February 18, 1999

From Gerald R. Lucas

Notes on Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard

A dominant theme in Chekhov’s play of anti-climaxes is that people create and act out their own fictions. Why is it difficult or impossible to see the fictions we create about our own lives when seeing others’ fictions is often so evident? (E.g., Liubóv and Trofímov in Act 3, p. 376–77). What is the relation of truth to reality or facts?

. . .

Chekhov 1903 ArM.jpg

Characters

Madame Liubóv Ranevskaya—owner of the estate

  • laments the loss of her little boy (Grisha) who drowned in the river (1.160)
  • concerned about her squandering ways (e.g., 2.87–93)
    • gives homeless man a gold piece (371); gives $ when she doesn’t have it (382)
  • worried about her cherry orchard (e.g., 366)
  • haunted by the past (e.g., 367)
  • “What truth? You seem to be sure . . .” (376)

Anya—Madame Ranevskaya’s daughter

  • loves Trofimov (371)
  • “I don’t love the cherry orchard any more, not the way I used to.” (371)
    • the cherry orchard is sold (382)
  • is she the only character looking toward the future in a clear-eyed sense? (385)

Varya—Madame Ranevskaya’s adopted daughter

  • immensely worried about money and losing the estate
    • “I can’t sit around and do nothing.” (3.102)
  • involved with Lopákhin (1.130; 3.88 ff.)

Lopákhin—pragmatist—son of a serf, but now a wealthy businessman

  • cannot understand why Madame Ranevskaya and Gayev will not listen to his plan to save their estate (cf. 2.113–16)
  • “I can pay for everything!” (381)
  • yet he is insecure because of his past (383)
  • constant work toward economic prosperity is what gives meaning to life for him (384)

Gayev—Madame Ranevskaya’s brother

  • old and lost in his thoughts, usually concerning billiards.

Firs—remnant of the old days: refused to be freed at first in 1861

  • still a servant of Gayev’s (2.200–03)

Trofimov—the perpetual student

  • sees hope for evolving humanity through work and less talk (yet all he does is talk), but little during his time in Russia (e.g., 369)
  • Anya loves him, or at least what he says (is there a difference?); he’s above love (e.g., 3.112)
  • the cherry orchard as metaphor (371–72)
  • to Lopáchin: “Don’t wave your arms around so much.” (383)
  • “I’ll get there. Or I’ll make sure the rest of them get there.” (384)

Pischik—landowner with no money, yet he’s obsessed with it.

Dunyasha—maid

  • wants to be loved as a “flower” (379)

Yásha—the valet

  • thinks he’s superior (2.67–8; 382)
  • pretty much a sexist and a jerk (e.g., 378)
    • doesn’t even care about his mother (384)

Charlotta—governess

  • does tricks (374)

Yepikhódov—an accountant—“Double Trouble”

  • pretentious
  • carries a pistol: “live or shoot myself” (2.26)
  • confronts Dunyásha (379)

Some Critical Views

Anton Chekhov on the Theatre, Theatricality, and TCO

On Sarah Bernhardt and Company:

Pitcher outlines some methods adopted by the Moscow Art Theatre based on Chekhov’s philosophy:

About The Cherry Orchard:

Chekhov complained in April 1904 that his play was being advertised as a drama rather than as a comedy. He accused Danchenko and Stanislavsky of finding things in the play that were not there: “They both haven’t read my play attentively even once,” he remarked. “It’s no longer my play. Except for two or three parts, nothing in it is mine. I describe ordinary life, not despondency. They make me into a crybaby or a bore. This is beginning to make me angry.”[13]

Citations

  1. Styan 1971, p. 246.
  2. Pitcher 1984, p. 73.
  3. Pitcher 1984, pp. 77–78.
  4. Calderon 1912, pp. 8–9.
  5. Pitcher 1984, p. 81.
  6. Styan 1971, p. 241.
  7. Gilman 1995, p. 198.
  8. Pitcher 1984, p. 72.
  9. Pitcher 1984, p. 84.
  10. Pitcher 1984, pp. 88–89.
  11. Pitcher 1984, p. 90.
  12. Peace 1984, p. 117.
  13. Meister 1986, p. 267.

Bibliography

See also: Anton Chekhov bibliography on his plays. You might have a look at “The Anton Chekhov Page” though it is quite old.

  • Bennett, Robert B. (1991). "The Golden Age in the Cycles of History: Analogous Visions of Shakespeare and Chekhov". Comparative Literature Studies. 28 (2): 156–77.
  • Chekhov, Anton (2017) [1903]. "The Cherry Orchard". In Gainor, J. Ellen; Garner Jr., Stanton B.; Puchner, Martin. The Norton Anthology of Drama. Volume 2. Translated by Schmidt, Paul (Third ed.). New York: W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 350–90. All citations above are from this text.
  • Calderon, George (1912). Introduction. Two Plays by Tchekhof. By —. London: G. Richards. pp. 7–22.
  • — (1975). Yarmolinsky, Avrahm, ed. The Portable Chekhov. New York: Penguin.
  • Durkin, Andrew R. (1984). "The Cherry Orchard in English". earbook of Comparative and General Literature. 33.
  • Gilman, Richard (1995). Chekhov’s Plays: An Opening into Eternity. New Haven: Yale UP.
  • Hubbs, Clayton A.; Hubbs, Joanna T. (1982). "The Goddess of Love and the Tree of Knowledge: Some Elements of Myth and Folklore in Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard". South Carolina Review. 14 (2): 66–77.
  • Hudson, John (2011). "The Cherry Orchard: Tragedy or Comedy?". The English Review. 21 (3). Retrieved 2020-02-18.
  • Kelly, Aileen (November 6, 1997). "Chekhov the Subversive". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 2020-02-20.
  • Kramer, Karl D. (1984). "Love and Comic Instability in The Cherry Orchard". In Brostrom, Kenneth N. Russian Literature and American Critics. Papers in Slavic Philology. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P. pp. 295–99.
  • Magarshack, David (1984). "The Cherry Orchard". In Wellek, René; Wellek, Nonna D. Chekhov: New Perspectives. Twentieth Century Views. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. pp. 168–82.
  • Miester, Charles W. (1986). Chekhov Criticism 1880 Through 1986. Jefferson: McFarland and Company.
  • Peace, Richard (1983). Chekhov: A Study of the Four Major Plays. New Haven: Yale UP.
  • Pitcher, Harvey (1984). "The Chekhov Play". In Wellek, René; Wellek, Nonna D. Chekhov: New Perspectives. Twentieth Century Views. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. pp. 168–82.
  • Remaley, Peter B. (1973). "Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard". South Atlantic Review. 38 (4): 16–20.
  • Styan, J. L. (1971). Chekhov in Performance: A Commentary on the Major Plays. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
  • Tait, Peta (2000). "Performative Acts of Gendered Emotions and Bodies in Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard". Modern Drama. 43 (1): 87–99.
  • Turkov, Andrei, ed. (1995). Anton Chekhov and His Times. Translated by Carlile, Cynthia; McKee, Sharon. Fayetteville: U of Arkansas P.
  • Urian, Dan (1998). "The Study of a Play as Text for Performance in the Theatre: The Case of The Cherry Orchard". Assaph: Studies in the Theatre. 100 (4): 35–54.