A Marriage Proposal by Anton Chekhov, sometimes called simply The Proposal is a one-act farce that moves quickly through the use of hilarious dialogue and situational humor. With three exaggerated stereotypical characters, Chekhov emphasizes physical action and simple, coarse wit over an articulated plot. Portraying the upper-class courtship in nineteenth century Russia as a desperate economic act, Chekhov's characterization arouses explosive laughter from audiences for its brawls and Lomov's hypochondria.
In this comedy, a thirty-five year old landowner decides to propose marriage to his neighbor's daughter, who is slightly past the age of most brides. The father agrees to the marriage, but neglects to tell the daughter why the neighbor has come, instead saying a dealer wants to talk to her, which, in a manner of speaking, is true. So, because of his inability to propose, Lumov begins to talk of his land and leads Natalia in an argument over the Oxen Meadows. Natalia Stepanova constantly interrupts him, and Lumov's hypochondria causes him to feel "palpitations of the heart and hammering of the arteries in my temples" that prevent him from handling her as he would like. When the father, Stephan Stephanovitch Tschubukov, reenters, he enters into heated and exclamatory argument with Lumov, and now, rather than marriage, Lumov proposes a law suit:
LUMOV. We'see about that! I'll prove in court that they [the meadows] belong to me.
TSCHUBUKOV. In court! You may sue in court, sir, if you like! Oh, I know you, you are only waiting to find an excuse to go to law! You're an intriguer, that what's you are! Your whole family were always looking for quarrels. The whole lot!
After more name-calling, Lumov complains of pains in his heart and temples again and staggers out. The father and daughter call him "swindler" and "fool" and even "monster"; however, when Tschubukov remarks that "this fool" has had the nerve to propose marriage, the daughter exclaims,
NATALIA."What?...Why didn't you tell me that before?"...Bring him back! Bring him back!"
When Lumov returns, they apologize and concede that the meadows are his. But, then, they begin another argument over hunting dogs named Ugadi and Otkatai, and the name-calling recommences until Lumov faints. Natalia fears he is dead, and old Tschubukov threatens to kill himself; finally, Lomov comes to, and the father orders the couple to kiss each other while Lomov complains of a lame leg. Tschubukov sighs and says, "Ah, a load off my shoulders." The play ends with a new quarrel begun between Lomov and Natalia.