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Seagull


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A: Anton Chekhov Pf: 1896, St Petersburg Pb: 1896 Tr: 1912 G: Drama in 4 acts, Russian prose S: Sorin's estate in rural Russia, late 19th c. C: 7m, 7fKonstantin (Kostya) Treplev and his mother, the famous actress Irina Arkadina, are staying on his uncle Sorin's estate. She is having an affair with Boris Trigorin, a celebrated novelist. Treplev decides to stage one of his Symbolist plays with Nina Zaryechnaya, the neighbour's daughter whom he loves, in the central role. Just as he feared, his mother has no understanding for ‘new forms’, and in a temper he ends the performance. The next day Treplev tries to impress Nina by presenting her with a seagull he has shot. Trigorin comes and flirts with the starstruck Nina, saying he will write a story about a young girl who is arbitrarily destroyed like the seagull. Treplev is so desperate that he tries to shoot himself but only wounds himself in the head. Arkadina and Trigorin are leaving, so Trigorin, with whom Nina is now in love, arranges to meet her in Moscow. Two years later Arkadina returns to nurse her sick brother. Treplev has had some success with his writing but despairs over his lack of purpose. Nina appears suddenly. She was made pregnant by Trigorin, her child died, and she was rejected by both Trigorin and her father. Distractedly calling herself ‘the seagull’, she claims to have found some contentment as a jobbing actress. Despite Treplev's protestations of love, she leaves, and Treplev destroys his manuscripts and shoots himself.

A: Anton Chekhov Pf: 1896, St Petersburg Pb: 1896 Tr: 1912 G: Drama in 4 acts, Russian prose S: Sorin's estate in rural Russia, late 19th c. C: 7m, 7f

The premiere of The Seagull was a failure, but it enjoyed a great success at the new Moscow Art Theatre (MAT) two years later, establishing the significance of both Chekhov and Stanislavsky, who played Trigorin. This understated drama stretching over two years, which Chekhov called a ‘comedy’ because it gently ridiculed the empty lives of his characters, needed the depth of characterization and truthful behaviour that only the MAT actors were capable of producing. The Seagull has attracted many playwrights to adapt it, including McGrath (1961), Jellicoe (1964), Van Itallie (1973), French (1977), Murrell (1980), Kilroy (1981), Frayn (1986), and Stoppard (1997).

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Anton Chekhov (1860—1904) Russian dramatist and short-story writer


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