PHILIP DOSSICK

Peaches and Plumbs Booksellers

The Seagull

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The Seagull

4.27

In another life, Anton Chekhov would have made a great psychic. His observations of turn-of-the-century Russian society and the class rage boiling quietly under the surface (scratching at the scab of the characters' dissatisfactions and their elusive quest for happiness) feel spookily prophetic, considering his plays were written decades before the Bolshevik Revolution.

The Seagull depicts the conflicts between four characters: the famous (utterly mediocre) writer Boris Trigorin, the ingénue Nina, the fading actress Irina Arkadina, and her son playwright Konstantin Tréplev, a battle for power between mother and son which ends in tragedy. The play has a well-known intertextual relationship with Shakespeare's Hamlet: Arkadina and Treplyov quote from it before the play-within-a-play in the first act (this device is famously used in Hamlet). There are many allusions to Shakespeare as well, as Treplyov seeks to win his mother back from the usurping Trigorin much as Hamlet tried to win Gertrude back from his uncle Claudius.

 

ANTON CHEKHOV (1860–1904) was a Russian author and physician, considered to be among the greatest writers in history. His career produced numerous classics including The Cherry Orchard, The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, and Three Sisters. Along with Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg, Chekhov is often referred to as one of the three seminal figures in the birth of early modernism in the theater. Always modest, Chekhov could hardly have imagined the extent of his posthumous reputation. Ovations for The Cherry Orchard in the year of his death showed him how high he had risen in the affection of the Russian public—by then he was second in literary celebrity only to Tolstoy. After his death, Chekhov's fame spread further. Constance Garnett's translations won him an international readership and the admiration of writers such as James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Katherine Mansfield.

 

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