Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Ranevsky estate

Ranevsky estate. Madame Ranevsky’s estate is located somewhere in the provinces of central Russia. Three acts of the play take place in her large house. Act 1 is set in what was once the nursery, a large, high-ceilinged room which has become an informal meeting place. The second act is set in a field not far from the house, near an old chapel. The third act reveals the true opulence of the house: Its drawing room with a chandelier is in the foreground, and dancing couples can be seen in the ballroom through arches at the rear. Act 4 returns to the nursery, now stripped of its decorations and ready to be vacated by Madame Ranevsky and her family. Madame Ranevsky’s world is doomed by economic and social forces usually identified with offstage places. A station is nearby, from which characters go to Russian cities like Kharkov and Moscow. Madame Ranevsky’s problems are made acute by her irresponsibilities with both men and money, both of which are associated with Paris.

Cherry orchard

Cherry orchard. The most important part of the setting of three of these acts is the visible symbol of the fragile and doomed beauty of Madame Ranevsky’s world, the cherry orchard itself. It is revealed in all its blooming spring beauty through the large, tall windows in act 1. In the next act, it is visible at the edge of the field. It can be seen again in the desolation of act 4, denuded now of its blossoms because it is October.

Historical Context

(Drama for Students)

In 1904, the year The Cherry Orchard was first produced, Russia was in a state of upheaval. The Japanese...

(The entire section is 727 words.)

Literary Style

(Drama for Students)

Comedy vs. Tragedy
Anton Chekhov wrote his last play, The Cherry Orchard, as a comedy about a wealthy family that loses...

(The entire section is 956 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Drama for Students)

1904: A Zemstvo congress meets in St. Petersburg, Russia, and demands that civil liberties are accorded to citizens and that an...

(The entire section is 291 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Drama for Students)

Investigate the Russian class structure that evolved after the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, during the reign of Tsar Alexander II,...

(The entire section is 186 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Drama for Students)

The Cherry Orchard, Part I: Chekhov, Innovator of Modern Drama, an educational film includes select scenes and a discussion by Norris...

(The entire section is 323 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Drama for Students)

The Bear (1888) and The Marriage Proposal (1889), the best of Chekhov's early oneact farces or "curtain raisers," tap the purely comic and...

(The entire section is 215 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Drama for Students)

Field, Bradford S., Jr., Gilbert, Miriam, and Klaus, Carl H. Stages of Drama: Classical to Contemporary Theater,...

(The entire section is 399 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Barricelli, Jean Pierre, ed. Chekhov’s Great Plays: A Critical Anthology. New York: New York University Press, 1981. Seventeen essays that cover Chekhov’s dramatic art and the individual plays. The essays on The Cherry Orchard include the editor’s “Counterpoint of the Snapping String: Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard” and Francis Fergusson’s “The Cherry Orchard: A Theater-Poem of the Suffering of Change.”

Magarshak, David. Chekhov the Dramatist. New York: Hill and Wang, 1960. A thorough discussion of such topics as plays of direct action, transitions, and plays of indirect action, using Chekhov’s development as a dramatist as the context.

Peace, Richard. Chekhov: A Study of the Four Major Plays. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1983. A solid study of Uncle Vanya (1897), Three Sisters (1901), The Seagull (1896), and The Cherry Orchard. Excellent for basic information and knowledge about the plays.

Pitcher, Harvey. The Chekhov Plays: A New Interpretation. New York: Harper & Row, 1973. Offers bold new interpretations and nonstandard views, which make this study a valuable contribution to the understanding of Chekhov’s plays. The chapter on The Cherry Orchard is particularly illuminating.

Valency, Maurice. The Breaking String: The Plays of Anton Chekhov. London, England: Oxford University Press, 1966. One of the best treatments of Chekhov’s plays. Valency analyzes Chekhov’s approach to theater, and individually discusses all the plays, including The Cherry Orchard.