as a symbol? They practically mock it as an overused symbol, however, if one were to focus on it, I'll probably describe it as artistic integrity. One could view Trepleva as a stuffed seagull or that Trepleva has turned Nina into a stuffed seagull. For what is the difference between Nina and Arkadina, except success.

Uncle Vanya

I really, really, liked this play. It's pretty straight forward, in that people are trying to justify an existence which as of yet, has been meaningless. I'm noticing a reoccurring theme, in that Checkov's characters constantly wonder whether their actions will amount to anything in the long run.

One of my favourite scenes is when Astrov is showing a map of the forest with its changes over the years. The change is indirect, one can only see it on a map years after, and yet, their actions do have consequences. But there is always that acknowledgement that the future won't acknowledge the sacrifices of the past. I think this is the true purpose of the play. Serebryakov, despite his age, acts without consideration of time and history. He takes and takes without acknowledging the contributions of others. He borrows from the past and from the future. He acts like his accomplishments are his own, and has earned rest, even though the people who contributed most to his life get no rest. He is selfish such as how a generation in the grand scheme of history is selfish.

This was an emotional play for me and I loved every line of it.

Three Sisters

A sad, depressing play. There is this perpetual atmosphere of dull gloom, a feeling of impotence. I feel like there is not much to say with this play just because so many of the same themes are reoccurring. Will we ever amount to much in the sum of our lives? What does the future hold?

There is a new focus on memory though and how boring people and tedious work will dull one's inner spark.

I really liked the quote, "Where has it all gone to? Where? Where? O my God, my God. I've forgotten everything, everything. Everything's jumbled up inside my head ... I can't remember how to say 'window' in Italian ... or .... 'ceiling.' I'm forgetting everything. I forget something every day. And life moves on and will never come back, never."

The Cherry Orchard

I really enjoyed this play as well. In a way, it is very relatable. There are concerns of gentrification and how old ways are no longer sustainable in this day an age. I read this play with more frustration than sympathy. The aristocrats were living beyond their means and even though it is sad that the cherry orchard, it could have been saved if they had any proper understanding of finances.

I feel like we are expected to treat Lopakhin as a good character, but a representation of a new, greedy way of life. However, at least he is genuine. His recommendations of austerity were sincere and if they were accepted, perhaps it could have led to a better future.

I also noticed that all the plays seem to have an unusual focus on work. This feels like the Soviet story, We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin, or even Anna Karinina's character Levin, and his focus on peasant life. This renewal/responsibility by work seems to be an ingrained Russian idea, although most pure with Chekhov. I also remember inklings of it in The Dual.

Overall, the plays were fascinating to read and I would love to see them performed. However, the themes seemed very similar, so that none of the plays seemed wholly unique. There was always unrequited love, the meaninglessness of dullness, a hope (potentially empty) of the future, and the feeling of a wasted life.

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Reading Progress

January 21, 2017 – Started Reading
January 21, 2017 – Shelved
January 23, 2017 –
page 119
January 25, 2017 – Finished Reading

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