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The Seagull Essays

Key Facts full title · The Seagull author · Anton Chekhov type of work · Play genre · Tragi-Comedy language · Russian. English Translation by Paul Schmidt time and place written · Written in 1895, Russia date of first publication · Not applicable (drama) publisher · HarperCollins, Harper Flamingo edition narrator · None point of view · Not applicable (drama) tone · Absurd; Existential tense · Not applicable (drama) settings (times) · Around 1895, summer; Then, two years later setting (place) · Sorin’s estate and farm rotagonists · Konstantin Treplev; Irina Arkadina; Nina; Boris Trigorin major conflict · Konstantin Treplev longs for success at writing and to gain recognition of his talents from his mother, a famous stage actress, Irina Arkadina and her lover, a famous writer, Boris Trigorin; Neither Arkadina nor Trigorin see any merit in Konstantin’s abilities; Trigorin does nothing to advise Konstantin and Arkadina only gets in his way with her competitive spirit and condescending attitude about his goals to create new forms in the theater and in writing; Trigorin has an affair with the young girl Konstantin loves, Nina, a hopeful actress, breaking Arkadina and Konstantin’s hearts. rising actions · Nina gives Trigorin a parting gift of a medallion inscribed with reference to a line from one of his books; Trigorin asks Arkadina for permission to have an affair with Nina.
Arkadina begs Trigorin to remain faithful; Trigorin agrees to stay with Arkadina; Nina decides to move to Moscow to become an actress and to be near Trigorin. climax · Trigorin and Nina kiss and promise to meet each other in Moscow. falling action · In Act Four Nina and Trigorin have an affair. Nina has Trigorin’s baby, it dies, and he leaves her for Arkadina who he continued to be involved with during his relationship with Nina. themes · The role of an artist in life and in love; evaluating the Self; existentialism and the pursuit of a meaningful life motifs · Unrequited love; existential crisis; the banality of existence symbols · The seagull; the lake; weather oreshadowing · In Act Two, Konstantin predicts his own death when he places the seagull at Nina’s feet and tells her he will “I intend to shoot myself one of these days, just like this. ” In Act Two, Trigorin describes his new story idea to Nina. His story will be about a young girl like Nina who becomes destroyed like the seagull by a man who has nothing better to do. ————————————————- ————————————————- ————————————————- ————————————————- ————————————————- ————————————————- Context
The son of a grocer and the grandson of a serf, Anton Chekhov was born on January seventeen, 1860 in Taganrog, a provincial town on the Sea of Azov in southern Russia. Serfdom was the Russian equivalent of American slavery. Chekhov was the third son of Pavel Egorovich Chekhov and Evgeniya Yakovlevna. When Chekhov was sixteen, his father fled to Moscow to escape debtors he owed for his failed grocery business. His mother followed her husband to Moscow in July of that year with her younger children, leaving Chekhov behind in Taganrog to finish school and to tutor the nephew of the man who bought their estate for an unfairly cheap price. Chekhov had already contributed humorous stories to a magazine he created with his brother that he called Zaika (Stammerer).
In 1879, Chekhov moved to Moscow to attend medical school and published his first short story, The Letter from the Don Landowner Stephen Vladimirovich N. to his Learned Neighbor Dr. Friederick. He continued to publish stories and graduated medical school in 1884. In 1887, Chekhov’s play, Ivanov was performed for the first time to mixed, and later successful, reception. Chekhov won the Pushkin Prize for “the best literary production distinguished by high artistic worth” in 1888. In 1890, Chekhov left for a trip to Sakhalin Island where the government established a penal colony. He stayed there for three months, documenting the lives of the inmates.
In 1892, Chekhov purchased the estate, Melikhovo and became the first landowner in his family. Two years later, he discovered that he had an advanced case of tuberculosis, then known frequently as consumption. Chekhov wrote four major plays, Ivanov, The Seagull, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard. He wrote The Seagull in 1895. It was first performed in 1896 in Petersburg. The first performance was viewed as a failure since it generated the disappointment of the audience who had come to see the play as it was falsely advertised, as a benefit performance for a well-known actress who was only in a sketch after the play. After that performance, The Seagull was well-received and immediately toured the Russian provinces.
On May 25th, 1901, Chekhov married an actress, Olga Knipper who starred in his plays at the Moscow Art Theatre. He became known for his collaborations and differences with Konstantin Stanislavski, the famous Russian director and acting teacher. His plays marked a new movement in the theatre with their use of subtext, intimacy, colloquialisms and realism. His comedy-tragedies were unlike any plays that audiences had seen before because they made drama out of everyday circumstances, such as love and longing, instead of portraying the grand gestures of heroes and heroines of earlier plays. Three years later, Chekhov’s health faded rapidly, but he managed to complete his last play, The Cherry Orchard, before he died.
It was performed for the first time on his birthday in 1904. On July two that year, Chekhov died in a German spa that was unequipped to care for his illness. He and Olga had traveled there because it was recommended for his health. According to his wife, Chekhov, (a doctor himself), diagnosed his own condition and told the doctor he was dying. The doctor sent for champagne, and then Chekov said, “I haven’t drunk champagne in a long time,” drank some sips of champagne, turned over on his side and died. His body was returned back to Russia in a train car labeled, “Fresh Oysters,” a comic detail Chekhov probably would’ve enjoyed in the somber context of his death.
Like the amateur playwright, Treplev in The Seagull, Chekhov, too, explores new forms with his play. Chekhov revolutionized the idea of what a play could be by creating drama among people in the words they spoke, and not in the acts they committed on stage. Unlike the melodramas in which Chekhov’s Arkadina acts and Treplev despises, The Seagull’s main events happen off-stage. Nina and Trigorin’s affair, the shooting of the seagull, Masha and Medvedenko’s wedding, etc. all occur between Acts. What captivates us about The Seagull is the characters’ adaptation to and survival of the main events. His characters all handle the disappointments and adversities in their lives in distinct and particular ways.
His plays elegantly display the poetry of everyday life; The silences, cliches, stammering’s and attempts at high expression by his characters are a mirror to our own improvised lives. ————————————————- ————————————————- ————————————————- ————————————————- ————————————————- ————————————————- ————————————————- ————————————————- Plot Overview It is after sunset and a make-shift, homemade stage stands in the outdoor setting of Sorin’s provincial, Russian estate and farm. A lake serves as natural scenery behind the stage.
Medvedenko, a poor schoolteacher, believes he would be a happier man and a more attractive suitor to Masha if he had more money. Masha, the daughter of the estate manager, Shamrayev, fixates on her love for Treplev and does not agree. Snorting snuff, Masha openly acknowledges that she knows Medvedenko loves her but explains that she cannot love him back. Treplev is nervous and busy as he gets things ready for the first performance of his play. Treplev tells Sorin that Arkadina is jealous of his play and hates it before she has seen it. Treplev picks a flower and pulls off its feathers saying, “She loves me, she loves me not,” etc. He concludes that Arkadina does not love him.
He longs to be accepted by her peers, the writers, actors and other artists who comprise the Russian intelligentsia and artistic elite based on his own work, not because he is the son of famous actors. Nina arrives. She tells Treplev that her parents are afraid she will want to become an actress if she spends time with the bohemians at Sorin’s estate. She says that it is the lake that attracts her to the estate, “as if I were a seagull. ” Nina and Treplev kiss. Treplev tells her he loves her, but Nina does not return his affectionate talk. Workers and guests interrupt their intimate moment. We learn that Paulina loves Dorn and that they are involved in a romantic relationship but he is mostly apathetic about her affection.
Arkadina shows off to the group by reciting lines of Gertrude in Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. Treplev responds by reciting Hamlet’s lines back to her. His lines compare Arkadina’s relationship with Trigorin to Gertrude’s tainted relationship with Claudius. Treplev’s play begins and recites a long monologue about a universal soul and man’s place on earth into infinity. It is abstract and symbolic. Arkadina rudely interrupts the performance several times by talking out loud to her friends in the audience. When a special effect of red lights in the form of two eyes and the smell of sulpher rises in a cloud from the stage, Arkadina makes such a fuss that Treplev ends the play and closes the curtain. He runs off.
Nina meets Trigorin for the first time. Arkadina laughs at Nina’s awe of Trigorin’s role as a creator. Treplev desperately desires Nina but learns that she has already left. He runs off. Masha takes a pinch of snuff. Dorn criticizes her. She admits to him that she is in love with Treplev. Dorn sighs over the abundance of unrequited love in his presence. Shamrayev and Arkadina argue about the use of the horses. Arkadina wants to use them later in the day to go into town. Shamrayev has them out in the field. He stubbornly will not allow her to use them later. She threatens to leave the estate and return to the country. Nina gives Dorn a bouquet of fresh picked flowers.
Paulina takes the flowers from him and destroys them. Nina is the only one left onstage. She comments that she is surprised that Arkadina and Trigorin act like normal people even though they are famous. Treplev enters with a rifle and a dead seagull in his hands. He puts the seagull at Nina’s feet. He tells her that he shot the bird in her honor and that one day he will be like the seagull. Nina and Treplev fight about their relationship. She accuses him of talking in symbols. He laments her change from warm to cold. Treplev expresses his conclusion that Nina stopped loving him because his play was a failure. He compares Nina’s faded love for him to the lake disappearing into the ground.
Treplev exits bitterly when he sees Nina’s fondness for Trigorin. Trigorin brings up the news that he and Arkadina are leaving the estate to go back to town. Trigorin explains the obsessive-compulsive behavior that forces him to document everything he observes in his memory and on paper for future use in a story. Trigorin sees the seagull that Treplev shot. He writes down a note about Nina, saying that she has inspired him to start a new story about a girl who is ruined by a man just like the seagull that Treplev destroyed, because he has nothing better to do. Arkadina interrupts Trigorin and Nina when she calls to Trigorin announcing that she has been convinced to stay on the estate.
Contrary to the conclusion of Act Two when Arkadina decides to stay, Act Three begins with Trigorin eating lunch in Sorin’s dining room, surrounded by packed luggage. Masha keeps Trigorin company, confessing her plan to marry Medvedenko. Nina gives Trigorin a parting gift of a medallion with his initials inscribed on one side and the title of his book, “Days and Nights” on the other. She asks him to give her two minutes more before he leaves. Trigorin discovers that inscribed on the medallion is a page and line number from his book. As he goes off stage to find the book in order to read the quote to which Nina’s gift refers, Arkadina argues with her brother, Sorin about his joining them into town.
Sorin falls ill for a few moments and Arkadina becomes frightened. She screams for help. Treplev asks Arkadina to change the bandage on his head. They share some tender moments of lightheartedness but their conversation disintegrates into name- calling, insults, and competitiveness. Treplev ends up crying because he mourns the loss of Nina’s affection. Arkadina tries to cheer him up and tells him that Nina will soon come back to him because Arkadina is taking Trigorin away from the estate. Trigorin enters, mumbling the line from Nina’s inscription, “If you ever need my life, come take it. ” He muses over the line and it means something to him. He asks Arkadina if they can stay.
Arkadina challenges Trigorin about his interest in Nina, bringing to the forefront, the tension that has existed only in silence. Trigorin portrays himself as a man who missed out on the splendors and excitement of youthful love because he spent his youth writing to make a name for himself. Fearing the loss of the man she loves, Arkadina pleads, kisses, flatters, and begs on her hands and knees for Trigorin to leave with her. Her persuasive talk convinces Trigorin to leave, but, when Nina and he catch a few private moments before he leaves, Nina tells Trigorin her plan to move to Moscow at once and to try her luck at an acting career. Trigorin tells Nina to stay at the Slavyansky Bazaar Hotel. He asks her to let him know as soon as she gets there.
Before he rushes off to get in the carriage, he steals a long passionate kiss from Nina, sealing their promise to meet again. It is two years later than Act Three. On a stormy night, Medvedenko and Masha discuss Sorin’s request to see Treplev as his health fades. Medvedenko pleads with Masha to go home with him to their baby. Masha refuses. Masha makes a bed for Sorin on the divan. Paulina comments that no one thought Kostya would become a genuine writer, but now he is making money writing and looks handsome. Masha tells her mother that Medvedenko has been offered a teaching job in another district, and they are to move away in a month. Dorn asks Treplev about Nina’s life now. Treplev tells Dorn that Nina had an affair with Trigorin and became pregnant.
But, the baby died and Trigorin left her for Arkadina whom he was with while he impregnated Nina, cheating on them both. Treplev recounts how Nina played starring roles in summer theater plays outside of Moscow that moved to the provinces but that she played her parts badly. He used to visit her on the road and see her perform, but Nina refused to see him. Treplev eventually gave up on following her around. Nina would send Treplev troubled letters and sign them, “The Seagull. ” Treplev compares Nina’s signature to a character in a Pushkin play who signs his name, “The Raven. ” Treplev reveals the information that Nina is staying nearby in town at a hotel.
Masha went to see her, but Nina refused to talk to her and Medvedenko swears that he saw her walking through a nearby field. Nina’s parents have hired armed guards to keep her away from their house next door to Sorin’s estate. Trigorin brings him a copy of the latest magazine in which a story of his is published. Arkadina begins a game of lotto. She recalls her family’s tradition of playing the game to pass the time. Treplev notices that Trigorin read his own story in the magazine but did not bother to read Treplev’s. Shamrayev tells Trigorin that he stuffed the seagull that Treplev shot for him. Trigorin does not remember asking Shamrayev to stuff and mount it.
Arkadina calls everyone to dinner and asks Treplev to stop writing. Treplev is left alone in his study. He looks over his writing and criticizes himself out loud for being cliche. He compares his writing to Trigorin’s with envy and despair. He hears a knock on the window. It is Nina. Nina enters the house paranoid about Arkadina finding her there and asks him to lock the door. Treplev props a chair against the door. Nina and Treplev admit to each other that they have sought each other. Nina’s speech becomes fractured and confusing. She cuts off her own thoughts. She says she is “the Seagull” and compares herself to a homeless wanderer in a Turgenev story. She cries.
She says she feels better because she has not cried in two years. Nina acknowledges that Treplev is now a writer, and she became an actress but her life is difficult. She thinks nostalgically about their youth and their youthful love. Treplev professes his love to Nina and recounts his torment when she left him, how nothing he has accomplished has been meaningful to him because she was not present to share in his successes. Nina tells Treplev about the depression she suffered when she realized she was a bad actor. Her story breaks down, and she repeats Trigorin’s idea for a story about a girl who is destroyed like the seagull by a man who has nothing better to do.
She concludes that what is important for an artist is not how successful you are but that you persevere. Nina becomes weaker. Treplev asks her to stay. Nina confesses to Treplev that she still profoundly loves Trigorin. She remembers the innocence and hope that she and Treplev felt the summer they put on their play. She recites lines from the play. Nina hugs Treplev and then runs out of the door. Treplev proceeds to tear up his manuscripts and throws them under his desk. Arkadina and the rest of the household come back from dinner and start another game of lotto. Dorn pushes in the door that Treplev propped closed with a chair. Shamrayev presents Trigorin with the stuffed seagull.
Again, Trigorin says he does not remember asking for it to be stuffed. A shot goes off in a loud bang, offstage. Arkadina becomes frightened. Dorn calms her down presenting the thought that the sound was probably only a popped cork in a bottle in his medicine bag. Dorn goes to check on the sound and comes back to the group. He takes a magazine and brings Trigorin aside, pretending he is interested in discussing an article on America. Dorn tells Trigorin that he needs to get Irina Arkadina out of the house quickly because Treplev has shot himself. Arkadina does not hear Dorn’s sad news before the play’s end. ————————————————- ———————————————— ————————————————- Character List Konstantin Gavrilovich Treplev – One of the play’s four protagonists, Treplev is Arkadina’s only son. He struggles to find his voice as a writer in the shadow of his successful actress mother and her lover, the writer Trigorin, both of whom are members of the elite Russian intelligentsia and artistic community. Treplev is impatient, self- defeating and childish. His need for love and approval torments him. He attempts to create new forms in dramatic writing and literature that reflect the new wave of symbolist writing that emerged in Russia during Chekhov’s time.
His writing parodies Chekhov’s own work. Treplev is a dreamer and a compassionate soul who fills the void of affection in his life with self-doubt. Irina Nikolayevna Arkadina – Arkadina, a protagonist of The Seagull is a renowned Russian actress who stars in grand, melodramatic plays. She is the mother of Treplev, the lover of Trigorin, and the sister of Sorin. Her arrival at Sorin’s country estate is the highlight of the year for the workers there and her family. She is a member of the intelligentsia and artistic community in Russia to which her son, Treplev longs to belong. Stubborn, vain, stingy, and beautiful, Arkadina is a selfish mother and doting lover.
She loves attention and is not afraid to ask for it. Her competitive spirit selfishly discourages Treplev’s creative spirit and contributes to her obsession with looking and feeling young. Nina Mikhailovna Zarechnaya – Nina is a nineteen-year-old neighbor of Sorin’s estate who grew up in an estate bordering the same lake that acts as a backdrop for the play. She is one of the four protagonists of the play. Nina’s mother died when she was young and left her fortune to her husband, Nina’s father, without leaving any inheritance for Nina. Her father remarried and put all of the money in her stepmother’s name, contributing to Nina’s insecure future.
The play characters talk about how cruel Nina’s father is to her and how Nina can only be in the company of Sorin’s family when her father and stepmother do not know she is in their company. Nina is in love with Treplev or perhaps in love with the idea that Treplev can bring her close to his mother, an actress, which is what Nina wants to become. Naive, smart, idealistic, and willing to take risks, Nina is a hopeless romantic who longs for a stage career. Her pursuit of Trigorin’s heart reveals her overestimated innocence by those around her and her ambitious side. Boris Alexeyevich Trigorin – Arkadina’s lover, Trigorin, one of the four protagonists, is an esteemed Russian writer of fiction stories and novels.
Like Arkadina, Trigorin is a member of the elite Russian intelligentsia and artistic community. He begins as a dutiful lover to Arkadina but becomes tempted by the youthful beauty, optimism, and flattery of Nina. Trigorin’s favorite hobby is fishing. He is an obsessive- compulsive writer and somewhat aloof to the family and friends on the estate, preferring to observe the surroundings for details for his stories or fishing in the lake than gossiping, bragging, philosophizing, or playing parlor games. Trigorin feels that he lost out on his youth and on youthful romantic experiences because he was so busy trying to seek out a writing career for himself in those days. He uses this as an excuse for having the affair with Nina.
Trigorin is not directly competitive with the jealous Treplev, but does not encourage him either. Trigorin often seems like a reluctant but acquiescing member of the clan. Sorin – Sorin is the sixty-year-old landowner of the estate where the play takes place. He spent his life working for a government office and retired to his country farm. Sorin is the brother of Arkadina and the uncle to Treplev. His health deteriorates during the course of the play. Sorin is a patient listener, a confidant, and a compassionate admirer of both his nephew and sister’s talents. He is disappointed with his life’s decisions its outcome; he once wished to find love and be a successful writer and never acquired either wish.
Sorin sees himself in the young Treplev and asks his sister Arkadina to be easier on Treplev’s vulnerable confidence. Sorin can be wistful, nostalgic and wise. Yevgeny Sergeyevich Dorn – Dorn is a local doctor who was once a popular and handsome ladies’ man. Dorn often provides an outsider’s perspective to the play for he functions almost as an audience member on stage. He is less vital to the desires and distresses on stage, but he is important as a fluid observer and commentator, confidant, and witness to the events. He has known Arkadina, Sorin, and the rest for many years. Dorn has affections for Paulina but does not seem to be in love with her.
Like Sorin, Dorn is a compassionate presence who respects Treplev’s talent and attempts to soften the blow of Arkadina’s ego on her depressed son, Treplev’s, spirit. Masha – Masha is the daughter of Paulina and Shamrayev, the managers of Sorin’s farm. She wears all black all of the time because she is depressed and hates her life. A heavy drinker and snuff addict, Masha’s repressed, unrequited feelings for Treplev torment her. She is pursued by the poor schoolteacher, Medvedenko, who has a mediocre, obsequious personality, which complicates the situation. Masha is critical and unsympathetic to her admirer, Medvedenko even though she herself is in his same, unrequited position in her love triangle with Treplev. She feels sorry for herself and her undramatic life.
Masha marries Medvedenko but keeps her love for Treplev burning strong. Like many Chekhovian characters, Masha gives in to the disappointments in life and accepts them, surviving the unfulfilled dreams with the hope of change and renewal in moving and forgetting. Ilya Afanasyevich Shamrayev – Shamrayev is father to Masha and husband to Paulina. He acts as the manager of Sorin’s farm and household year round. Shamrayev adores Arkadina’s fame and fortune and close ties to Russian artists. He flatters her and attentively listens to her boasts and the details of her life in the theatre. But when it comes to the horses and running the farm, Shamrayev is argumentative about his control.
He is cruel and unsympathetic to his daughter’s admirer and later, husband, Medvedenko, and inattentive and embarrassing to his wife, Paulina. Semyon Semyonovich Medvedenko – Medvedenko is a local schoolteacher who is poor and must support his family at home while later supporting his new family with Masha. He is a boring conversationalist because he spends most of his time complaining about his poverty. Medvedenko pursues the melancholy Masha, eventually winning her hand in marriage, out of convenience and a hope of change, not love. Paulina Andryevna – Paulina is the mother of Masha and the wife of Shamrayev, who mages Sorin’s estate. Unhappy in her loveless marriage, she is often embarrassed by Shamrayev’s arguments with the Arkadina, their employer’s famous sister.
She loves Dorn but is jealous and unsatisfied by his aloof affection for her. Paulina sees her own misery in her daughter, Masha’s unrequited love for Treplev and compromising marriage to Medvedenko, that she encourages Treplev to pay attention to Masha out of pity. Yakov – A hired workman. The Cook – A worker on Sorin’s estate. The Maid – A worker on Sorin’s estate. The Watchman – A worker on Sorin’s estate who carries a warning stick at night. ————————————————- Analysis of Major Characters Konstantin Treplev Treplev is a twenty something only child of the famous actress, Irina Arkadina. In the first act of the play, he is anxious and vulnerable about he reception of his first play which he wrote, produced, and directed for presentation by the lake of his uncle Sorin’s farm. Because Treplev’s mother is such a success in the theater and her lover, Trigorin is a successful writer; Treplev puts a tremendous amount of pressure on himself and the reception of his play. Treplev does not respect the melodramatic morality plays in which Arkadina starred, but instead he searches for a higher form of playwriting that expresses philosophy and observation of mankind and existence in the universe. It is clear from the first act that Treplev’s determination to create a new artistic form is directly linked to his overwhelming desire to earn his mother’s approval, affection, and love.
Perhaps because she spent her time on the road touring in plays and because her extreme form of vanity causes her to spend more time doting on herself than on her son, it became necessary for Treplev to get Arkadina’s attention and approval. Though he wants his mother’s admiration, Treplev attempts to gain it on his own terms. He does not write a melodrama or classically structured play, nor does he write a part for Arkadina. On the contrary, Treplev chooses to write daring, abstract material and cast their neighbor, Nina, a young and beautiful girl who steals attention away from Arkadina. Treplev is not willing to adapt his tastes and opinions to Arkadina’s liking to gain her favor but wants to be accepted for who he is and his own work independently of her fame.
Early on in the play, Treplev complains about his alienation from his mother’s friends and companions in the city who comprise the intelligentsia because he has yet to establish himself in his own right. He is also depressed because he is madly in love with Nina who, in the first act, seems more interested in what she can gain from knowing Treplev and not in his love. Treplev wants love and fame, both entities that his mother, Arkadina, possesses. Ironically, Treplev is as self-obsessed as his mother and barely notices or appreciates the compliments he receives from Dorn and Sorin about his failed play. Treplev, like his unrequited fan, Masha, reminds us of the type of person we all know who enjoys being upset more than being happy but complains about it anyway.
Treplev is sometimes considered a Hamlet like character because of the parallel relationship between him, Arkadina, and Trigorin with Shakespeare’s characters of Hamlet, Gertrude, and Claudius. The characters in The Seagull even mention quotes from Hamlet in the first act when Arkadina shows off her acting and teases Treplev. Later, in Act Four when he becomes a published writer, Treplev still feels empty without Nina. He desires Nina’s love even after she left him for his mother’s lover and kills himself over a pile of ripped manuscripts when she shows herself to be incapable of loving him back once again. Treplev fills the void of love in his life by taking his life into his own hands. Irina Arkadina
Arkadina is one of the four central protagonists of The Seagull. She is a middle-aged woman who is still beautiful but whose beauty and fame have passed their prime. Arkadina is a member of the aristocracy in Russia though her first marriage was to a man who was from Kiev indicating a lower status than her own. This was her son Treplev’s father. In several ways, Arkadina considers herself better than her son. Her views are selfish, hypocritical, and self-serving. For instance, Arkadina thinks less of Treplev because he is born of a father from Kiev, but it is this man from Kiev whom she loved and with whom she bore a child that supposedly taints, Treplev.
Arkadina is a successful stage actress and lover of a famous writer, Trigorin. This places her in the other aristocracy of Russia, the intelligentsia and artistic elite. This elite group of artists and intellectuals forms her social group in Moscow to which her son, Treplev to prove himself. Arkadina does nothing to help her son’s confidence or sense of belonging within her circle. She does not want her son taking any of the limelight away from herself. Arkadina expects others to listen to her brag about her achievements constantly, but she will not give an inch to Treplev. She is skeptical, unsympathetic, noisy, and demeaning when it comes to Treplev’s play.
Arkadina’s hypocracy makes her a likeable, flawed character because her flaws are extreme and contrary. In Act Four when Treplev has become a published author, Arkadina admits to never making the effort to read one of her son’s stories. When it comes to her lover Trigorin however, Arkadina is doting, attentive, and loving. At the thought that he might leave her for Nina, Arkadina begs and pleads with him on her knees, spewing compliments and kisses. Arkadina is as needy as her son but seeks her love from admirers, fans and lovers, not her own flesh and blood. Chekhov describes his play as a comedy, and Arkadina is vital in his description’s assessment. She is not a villain or a hero.
She proves herself to be excessively vain and miserly. At times, Arkadina shows a glimmer of compassion as when she cares for Treplev’s head wound, when she encourages Nina to be an actress and when she screams in fright at the fear of her brother, Sorin’s dizzy spell. Nina Nina is the first character in The Seagull to mention a seagull. She compares herself to a seagull that is drawn to the lake, which borders Sorin’s estate and her parents’ house next door. When Nina returns to Treplev she still loves Trigorin, not Treplev. She is wiser and stronger than when she is first introduced in Act One as an idealistic and fawning dreamer who longs to be a professional actress.
But as Nina repeatedly says, “I am the seagull,” in a confused and worn state, she reminds us of how much she has changed and how much the different characters handled the disappointments in their lives in the play. Nina, unlike Treplev, is able to continue living through her pain and disappointment. She can go on and live her life while he kills himself for witnessing her ability to do so without needing him. ————————————————- Themes, Motifs, and Symbols Themes The Role of an Artist in Life and in Love Chekhov does not simply write about artists and love, he creates the embodiment of art and love on stage. Through his characters’ particular personalities, Chekhov portrays the various manners of being an artist and particularly, an artist in love.
All four protagonists are artists in love. Arkadina, Trigorin, Treplev, and Nina have divergent relationships with their craft and their lovers. Arkadina and Nina romanticize acting, placing it on a pedestal higher than the everyday affairs of life. Arkadina places herself on this same pedestal using her identity as an actress to excuse her vanity. Nina exalts acting as well, but, contrary to Arkadina, she endows acting with nobility, sacrifice, and privilege. In writing, Treplev compulsively paralyzes himself in the pursuit of perfection, while Trigorin obsessively gathers details from his life and the lives around him for his work without allowing the work to affect his life.
Chekhov does not present an opinion about the artist or the artist’s role in life and in love. No one character is all good or all evil, and Chekhov depicts these protagonists so that we sympathize and question their actions and words. He presents several takes on love and the artist, allowing his audience to take what they will from the examples that may or may not mirror their own lives and those of their loved ones. All four characters pursue art to some degree because it boosts their ego to be admired and respected for their work. Treplev in particular longs equally for admiration for his talents and for his self. His ego is wounded by his mother and by Nina.
Successes in love and in writing are equally important to him though he is successful in neither arena. Trigorin has the satisfaction of success in his writing, though he is never satisfied, and as he says, always starts a new story once the old one is finished. In love, Trigorin pursues Nina because he feels he might substitute the satisfaction and sense of completion that he lacks in his work with a love that would fulfill the void he felt as a youth. In some sense the satisfaction these characters obtain from being artists becomes equivalent with their feeling of being loved. Evaluating the Self A distinction can be made about characters in The Seagull as either self- aware or completely devoid of self-consciousness.
Chekhov’s setting on Sorin’s estate provides an inactive backdrop for his characters to dramatically explore their thoughts and opinions on life and themselves as they pass the time telling each other stories and dreams. With next to nothing to do, the characters explore their lives and their selves. Treplev most harshly criticizes his life to the point of ruining it with his high standards for acceptance and his vulnerability in the wake of his failures. Sorin playfully assesses his life as well, and he reflects on a life quickly fading and expresses his own regrets to Dorn and to the others as he witnesses Treplev’s struggle. Masha mourns her life, feeling sorry for herself without the eloquence of Treplev, nor the ability to laugh at herself as Sorin does, but with the matter-of-fact simplicity of disappointment and boredom.
When challenged by Sorin who enviously accuses Dorn of having it all, Dorn expresses aggravation for spending his life as a doctor always on call, without a vacation, and at the mercy of others’ needs. Dorn expresses regret without self-pity. Nina too evaluates herself and her goal to become an actress. At first in awe with fame and the theater, Nina believes she will love herself and find happiness if she can acquire fame and fortune. Later when she returns in Act Four, she exhibits less hope than when we first meet her, but she has been enlightened with the knowledge that her life is well lived as long as she perseveres, not if she fails or achieves greatness. Existentialism and Life’s Meaning The existential thought of the purpose of life with imminent death puzzles a few characters in The Seagull.
Masha first brings our attention to this theme in the beginning of Act One when she claims, “I am mourning for my life. ” She transfers the purpose of mourning for death to life. This point of view sets the tone for the play. Masha bemoans her boredom and dissatisfaction with her life as she secretly hopes it will be turned around with the love of Treplev. If Treplev loved her, her life would suddenly have a purpose and meaning. Without the love of someone she loves in return, Masha views life as pointless and death-like, and a punishment that must be fulfilled. Later in the play, Masha changes her mind and marries Medvedenko out of boredom, not love. Her life still depresses her, and she still yearns for Treplev.
But being a wife and a mother give her new things to do and think about to pass the time until her death or Treplev’s change of heart. Sorin also wonders why he goes on living. He and Dorn debate the quality of their respective lives. Sorin sympathizes with Treplev because he observes Treplev struggling to fulfill goals like being a writer and a lover that Sorin himself once held as his own goals. Sorin describes the title of a story about him as “The Man Who Wanted. ” Sorin cannot figure out the meaning of his life. He spent most of it working in an office and he does not know why or how that came to happen. “It just happened,” he says. Sorin never had anything that he set out to get.
To Sorin, a life without fulfilled goals is an empty meaningless life. Treplev and Nina also pursue meaning in their lives, believing they will find their identity through their work. Nina longs to become an actress and Treplev, a writer. Both believe that accomplishing their goals will give more meaning and opportunity to their lives. Both associate a meaningful life with the admiration of others. Nina changes her mind about this in Act Four. After she settles into a mediocre career, she comes to terms with a new belief that endurance is nobler than success. Motifs Unrequited Love Ironically, unrequited love is the structural glue that sticks most of the characters in The Seagull together.
Medvedenko loves Masha, but Masha loves Treplev. Treplev does not love Masha back, he loves Nina. Nina loves Treplev briefly but then falls madly in love with Trigorin. Arkadina loves Trigorin but loses his affections to Nina. Paulina loves Dorn though she is married to Shamrayev. Dorn sometimes shares affection for Paulina, but his apathy for her appears to have begun before the play started and continues to fade during the course of the play. The couples and the unrequited lovers resonate and reflect off of one another, serving as parallels and mirrors of each other in the play. They represent different stages of life and of love. The clearest parallel involves Paulina and Masha.
Masha’s unrequited love for Treplev and decision to marry Medvedenko seems to mirror her mother’s unhappy marriage to Shamrayev and her unrequited love for Dorn. Existential Crisis Masha, Sorin, Treplev, and Trigorin have existential crises in The Seagull. Masha hates her life and does not know why she goes on living a boring, unhappy life. She sniffs snuff and drinks heavily to hide from her pain and disappointment. Sorin encounters something of a mid-life crisis and an existential crisis though his life is more than half over. He questions what he did with his life and regrets his lack of attempting to meet his goals in youth. Treplev lacks direction in his life.
He thinks he is talented and creative, possible of greatness, but does not have a precise goal in mind or point to make. He allows his ambition to overwhelm his ability. His loss of Nina’s love, his failure at impressing his mother and his life in the shadow of Trigorin’s success eat away at his spirit and will to live. Trigorin has an existential crisis when he becomes excited in the prospect of an affair with young Nina. Trigorin was not actively questioning his life or his life choices at the beginning of the play and seemed content. But Nina’s interest in his work and in a relationship with him force him to think about his life and its present meaning. Nina represents a second chance at youth to Trigorin.
He selfishly pleads with Arkadina to allow him to be with Nina so that he can relive his youth that was spent seriously writing, not frolicking with young girls. Trigorin wonders what he missed in life as a youth because of his writing and what else he missed. Nina’s love for Trigorin opens his eyes and creates a new sense of awareness about himself that he had not experienced before meeting Nina. Once he recognizes his loss in the past, Trigorin cannot believe in a future that does not include the risk of a new experience. His life in the past loses meaning and his future threatens to only have meaning if he attempts to have an affair with Nina. The Banality of Existence
Chekhov emphasizes the mundane in life repeatedly throughout the play. This pattern of routine emphasizes the life-altering events that happen amidst ordinary experience and the ordinary experiences common to us all. Moments like going to dinner, playing cards, reading out loud, putting on a bandage, asking for a drink of water etc. , continuously emphasize the everyday customs of being human and the uniqueness of moments that are not mundane but change our lives forever. Symbols The Seagull The seagull is the first symbol Chekhov used to title a play, written before The Cherry Orchard. The image of the seagull changes meaning over the course of the play.
First, in Act One, Nina uses a seagull to describe the way she is drawn to the lake of her childhood home and her neighbors on Sorin’s estate. In this case, the seagull represents freedom and security. In Act Two, Treplev shoots a seagull and gives it to Nina. Treplev tells her that one day he will be dead in Nina’s honor just like the seagull. Later, Trigorin uses the seagull as a symbol for Nina and the way he will destroy her, as Treplev destroyed the seagull. Treplev mentions that after Nina had the affair with Trigorin, she has written him letters signed, “The Seagull. ” In Act Four, Nina returns to the estate and calls herself the seagull then corrects herself, describing herself as an actress.
The seagull changes its meaning from freedom and carefree security to destruction at the hands of a loved one. It symbolizes freedom at first and then dependence. The seagull also serves as a foreshadowing device. Nina fulfills Trigorin’s prophesy of destroying her just like the seagull and Treplev kills himself in Nina’s honor at the end of the play when she still does not love him. The Lake Chekhov’s setting of the play around a lake repeats and emphasizes its purpose with Treplev’s setting of his play by the lake in Act One. The lake represents both Treplev and Chekhov’s desire to move to a more naturalistic theater not limited by three walls. The lake means several different things to the play’s characters.
The lake is a place of reflection, respite, and escape. Trigorin goes there by himself to fish. Treplev goes to the lake to mope and reflect, perhaps also, to get attention for his bruised ego. To Nina, the lake magnetically draws her to it. It is a place to roost, to feel secure and at home when there is no home to be found. To Nina the lake also represents curiosity and exploration of childhood. She tells Trigorin that she knows all of the little islands on the lake. Treplev tells Nina that losing her love feels like the lake sunk into the ground. To him, losing her affection feels like losing a recognizable place, a place of peace and renewal.
Treplev’s metaphor describes a life-source—the lake—drying up and disappearing. This is how Treplev feels about his own life in relation to his loss of Nina. Weather Chekhov uses weather to create the tone for his stories and in his plays. The weather reflects the characters’ state of mind and foreshadows upcoming events. For instance, before Nina returns to visit Treplev the weather is stormy and windy as if the storm conjured up Nina and brought her to the estate. Storms usually reflect a change in temperature and likewise, weather is a signal for change in The Seagull. ————————————————- ————————————————-
First half of Act One Summary It is after sunset and a make-shift, homemade stage stands in the outdoor setting of Sorin’s provincial, Russian estate and farm. A lake serves as natural scenery behind the stage. Workers including Yakov are banging nails into the stage, behind a curtain. Medvedenko and Masha enter this back lawn of Sorin’s property. Medvedenko and Masha debate about what makes people happy in relation to finances. Medvedenko believes he’d be a happier man and a more attractive suitor to Masha if he had more money. Masha is fixated on her love for Treplev and does not agree. She thinks poverty would be fine if she could have Treplev’s love.
Masha observes that Treplev’s play will begin soon. Medvedenko agrees and introduces to the audience the information that their neighbor, Nina, will star in the play. Medvedenko compares Treplev and Nina’s love, which he predicts will soon be unified by artistic expression to the unconnected relationship between himself and Masha. He does not know Masha loves Treplev. Snorting snuff, Masha openly acknowledges that she knows Medvedenko loves her but explains that she cannot love him back. Though Chekhov does not break the play into official scenes, the next conversation, between Sorin and Treplev, is, for the most part, a two-person scene as well.
Treplev is nervous and busy getting things ready for the first performance of his play. Sorin tries to describe the strange feelings she has while living in the countryside, including strange sleeping patterns. Treplev scolds Masha and Medvedenko for being at the play before he is ready. Sorin asks Masha to have her father tie up the dogs. She refuses, even though Sorin told her that their barking keeps his sister, Arkadina awake all night. Sorin complains about his old age and not being happy in the country. He comments on his state of living because he has no other choice, not because he enjoys life. Treplev admires the stage and his idea to have the play take place outdoors when the moon comes out.
He quickly ruins his elation with the thought that Nina could ruin his plans if she arrives late. Sorin complains about his scraggly beard and his lack of luck with women. Treplev tells Sorin that Arkadina is jealous of his play and hates it even before she has seen it. Sorin laughs off this idea. Treplev goes on to describe what he feels are the many faults and few attributes of his mother. He describes Arkadina as jealous, vain, and miserly, but a good nurse, a talented actress, and an intelligent woman. Treplev picks a flower and pulls off its feathers saying, “She loves me, she loves me not,” etc. He concludes that Arkadina does not love him. Treplev goes on to explain to Sorin why he and Arkadina have differences.
He brings up their differences in tastes for theater. She performs in standard morality plays that make the audience feel good, while Treplev prefers the new Symbolist movement, one full of abstract and experimental ideas and forms. Treplev also complains about his place in the social ladder and in his mother’s social world. He longs to be accepted by her peers: the writers, actors and other artists who comprise the Russian intelligentsia and artistic elite. He wants respect based on his own work, not because he is the son of a famous actress. Treplev asks his Uncle Sorin about the personality of his mother’s lover, the famous writer, Trigorin.
Sorin describes him as talented but not as talented as the most famous Russian writers of the day like Tolstoy. Sorin tells Treplev that Trigorin is in his late thirties, younger than Arkadina and ordinary, quiet, and fond of older women and beer. Nina arrives and Treplev’s heart beats faster with his excitement and love for her. Nina is frightened because she has to get back home before her cruel father and stepmother return in half an hour. She tells Treplev that her parents are afraid she will want to become an actress if she spends time with the “bohemians” at Sorin’s estate. She says that it is the lake that attracts her to the estate, “as if I were a seagull. ” Nina and Treplev kiss.
Treplev tells her he loves her, but Nina does not return his affectionate talk. Workers and guests interrupt their intimate moment as they arrive for the play. Analysis Chekhov’s setting of a stage on a stage tells audiences from the beginning of his play that The Seagull is no ordinary play. Treplev’s stage creates a situation in which the play characters become more like their own audience because they themselves watch and are aware of the illusion of the theater. This is a tradition in the theater, presented repeatedly in Shakespeare’s plays, such as Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The stage on the stage is emblematic of the self-analysis and exploration of the self that the play will examine.
This setting foreshadows major themes of the play such as the role of theater, art, and love in a person’s life as well as man and self-evaluation and reinvention of his purpose in life. Act One sets up several parallels that will run through the play. One such parallel are the love triangles. The love triangle between Medvedenko, Masha, and Treplev is established in the first moments of the play. Another motif that Chekhov establishes early on is class differences. He juxtaposes Medvedenko and Treplev. Medvedenko talks of his poverty as the source of his suffering while Treplev, who does not need to hold down a job and frets over his play production.
His major concerns of surviving relate to philosophical, emotional, and spiritual fulfillment, not necessities like providing food, income, and shelter, which concern Medvedenko. Treplev displays an almost obsessive curiosity for his mother, Arkadina, and a child-like demanding necessity for her approval. He longs for acceptance as an equal or better to his mother and her lover, Trigorin. Because he grew up with a lower class status than Arkadina, based on the status of his father’s class, Arkadina treats Treplev as lower than herself. She also does so to support her selfish, vain attitude about herself in which she insists on the undivided attention of everyone around her. Their relationship mirrors itself as both parent and child flips from parental to childish roles.
This tension comes to a head in Act One before and after Arkadina ruins Treplev’s play. As she shows off to the crowd of friends and family by performing some imperfect lines of Gertrude in Hamlet, and Treplev mimics her by coming back at her with Hamlet’s lines, Arkadina and Treplev reveal their competitive relationship that has now increased in pitch with the arrival of Arkadina’s lover, Trigorin. Trigorin’s qualities of being a famous writer and a lover who gains large amounts of adoration and affection from Arkadina, mock the desires of Treplev. Treplev yearns for the kind of celebrity and success Trigorin has earned, as well as the admiration and affection his mother dotes on Trigorin.
He sees Trigorin as corrupt and villainous, as is Claudius in Hamlet, because her natural, motherly affections have seemed to dry up and transform themselves into an adolescent-like, all-encompassing love for Trigorin, leaving little room for her to see the truth of Trigorin’s selfish ways. At the end of Act One, we will see a glimpse of the second love triangle that will become prominent in the play, the one between Treplev, Nina, and Trigorin. Nina’s interest in and awe of Treplev’s creativity quickly transforms into her interest in Trigorin, a more accomplished artist that may be more of a boon to her career than Treplev can be. ————————————————- Second half of Act One Summary We learn that Paulina loves Dorn and that they are involved in a romantic relationship, but he is mostly apathetic about her affection.
Paulina is jealous of the attention Irina Arkadina receives from the men, especially Dorn, because Arkadina is an actress. Dorn prides himself on his life of romances and Paulina hypothesizes that he still receives attention from women because he is in good shape. Dorn disagrees. He thinks it is because he is a doctor. Paulina tries a romantic move on Dorn but is interrupted by the arriving guests. Dorn, Shamrayev, and Arkadina argue passionately about the merits of famous actors in Russia and the quality of their contemporary theater. Dorn says that actors in smaller roles have improved. Arkadina asks Treplev when the play will start and he snaps back at her to be patient.
Arkadina shows off to the group by reciting lines of Gertrude in Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. Treplev responds by reciting lines of Hamlet in Hamlet, back to her. His lines compare Arkadina’s relationship with Trigorin to Gertrude’s tainted relationship with Claudius. Treplev’s play begins, and Nina takes the stage. She recites a long monologue about the universe, a universal soul and man’s place on earth. The qualities of the play are very abstract and symbolic, and Nina’s speech is representational. Instead of creating action, she paints an impression, almost like a word painting of an idea with her speech. Arkadina rudely interrupts the performance several times by talking out loud to her friends in the audience.
She does not try to understand or appreciate what Treplev is attempting to do. When a special effect of red lights in the form of two eyes and the smell of sulpher rises in a cloud from the stage, Arkadina makes such a fuss that Treplev ends the play and closes the curtain. He runs off. Sorin scolds Arkadina for her insensitivity to Treplev’s ego. She denies understanding how important the play was to her son and belittles the new forms of the theater that are emerging. Nina comes out from behind the curtain, and the audience members, including Arkadina, compliment her beauty and talent. Masha eagerly goes off to find Treplev. Arkadina hears singing in the distance.
With nostalgia, she tells Trigorin about the way life in the country was full of love affairs, and socializing with music and dancing years ago when she and Dorn were desirable youth. Nina meets Trigorin for the first time. Arkadina laughs at Nina’s awe of Trigorin’s role as a creator. Nina leaves in a hurry though she wants to stay. Arkadina mentions Nina’s unfortunate circumstances. Nina’s late mother’s fortune was left only to her father, and he left the money to his new wife, so Nina lost her inheritance. Everyone leaves the area but Dorn. Treplev comes back. Dorn compliments his work. He tells Treplev that he liked the play. Dorn gives Treplev advice about writing, saying, “Everything you write has to have a clear, concise, central idea.
You have to be aware of what you’re writing otherwise you’ll lose your way, and your talent will destroy you. ” Treplev desperately desires Nina but learns that she has already left. He runs off again. Masha takes a pinch of snuff. Dorn criticizes her. She admits to him that she is in love with Treplev. Dorn sighs over the abundance of unrequited love in his presence. Analysis We meet Dorn, the country doctor, and one of Chekhov’s few doctor characters. He does not say or do a lot, but we learn several things about his character that allow us to infer some things about his role in the play and about Chekhov as well. Dorn is casual and laid-back.
His conversation with Paulina, though passionate on her end, remains aloof and unaffected on Dorn’s part. Though Paulina seethes with jealousy and insecurity, Dorn does nothing to reassure her or boost her confidence, nor does he insult or put her down. Dorn displays himself as a neutral force in the play. Though involved in the affairs and passions of the characters around him, Dorn stays a distance away from the action, allowing himself a position from which he can take part without taking any personal risk. Dorn is similar to Trigorin in this respect, but different in a significant manner. Though Trigorin also stands aloof to most of the action around him, he only involves himself personally when he has something at risk.
Trigorin is inherently selfish in this way whereas Dorn will stick his neck out for others. For instance, when Dorn tells Treplev that he liked his play though the others did not, he conveys his nature as a compassionate man who sympathizes with others’ struggles, though he does not become affected emotionally by their suffering. Dorn’s personality may be a result of how Chekhov perceives the role of the doctor in country life. A doctor in a rural district of Russia such as the one Dorn and Chekhov worked would witness thousands of ill people with tragic stories, difficult lives, and deaths. In order to survive peacefully without succumbing to the sadness of he work, a doctor would need to keep a balanced perspective on the lives of those around him by providing advice when helpful, but otherwise, remaining uninvolved in the matters of the heart. As a neutral, compassionate figure, Dorn represents Chekhov’s role as playwright and ourselves as audience. One of the triumphs of Chekhov’s writing in The Seagull is his unbiased depiction of the characters. The story is not easily divided into good vs. evil or hero vs. villain. Chekhov attempts to portray people as they are in real life, a little good and a little bad, somewhat right, and somewhat wrong. Critics disagree on the significance of Chekhov’s play-within-a-play written by Treplev in The Seagull.
Some say the play Nina begins to perform has merits in its own right as a significant contribution to modern playwriting. Far more believe this little play with big ideas allows Chekhov to poke fun at his own grand ideas at changing the form of modern plays and the symbolist movement of which his plays took their inspiration from and contributed to greatly. Arkadina displays her lack of compassion and childish competitiveness when she prevents her son, Treplev’s play from having a fair chance at performing, uninterrupted. We also witness Treplev’s overactive sensitivity to needing his mother’s approval when he stops the show on her account and runs away. This establishes what consists of the main conflict in the play.
Dorn’s role as a neutral, central, compassionate figure who knows all, but does not affect the action, reiterates itself when, at the close of Act One, Treplev confides his love for Nina to Dorn and Masha reveals her love for Treplev to Dorn. ————————————————- First half of Act Two Summary Dorn, Masha, and Arkadina sit enjoying a book by Maupassant. They take turns reading out loud. Arkadina stops the activity by asking Dorn to compare her appearance with Masha’s. He determines that Arkadina looks younger than Masha even though Arkadina is twice Masha’s age. Arkadina brags about how well kept she is and how she lives her life to the fullest without thinking about death. She also brags about her health and fitness.
She makes fun of Masha and belittles her for sitting around doing nothing all of the time. Ironically, Arkadina herself seems to be doing very little but sitting around doing nothing. Dorn begins reading again, and Arkadina takes the book from him, preferring to hear her own voice. When she reads, she hears herself reading aloud a passage about women and writers. As she reads aloud, the passage describes how women will flatter a writer to make him love her. The similarities to her own relationship with Trigorin are striking, but Arkadina does not admit that obvious correlation. Instead, she brushes off the Maupassant description as a foreign, French custom.
She boasts that in Russia, a woman in high society and a male writer will fall madly in love with each other, providing herself and Trigorin as an example—another unsympathetic gesture towards Masha’s loveless life. Sorin and Nina walk into the gathering of Arkadina, Masha, and Dorn arm- in-arm. Sorin playfully teases Nina about being happy because her father and stepmother left for a three-day trip, and therefore, she can escape their strict watch by socializing with Sorin’s family and the people on his estate. Nina is happy and carefree. Sorin is happy, too, because he gets to spend time with Nina and receive attention from a young, pretty girl.
Arkadina compliments Nina’s beauty but stops anyone else from chiming in. She changes the subject to Trigorin and learns that he went down by the lake and has been fishing all day. Arkadina complains that she is worried about Treplev who is spending all of his days by the river, moping. Masha explains that Treplev is depressed. Eagerly, she asks Nina to recite from Treplev’s play and describes Treplev as a “real poet. ” Everyone else pays little attention to Masha and disregards her sentiments, including Nina who does not recite from Treplev’s play. Nina does not admire Treplev’s writing anymore. Sorin falls asleep. Arkadina, Sorin, and Dorn debate what to do about Sorin’s failing health.
Dorn’s attitude is that Sorin should live how he wants to live because nothing will really hurt or help his health at the age of sixty. Arkadina is perplexed over Dorn’s aloof attitude towards ameliorating Sorin’s symptoms. The argument about Sorin’s health develops into a debate on how to live life well. Sorin complains that Dorn has lived his life well and experienced life to the fullest extent. Sorin feels sorry for himself because he spent his life in a government job, never traveled, and never did anything remarkable to represent himself, or be remembered by in posterity. Sorin believes these self-described deficiencies are the reason he smokes and drinks. Analysis
Act Two compares and contrasts the divergent ways the artists in the play approach their life and their work. In the beginning of Act Two, Arkadina continues to reveal her habit of self-delusion. Though she is an artist of the stage, Arkadina is incapable of seeing her true self. Instead, she performs a part for an audience at all times when she is off-stage and seems incapable of stopping her charade. Arkadina does not intentionally harm the other women around her, but in the wake of her excessive ego boosting, she manages to insensitively wound the self-confidence of those around her, like Masha and Nina, for the vain pleasure of idolizing herself. She bruised an ego in Act One when she prevented Treplev’s play from having a fair shot.
At the top of Act Two, she compares herself to Masha, who is half her age to boost her own ego and consequently, embarrasses and insults the easy target of Masha who has nothing going for her in life. Arkadina’s vanity and self-adoration allows her to cover herself in a mask of illusion that comes between her true self and true self-exploration. She sees only the picture of herself that she creates and insists that others see only that version as well. Treplev is incapable of feeding Arkadina with the diet of her grand, self- created illusions. He sees her for whom she is underneath the mask of her selfish vanity and as a result, Arkadina cannot see Treplev’s struggle to become an artist in his own right. Instead, Arkadina only thinks of Treplev as a failure because he fails to adhere to her demanding illusion of vanity.
She pretends or occasionally asks, curiously, about Treplev’s whereabouts, but she lacks true sentiment or concern about the state of his welfare. Trigorin and Treplev pursue their artistic lives with different approaches than Arkadina. Arkadina is not interested in perfecting her technique, craft or for that matter, self-knowledge or challenging herself in any way. She is only interested in the adoration, status, and envy from others that she accumulates from the attention she receives as a result of being a performer. When Arkadina hears herself reading a quote from the book by Maupassant that describes a woman’s flattery of a writer to win his love, it rings true to her relationship with Trigorin.
Instead of processing this further for self-betterment, creative expression of self-knowledge, Arkadina denies the truth in the statement and brushes it off as a foreign custom. She recovers from the potentially self- effacing truth of the statement by reversing its meaning in her favor. She claims that in Russia, when women meet writers, they fall madly in love with them—thus, painting a rose-colored picture of simplicity and innocence of her relationship with Trigorin. The guise of denial and self-involvement without self-knowledge keeps Arkadina at a distance from facing her true self. This is her means of surviving life’s disappointments. She does not accept them, she only allows herself to see the positive, and often misconstrued, version of the truth. ————————————————- ———————————————— ————————————————- ————————————————- Second half of Act Two Summary Shamrayev and Arkadina argue about the use of the horses. Arkadina wants to use them later in the day to go into town. Shamrayev has them out in the field. Stubborn, he will not allow her to use them later. She threatens to leave the estate and return to the country. Paulina becomes upset and embarrassed at her husband’s lack of respect for Arkadina. Paulina makes herself feel worse by asking Dorn if he likes other women now. He does not give her a straight answer.
Nina gives Dorn a bouquet of fresh picked flowers. Paulina takes the flowers from him and destroys them. Nina is the only one left onstage. She comments that she is surprised that Arkadina and Trigorin act like normal people even though they are famous. Treplev enters with a rifle and a dead seagull in his hands. He puts the seagull at Nina’s feet. He tells her that he shot the bird in her honor and that one day he will be like the seagull. Nina and Treplev fight about their relationship to each other. She accuses him of talking in symbols. He laments her change from warm to cold. Treplev expresses his conclusion that Nina stopped loving him because his play was a failure. Women never forgive failures,” he says. He tells Nina that he has burned his manuscript. He is visibly self- destructive in reaction to his disappointment of his loved ones’ lack of appreciation for his play. He compares Nina’s lost love to the lake disappearing into the ground. Trigorin enters. Treplev exits bitterly when he sees Nina’s fondness for the famous writer. Trigorin and Nina have a conversation in which Nina reveals her envy for his position as a talented creator, and Trigorin reveals his interest in knowing more about Nina for his writing. Trigorin brings up the news that he and Arkadina are leaving the estate to go back to town.
At first, he hesitantly exposes his thoughts to Nina, but her charm, intelligence, flattery, and beauty unravel his deepest thoughts to the young, hopeful actress. Trigorin explains to Nina his obsessive-compulsive behavior that forces him to document everything he observes in his memory and then on paper, for future use in a story. Trigorin never satisfies his hunger for observing detail nor for writing. He is never content and must always start a new story once he has finished the last. Nina’s idea of a fulfilled, happy life of an artist amuses Trigorin. Nina accuses him of lacking perspective if he cannot appreciate his luck and luxury of leading a creative, self-sustaining life.
Trigorin’s description of his life in his revelatory speech brings the two closer together. Nina tells Trigorin about her life growing up on the lake. Trigorin sees the seagull that Treplev shot. He writes down a note about Nina, saying that she has inspired him to start a new story about a girl who is ruined by a man just like the seagull that Treplev destroyed because he has nothing better to do. Arkadina interrupts Trigorin and Nina when she calls to Boris Trigorin announcing that she has been convinced to stay on the estate. Analysis Shamrayev and Arkadina’s argument over the horses represents the two kinds of needs that characters in the play exhibit.
Some like Masha, Medvedenko, and Paulina desire basic needs like money, love, and respect. Others spend their time thinking of so-called loftier notions such as philosophy, literature, and art, and these are the notions to which Arkadina, Sorin, and Treplev subscribe. These needs, evidently, are divided by class. Shamrayev and Arkadina’s argument is based on class; He needs the horses to work the farm while she wants the horses to carry her. Shamrayev’s stubborn outlook on the use of the horse may be exaggerated and if so, this may be because it is his domain, the affairs of working the farm are where he has power and he may think that he must maintain his role in order to maintain his pride.
Treplev’s version of survival includes part optimism and part pessimism: he approaches life with hope but expects to fail. Treplev handles disappointment quite differently from Arkadina. He is unusually hard on himself in his life and his work. Since puts all of his cards on his love for Nina and his hope for a successful career, he sets himself up for disappointment when her love disappears and his play flops. Treplev’s spirit shatters and his disappointment haunts him for the rest of his life. Trigorin reveals his individual way of approaching his life and his work in the end of Act Two through his revealing, self-examining conversation with Nina. Like, Treplev, Trigorin works hard on his writing and holds high standards for his work.
Trigorin does not connect his efforts to his view of himself the way Treplev allows his success of failure to reflect his feelings about himself. Trigorin’s work is a self-assigned problem to solve with no solution. As soon as he finishes one story, he must start a new one. He is never finished or satisfied. This amount of self-knowledge, while frustrating, keeps Trigorin moving through life without damaging his self-image. Treplev on the other hand, aims to change theater forms and thus, with his revolutionary ideas, creates such a huge goal for himself, that while not unattainable, does not provide the gratifying sense of satisfaction that Treplev relies on gaining in order to be content.
Trigorin’s obsession with observing the details around him keep him removed from the action of life. Like his habit of going to lake to fish while the others converse and socialize, Trigorin lives his life one step removed from the main events and is a passive observer rather than active participant. His idea for a story about a man who ruins a young girl, strongly foreshadows Nina’s fate with Trigorin. Here, his art and creation are prophetic for his own transformation from casual observer to active participant, especially in the ruin of Nina. The fallen seagull to which both she and Treplev compared her is now Trigorin’s symbol of destruction.
Though Trigorin presents Nina with such a harrowing thought, so parallel to their own soon to be consummated relationship, Nina remains in awe of the attention she receives from a famous man and acknowledges only the potential to be immortalized by his writing, not the sad fate of which his tale warns. ————————————————- First half of Act Three Summary Contrary to the conclusion of Act Two when Arkadina decides to stay, Act Three begins with Trigorin eating lunch in Sorin’s dining room, surrounded by packed luggage. It appears that they are leaving after all. Masha keeps Trigorin company, confessing her plan to marry Medvedenko She says that it will rid her of her love for Treplev not because she will love Medvedenko, but because marriage will keep her busy and give her responsibilities. Masha asks Trigorin to convince Arkadina to stay longer.
Boris Trigorin responds with the information that Treplev’s recent injury as a result of trying to shoot himself in the head and Treplev’s recent challenge to Trigorin to fight him in a duel has caused Arkadina’s change of mind and decision to take Trigorin away from the estate. Masha sums up Treplev’s troubles by concluding that he is jealous. She goes on to talk about herself. She leaves after asking Trigorin to sign one of his books for her with the inscription, “For Masha, who doesn’t know where she came from or why she goes on living. ” Nina enters and asks Trigorin to play a game with her that involves a pebble in her hand to predict whether or not she’ll become an actress. Trigorin warns her that no one can predict something like that about one’s life.
Nina gives Trigorin a gift of a medallion with his initials inscribed on one side and the title of his book, “Days and Nights” on the other. She asks him to give her two minutes more before he leaves. Arkadina observes that Trigorin and Nina had a private conversation. She snidely remarks that she hopes she “didn’t interrupt anything. ” Trigorin discovers that also inscribed on the medallion is a page and line number from his book, “Days and Nights”. He goes off-stage to find the book in order to read the quote to which Nina’s gift refers while Arkadina argues with her brother, Sorin about joining them in town. Arkadina genuinely worries about Sorin’s health. Sorin’s boredom and restless nature cause him to desire to go back to Moscow with Arkadina and Trigorin.
Arkadina insists that Sorin stays on the estate to keep an eye on Treplev, who is in an unstable mental condition. Sorin reluctantly, but firmly, explains to Arkadina that Treplev’s pride was damaged by the lack of compassion she displayed for his play. He describes how a man like Treplev needs to feel appreciated. Sorin describes to Arkadina how Treplev’s vulnerable ego needs tenderness and mercy as he struggles to find his artistic voice. Unsympathetic, Arkadina exclaims that Treplev only causes her trouble and questions why he does not get an office job. Sorin asks Arkadina if she would lend Treplev some money. Sorin believes this would bring some peace to Treplev, who needs a new winter coat and would benefit from a few luxuries.
At first, she balks at this idea and cries poor, but later, she admits that she does have some money. Sorin falls ill for a few moments and Arkadina becomes frightened. She screams for help. Analysis A humorous and swift device of propelling the sense of time into the future, conveying to the audience that action has occurred and time has passed, and Chekhov’s stage directions for surrounding Trigorin in packed luggage at the beginning of Act Three is a marvelous and efficient detail. Act Three opens up with a conversation between Trigorin and Masha that reiterates the existential theme running through The Seagull and brings this theme to focus.
A Chekhovian gesture, one where our expectations are reversed, exists in the attention to the packed suitcases. Arkadina announces her decision to stay at the end of Act Two, but these bags prove that since the close of that act, time has passed and her decision has changed. As in real life when events or emotions turn on a dime, transforming a funny moment into a mournful one, or a triumphant moment into an embarrassing one, Chekhov portrays the way our uncertain fates always have the last laugh on our lives. Like Sorin, Masha gets through her monotonous days by keeping herself busy with the mundane in life, not by pursuing intellectual or creative dreams. Masha’s reason for marrying Medvedenko is to forget her unrequited love for Treplev.
However, Masha does not marry for love or financial necessity, but to get through life with some sense of meaning. She exhibits a no-nonsense, melancholy form of awareness, and she truly attempts to understand Treplev and admires his attempt at greatness. When others find him perplexing, Masha observes quickly that Treplev is “jealous” or “depressed. ” In her request to Trigorin for an inscription in her book that he wrote, she asks for him to refrain from writing “best wishes or anything like that. ” Masha does not believe in false sentiments. She explicitly requests Trigorin to write, “For Masha, who doesn’t know where she came from or why she goes on living. With this request, Masha describes herself knowingly in the state of an existential crisis. Without Treplev loving her in return, Masha finds it hard to understand why she was meant to live if her life is not working out to make her happiest. Existentialism is a conundrum many Chekhovian characters face. In The Seagull, Sorin and Treplev also grapple with questions about the meaning and purpose of their seemingly futile existence. In Chekhov’s last play, The Cherry Orchard, a German governess, Charlotta, repeats almost verbatim Masha’s sentiments. Adopted and without a passport, Charlotta says, “I don’t know who I am. I don’t know where I came from. ” Chekhov manages to portray the absurdity of life’s meaninglessness on stage.
Characters like Masha and Charlotta grapple with existential questions and cannot answer them, to their dismay. However, in gloomy Masha’s case, we can laugh at her excessive melancholy, thereby, laughing at our own, unsolvable predicament. ————————————————- ————————————————- Second half of Act Three Summary Treplev and Medvedenko enter from off-stage at the sound of Arkadina’s cry for help. Treplev calms down his mother, informing her that Sorin frequently has harmless dizzy spells. Just as Sorin suggested that Arkadina loan Treplev some money just moments ago, Treplev suggests that she lend Sorin some money so that he could live in town.
Arkadina defends herself by saying she does not have any extra money. Treplev asks Arkadina to change the bandage on his head from his injury caused by his attempted suicide. They share some tender moments of lightheartedness, but their conversation disintegrates into name-calling, insults, and competitiveness. Their insults include their poor opinion of the other’s artistry. Treplev ends up crying. Treplev cries in part because of the divide between him and his mother and his inability to win her over to respect his talents, but he only reveals to Arkadina that he is upset because he mourns the loss of Nina’s affection. This too also bothers Treplev greatly, complicating his already depressed situation.
Arkadina tries to cheer him up and tells him that Nina will soon come back to him because Arkadina is taking Trigorin away from the estate. Trigorin enters, mumbling the line from Nina’s inscription, “If you ever need my life, come take it. ” He muses over the line. It means something powerful to him. As Masha requested, Trigorin asks Arkadina if they can stay after all. Arkadina challenges Trigorin in regards to his romantic interest in Nina. She brings to the forefront all of the sexual tension that has existed only in silence between Trigorin and Nina and Trigorin and Arkadina. Trigorin selfishly attempts to convince Arkadina that if she were to allow him to become Nina’s lover, the sacrifice would make her a great woman.
Arkadina accuses Trigorin of being in a state of a drunken stupor with his illusion of a relationship with such a young, naive girl as Nina. Arkadina casts Nina as a girl who has none of the experience, intellectual heft, or challenges as an older woman like Arkadina. Trigorin portrays himself as a man who missed out on the splendors and excitement of youthful love because he spent his youth writing to make a name for himself. Fearing her loss of the man she loves, Arkadina pleads, kisses, flatters, and begs on her hands and knees for Trigorin to stay with her instead of fleeing to Nina. Arkadina’s persuasive maneuvers convince Trigorin to leave with her and forget his feelings for Nina. Trigorin fulfills his promise to Nina to give her two minutes in private before he leaves.
Nina tells Trigorin that she plans to move to Moscow to be near him, immediately, and to try her luck at an acting career. Trigorin tells Nina to stay at the Slavyansky Bazaar Hotel in Moscow. He asks Nina to send him word that she has arrived as soon as she gets to the hotel. Before he rushes off to get in the carriage with Arkadina, he steals a long passionate kiss from Nina, sealing their promise to meet again. Analysis Something significant changes in Trigorin when he discovers the line to which Nina refers on the medallion she gives him as a parting gift. Trigorin experiences a sudden surge of meaning and excitement for his life upon forming a bond with Nina.
As Trigorin explains to Arkadina, Nina promises the hope of youthful love and represents an innocent beauty that Trigorin never experienced as a youth because of his writing pursuits. Trigorin worked hard as a young man to forge his writing career. In his mind, for his career, he sacrificed the chance to have relationships such as the one he could have now with Nina. Nina seduces Trigorin with her flattery of his talents, awe of his position in life and personal challenge to his assumptions and opinions. Nina inspires him to have a second chance by reliving a romantic youth he sacrificed in order to become an established writer. When Trigorin succumbs to Nina’s charm and advances, he suddenly transforms his role from passive spectator of the play’s main events to proactive participant and shaper of lives.
When Trigorin decides to take Nina up on the affair, inevitably Arkadina, Treplev, and Nina’s lives will be affected by his decision. Trigorin plays God with Arkadina, Treplev, and Nina’s hearts, choosing for himself the fate of their love. He chooses to be with Nina not because he wants a mutual relationship with her but because he wants to experience something new for himself. Trigorin acts out of lust, selfishness, and a belief in the illusion of extending youth. Trigorin reveals more about his character in his scene with Nina as he expounds upon his life as a writer. He describes himself as a man unable to be permanently fulfilled or satisfied with a result.
Trigorin explains to Nina his compulsive need to constantly observe the details around him of life, people, and of nature. Trigorin’s powers of description and observation are great. Chekhov shows that Trigorin obviously has a knack for writing. It is ironic, however, that Trigorin observes more about the outside world than the emotional world of the lives around him. A counter-point to his lover, Arkadina, who observes not her own true self, nor the feelings of those around her, Trigorin observes much around him but also lacks an ability to gain personal insight or feel compassion for others. We get the feeling in his decision to have an affair with Nina that his reasoning for it does not extend beyond lust, personal triumph, and curiosity.
Trigorin’s relationship with Nina, we are promised, will be little more than another sensual account that Trigorin will mutate into fiction, publish, and then forget about when he moves on to his next story. Nina, however, places her whole faith into the new partnership. Arkadina loses a large part of her reason to take pride in her life when she loses Trigorin to Nina. Treplev loses Nina as a result of his mother’s lover, another strike against Arkadina in his eyes. Though the relationship is bound to cause damage, Trigorin seems unaware that his decision will affect anyone but himself. ————————————————- First half of Act Four Summary It is two years later than Act Three, a stormy night. Treplev has converted the parlor into a study for his writing. The Watchman taps his warning stick.
Masha and Medvedenko enter the study, calling for Treplev using his nickname, “Kostya. ” Medvedenko and Masha discuss Sorin’s request to see Treplev as Sorin’s health fades fast. Medvedenko pleads with Masha to go home with him to feed their baby. Masha refuses, insisting that she will stay put for the night even though the baby has not seen his mother for two nights previous. Medvedenko criticizes the skeleton of a stage left over from Treplev’s play that remains in the backyard. Masha does not mind its presence. Medvedenko complains that Masha’s father Shamrayev will not lend him a horse to take home if Masha does not go home too. She tells Medvedenko to ask him anyway.
Masha is troubled about Sorin’s condition and frustrated by Medvedenko’s pestering. Paulina and Treplev enter with bed linens, pillows, and a quilt for Sorin who wants to sleep in Treplev’s study. Masha makes a bed for Sorin on the divan. Medvedenko says goodbye to everyone, but no one really cares that he is leaving. Paulina looks over Treplev’s shoulder at his writing. She comments that no one thought Treplev would become a genuine writer but now he is making money writing and looks handsome. She asks Treplev to pay some attention to Masha. Paulina explains that it would mean a lot to Masha because women appreciate compliments more than men realize.
Paulina adds that she feels the same way, saying, “Believe me, I know. ” Masha is embarrassed and asks her mother to leave Treplev alone. Treplev leaves the room. Masha blames Paulina for his exit. Paulina says that she feels sorry for Masha and her unrequited love for Treplev. Masha tells her mother that Medvedenko has been offered a teaching job in another district and they will move away in a month. Masha tries to convince Paulina that none of her hurt feelings about Treplev matter because she will soon forget. Medvedenko and Dorn enter pushing Sorin in on a wheelchair. Masha asks Medvedenko why he has not left yet. He tells her that her father would not lend him a horse.
Medvedenko complains to Dorn about his lack of finances with self- pity, suggesting that Dorn would not understand because he has lots of money. Dorn fires back a rebuttal to Medvedenko’s accusation, saying that he worked as a doctor for thirty years without a vacation and was constantly on call. The Watchman taps his warning stick. Sorin asks for Arkadina, but she is out picking up Trigorin from the train station. Sorin comments that if his sister has been sent for, then he must be close to death. He announces that he has an idea for a short story for Treplev to write called, “The Man who Wanted. ” It would reflect Sorin’s attitude about his own life in which, he feels, he never achieved the things he once hoped to accomplish such as becoming a writer and eloquent speaker.
Dorn tells him that at his age it is late to waste time having regrets. Medvedenko asks Dorn which city he traveled to that he liked the best. Dorn replies that he like Genoa the best because of “the crowd in the streets” and the constant flow of people. This reminds Dorn of Treplev’s play and the phrase, “I am the universal soul. ” Dorn asks Treplev about Nina’s life now. Treplev tells Dorn that Nina had an affair with Trigorin, became pregnant, the baby died and Trigorin left her for Arkadina whom he was with while he impregnated Nina, cheating on them both. Treplev recounts how Nina played starring roles in summer theater plays outside of Moscow that moved to the provinces but that she played her parts badly.
He used to visit her on the road and see her perform, but Nina refused to see him. Treplev eventually gave up on following her around. Nina would send Treplev troubled letters and sign them, “The Seagull. ” Treplev compares Nina’s signature to a character in a Pushkin play who signs his name, “The Raven. ” Treplev reveals the information that Nina is staying nearby in town at a hotel. Masha went to see her, but Nina refused to talk to her and Medvedenko swears that he saw her walking through a nearby field. Nina’s parents have hired armed guards to keep her away from their house next door to Sorin’s estate. Analysis Many major events of the play occurred between the action of Act Three and Act Four.
But, the audience will only learn of these events through the exposition of Act Four, not bearing witness to them. Instead, Chekhov will reveal through his characters how each reacted to these events and the way the events changed the characters desires, opinions, and lives. Several details in Act Four inform us that time has passed. Chekhov’s exposition artfully gives us the sense that two years has passed when in real time on stage, only several minutes or an intermission might separate Act Three from Act Four. One is the fact that at the end of Act Three, Arkadina, Nina, and Trigorin were heading to Moscow and at the beginning of Act Four, Trigorin and Arkadina are arriving together from the train station.
At the close of Act Three, we learned Trigorin planned to begin a relationship with Nina and is on his way to Moscow. At the beginning of Act Four, we hear that Trigorin is back together with Arkadina and on his way to the estate. Another detail that clues the audience into the passing of time is the rearrangement of the furniture in the parlor to accommodate a study for Treplev. This provides evidence of the change in time not because we have seen the parlor in a previous act, but because the characters in the play react to the changes in the room. Finally, Paulina’s comments to Treplev regarding his success as a published writer reveals the passing of time.
It is clear Treplev could not become a successful, published writer overnight. In this section of Act Four, we also see the continuation of the love triangle’s ill-fated destinies and the repetition of unrequited love from generation to generation. Masha’s marriage to Medvedenko deeply affects Paulina because she sees her own unhappy life repeated in Masha’s decision to marry without love. Paulina attempts to change the sad pattern for her daughter by asking Treplev to pay attention to Masha. Treplev rejects this idea without acknowledging Masha’s feelings for him because he is too self-involved in his own feelings of unrequited love to notice Masha. Masha’s silent pursuit of Treplev appears hopeless.
Paulina’s life disappoints her because she dislikes her husband, Shamrayev, and lost the affection of the doctor, Dorn, who never had loyalty to her or love for her in the first place. Paulina witnesses the same disappointment in Masha. For Paulina, joy has come in the form of the occasional affection she has received from Dorn and therefore, she believes that if Treplev could occasionally care for Masha, if not love her, she too could find some moments of relief in the arms of a man whom she truly loves. ————————————————- Second half of Act Four Summary Arkadina enters with Trigorin. Shamrayev compliments her outfit and youthful appearance.
Trigorin pleases Masha by remembering her name. He hesitantly greets Treplev. Treplev is friendly to Trigorin and appreciates that Trigorin brings him a copy of the latest magazine in which a story of Treplev’s is published. Trigorin says that Treplev is admired by many in Moscow and Petersburg and many people are curious about his identity, appearance, and personality because he publishes under a pseudonym. Trigorin asks Treplev whether the stage is still outside because he is working on a story about the stage and wants to confirm some details for an upcoming deadline. Masha argues with Shamrayev to allow Medvedenko to use his horses to ride the four miles home.
Shamrayev uses the excuse that the horses have just returned from the train station and need to rest to prevent Medvedenko from borrowing them to go home. Masha insists that Shamrayev has other horses. Shamrayev will not relent. Arkadina begins a game of lotto. She recalls her family’s tradition of playing the game to pass the time. Treplev notices that Trigorin read his own story in the magazine but did not bother to read Treplev’s. Arkadina brags about the reception of a recent performance of hers and how nice the dress was that she wore. Treplev plays piano in the next room. Trigorin, Shamrayev, and Arkadina discuss Treplev’s abstract writing and bad reviews.
Trigorin and Arkadina do not express any sympathy for Treplev. Dorn disagrees and says he believes Treplev is on to something. They agree that Treplev’s stories would be better if they were about ordinary people and if they had a point after the opening. Shamrayev tells Trigorin that he stuffed the seagull that Treplev shot for him. Trigorin does not remember asking Shamrayev to stuff and mount it. Arkadina calls everyone to dinner and asks Treplev to stop writing. Treplev is left alone in his study. He looks over his writing and criticizes himself out loud for being a cliche. He compares his writing to Trigorin’s with envy and despair. He hears a knock on the window. It is Nina.
Nina enters the house paranoid about Arkadina finding her there and asks him to lock the door. Treplev props a chair against the door. Nina and Treplev admit to each other that they have looked for each other. Nina has been wandering around the property, and Treplev has gone to her hotel window. Nina’s speech becomes fractured and confusing. She cuts off her own thoughts. She says she is “the Seagull” and compares herself to a homeless wanderer in a Turgenev story. She cries. She says she feels better because she has not cried in two years. Nina acknowledges that Treplev is now a writer, and she became an actress but her life is difficult. She thinks nostalgically about their youth and their youthful love.
Treplev professes his love to Nina and recounts his torment when she left him, how nothing he has accomplished felt good to him because she was not present to share his successes with him. Nina scolded Treplev for saying that he kissed the ground she walks on. She asks for a drink of water. Nina tells Treplev about her depression that began when she realized she was a bad actress. Her story breaks down into fragments. She repeats Trigorin’s idea for a story about a girl who is destroyed like the seagull by a man who has nothing better to do. She concludes that what is important for an artist is not how successful you are, but that you persevere. Nina becomes weaker. Treplev asks her to stay.
Nina asks about Trigorin. She confesses to Treplev that she still profoundly loves Trigorin. She remembers the innocence and hope she and Treplev felt the summer they put on their play. She recites lines from the play. Nina hugs Treplev and then runs out of the door. Treplev covers his emotions and simply says out loud that his mother would be upset if she saw Nina in the garden. He then proceeds to tear up his manuscripts and throws them under his desk. Arkadina and the rest of the household come back from dinner and start a game of lotto. Dorn pushes in the door that Treplev propped closed with a chair. Shamrayev presents Trigorin with the stuffed seagull.
Again, Trigorin says he doesn’t remember asking for it at all. A shot goes off in a loud noise offstage. Arkadina becomes frightened. Dorn calms her down presenting the thought that the sound was probably only a popped cork in a bottle in his medicine bag. Arkadina feels relieved. Dorn goes to check on the sound and comes back to the group. He takes a magazine and brings Trigorin aside, pretending he is interested in discussing an article on America. Dorn tells Trigorin privately that he needs to get Irina Arkadina out of the house quickly because Treplev has shot himself. Arkadina does not hear Dorn’s sad news before the play’s end. Analysis
Nina’s return acts as a sort of epilogue to the first three acts of the play. Her return does little to move the plot forward except, perhaps, to motivate Treplev’s suicide at the end. Dramatically, her return can be a stunning scene. This is due in part by how much she has changed physically and emotionally since we last saw her and heard her speak. The scene is very challenging for a young actress. It is reminiscent of Ophelia’s mad scene in Hamlet in which the sickness and hurt of a community is exposed and exemplified in the tortured mind of a ruined, young girl who speaks in language that at first glance seems like nonsense, but does indeed have sense and wisdom.
Nina compares herself to the seagull Treplev shot and the seagull metaphor Trigorin created to describe Nina’s fate because she now understands how Trigorin’s story idea was also a prophesy that he fulfilled at her expense. At times, Nina speaks as if she were in a trance. She cuts herself off mid-sentence and in mid-thought. It is as if she is caught in the whirlwind of her life, which has changed dramatically in two years. Nina seems to be trying to decipher the cause and the meaning of her tragic fall. Since we last saw Nina, she has had her first love affair, with Trigorin, moved to Moscow, delivered a baby, and buried the baby after it died, lost her lover Trigorin, and maintained a meager acting career.
Nina has had a hard time, but she is wiser from her failed experiences than Treplev is from his successes. She has no one in the world to help her through her hardship and poverty, and yet she still feels that her life has a purpose—to persevere. No longer does Nina believe in her quest for fame and adoration. Though Trigorin returned to his relationship with Arkadina, leaving Nina alone, Nina clings to the hope of her love for him rather than settling for Treplev’s love out of convenience. She knows Trigorin is no longer attainable, but she loves him from afar anyway. The simple joy she felt when he was with her stays in her heart as a positive experience that carries her forward, though simultaneously, preventing her from living in the future.
No longer the innocent, doting, curious, young girl from the previous acts, on the surface, Nina accepts her life as it is and does not wish for more. Through the fragmented parts of her speech, a deeper consciousness of which she is less aware, mourns her loss and rises to the surface in her weariness and tears. Trigorin’s story of a girl who falls tragically like the seagull at the hands of a man who has nothing better to do than destroy her has predicted Nina’s fate, but it has not captured her spirit. Nina survives her lost innocence with headstrong fearlessness. She learns a lesson about herself and her life’s calling, like so many of ours—to endure.
Ironically, it is Treplev who, paralyzed by his inability to produce concrete work from his visions of creative thought, destroys himself because he cannot endure his lost love nor his lack of direction. ————————————————- ————————————————- Important Quotations Explained I’m the seagull. No, that’s not it. I’m an actress. That’s it. Explanation for Quotation 1 >> The seagull comes to mean several things during the course of the play. In Act Four, Nina uses the seagull Treplev shot in Act Two as a symbol of her fall from grace. She recently signed letter to Treplev not as “Nina” but as “The Seagull. Nina combines two ideas together to create her symbolic self- description of the seagull. The dominant reference is to Trigorin’s metaphor of Nina as the seagull. She describes herself to Treplev as the seagull in confirmation of the tragic fact that Trigorin did attempt to ruin Nina exactly as he said he would in Act Two. But Nina is not completely destroyed. Her fractured language sounds like the speech of a troubled soul, but amidst her rambling is sense and conviction. She has lost her innocence, her lover, a baby, and financial stability, but she has her pride and her will to endure. She refutes her original statement, “I’m the seagull,” with “I’m an actress. Nina stays afloat by holding on to her dream, however disappointing it has turned out to be and takes pride in her ability to withstand her disappointment. This quote also refers to Pushkin’s story about a miller who signs his name “The Raven. ” Chekhov puns “The Seagull” with “The Raven,” commenting to his audience “No, that’s not it,” indicating that he knows he has ripped off of a commonly known subject. I’m in mourning for my life. Explanation for Quotation 2 >> Masha’s reply to Medvedenko’s question of why she wears black is a famous line in world drama. Her excessively melancholic response tickles a funny bone with its thoroughly pessimistic philosophy. Her terse and atter-of-fact reply juxtaposed to Medvedenko’s eager pursuit of her heart proves funny because of her utter lack of interest in anything, let alone, Medvedenko. This quotation also provides a sort of thesis for the play, laying the groundwork for an existential theme of questioning life’s meaning and purpose which several characters actively seek to answer during the play. Idea for a short story. The shore of a lake, a young girl who’s spent her whole life beside it, a girl like you She loves the lake the way a seagull does, and she’s happy and free as a seagull. Then a man comes along, sees her, and ruins her life because he has nothing better to do. Destroys her like this seagull here. Explanation for Quotation 3 >>
Trigorin describes his idea for a short story to Nina in Act Two. He metaphorically compares Nina to the seagull Treplev shot in the same act. With this blatant use of Nina’s life for his story’s protagonist, Trigorin exhibits his ability to take advantage of the lives around him for his own purposes. Trigorin made a successful career out of adapting what he witnesses around him into fictionalized accounts. He openly uses Nina and promises to continue to use her and then throw her away when he no longer needs her anymore. This is exactly what he ends up doing. This quotation reveals Trigorin’s nature as a parasite of the lives around him, yet he is not a villain because his actions are not devious.
Trigorin openly admits to his plan for Nina and stays true to his selfish desires. Here I am talking to you, I’m all worked up, and still I can’t forget for a minute that I’ve got a story to finish. I see a cloud, like that one, shaped like a piano. I smell the heliotrope, I make a mental note: a sickly-sweet smell, a widow’s color, use it to describe a summer’s evening. Explanation for Quotation 4 >> Nina’s interest in Trigorin excites him, but even in his state of elation and expectation, he cannot fully appreciate the moment. Through his language, we become convinced of Trigorin’s talents. Writing comes more naturally to him than to Treplev. Trigorin’s conflict lies between passivity and activity.
Trigorin borrows the details from his life for his stories, but here he realizes that he has trouble living life as it happens, in the moment because he feels more comfortable as an observer. Nina forces Trigorin into the role of an active participant in his own life. Her desire for him and his for her pressures Trigorin into making a decision. But even in the heat of his realization of his desire for Nina, Trigorin’s attention to detail and specific sensations of the world around him disperses his emotions. Instead of throwing himself into his feelings for Nina, he takes the time to notice, clouds, flowers, smells and to plan phrases of sentences for the future when he will document the moment in writing.
Trigorin could be described as self-conscious and hyper-conscious of his environment. His thoughts reveal an imaginative, creative mind with a propensity for accuracy and precision. His rush of joy is due in part to his change from standing by and taking notes to making decisions and taking risks. People’s destinies are so different. Some people drag along, unnoticed and boring—they’re all alike, and they’re all unhappy. Then there are others, like for instance you—you’re one in a million. You’re happy— Explanation for Quotation 5 >> Nina’s world-view is seen in black and white. She divides people into two groups, those who create their destinies and those who allow life to shape their destiny.
Filled with awe, she endows a creative life with happiness. Chekhov counterpoints this opinion with the unsatisfied Treplev who pursues an artistic life but who feels miserable and unsatisfied. Trigorin cannot be described as happy either. He takes little time to judge his life and as Arkadina says in Act One, he hates it when others try to talk about him. Chekhov also counterpoints Nina’s statement about the unhappy people who aren’t noticed in life. Though several characters in The Seagull who are not famous like Trigorin and Arkadina are unhappy such as Masha and Paulina. Dorn and Sorin critique their life and may have some regrets, but they are not unhappy.
Dorn enjoys his popularity with the ladies and his retirement. Sorin enjoys the company of his loved ones. Shamrayev, though argumentative, takes pleasure in a good story and the company of Arkadina. Nina comes off as naive and impressionable because of her generalizations. Nina believes that if you live a life in which your dreams come true or your goals are achieved then you will be satisfied and happy. Trigorin refutes this idea by explaining that though he achieved acclaim, he never can finish his work, he always has more work to do and therefore, he is never happy or content. When one story is finished, it no longer matters to him and so he has to solve the problems of the next.
On the other hand, Nina’s ideas about the two types of people, happy and unhappy are defended in part by Trigorin’s blase attitude toward his own life. He has achieved much and lives a life of privilege and confidence. Nina notes that Trigorin lacks perspective of his own privileges and luck. In this way, she is right, that Trigorin has much to be happy about but her argument becomes a classist view nonetheless, putting on a pedestal successful artists and intellectuals above all. Nina continues a debate started in the first scene of the play between Medvedenko and Masha. They argued with each other over what would make them happy. Masha chose true love and Medvedenko chose freedom from financial worries.
Nina’s version of the debate sheds light on the inexplicable and personal definition of happiness as an individual interpretation. You’re sixty years old. Medicine won’t help. Explanation for Quotation 6 >> After Arkadina and Sorin inquire to Dorn about ways to alleviate Sorin’s pain and fading health, Sorin expresses regret for his life. He regrets that he never fulfilled any of the dreams of his youth that included becoming a writer, doing well with the ladies and speaking in public well. As a doctor, Dorn curiously gives Sorin little advice. Instead of prescribing a remedy Dorn asks Sorin what he wants from Dorn. Does he want aspirin, etc.
This apathetic response that asks the patient to make a prescription disturbs Sorin and Arkadina. Dorn’s attitude is that Sorin cannot be helped. He is old and sick and therefore, should just live out what is left of his life as his destiny plans and no medicine can alter. Chekhov was a doctor and Dorn is one of several doctor characters Chekhov writes. Chekhov was also ill, like Sorin living with tuberculosis for much of his adult life. Probably both Dorn’s apathetic attitude and Sorin’s desire for a remedy reflect Chekov’s view of his own health. As a doctor, he must have known how serious and untreatable his condition was and at the same time, he probably wanted to live as long as he could and seek relief, if not a cure. Dorn’s line

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