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Uncle Vanya


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AT: Uncle Vania; August A: Anton Chekhov Pf: 1897, Russian provinces; Moscow, 1899 Pb: 1897 Tr: 1912 G: Drama in 4 acts; Russian prose S: Serebryakov's estate, rural Russia, 1890s C: 5m, 4fIvan Voinitsky (Uncle Vanya), with the help of Sonya, his niece, manages the estate of his brother-in-law Aleksandr Serebryakov, who is a celebrated retired professor of art. Serebryakov arrives with his young new wife Yelena. Soon Vanya, who is disillusioned about Serebryakov's achievements, falls in love with Yelena, as does Mikhail Astrov, an idealistic doctor. Yelena rebuffs Vanya's advances, and Sonya tries to make Astrov understand that she loves him. She asks Yelena to sound out Astrov's feelings about her, and Astrov imagines that Yelena is attracted to him. Serebryakov announces that he intends to sell the estate so that he can live in town. Vanya, frustrated over Serebryakov's ingratitude and selfishness, fires a gun at him but misses. Serebryakov and Yelena leave, and Astrov goes off to his work. Vanya, having contemplated suicide, now settles down to the estate accounts with Sonya. Despite her unhappiness, she remains positive about life.

AT: Uncle Vania; August A: Anton Chekhov Pf: 1897, Russian provinces; Moscow, 1899 Pb: 1897 Tr: 1912 G: Drama in 4 acts; Russian prose S: Serebryakov's estate, rural Russia, 1890s C: 5m, 4f

Uncle Vanya was based on Chekhov's earlier failed play The Wood Demon (Leshy), premiered in Moscow in 1889, in which the figure of Astrov, then called Khrushchev, is the ‘wood demon’ committed to ecological concerns. As in the Three Sisters very little happens (as Tolstoy commented: ‘Where's the drama? The play treads water’). There is no heroic central figure, merely the hard-working, well-intentioned but blundering Vanya, demeaned by the ageing and patronizing label of ‘Uncle’. It was this defeatism that inspired Howard Barker to write his own more vigorous and iconoclastic version (Uncle) Vanya (1993), and it has been adapted by Mamet (1988), Friel (1998), and Julian Mitchell as August (1994).

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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


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