Ivanov Summary

Ivanov is a play by Anton Chekhov in which the melancholic Ivanov falls in love with his friend’s daughter, Sasha, while his wife, Anna, is dying of consumption. 

  • Anna’s physician informs Ivanov that Anna’s condition is worsening; Ivanov, however, spends his evenings at his friend’s house instead of with his wife. 
  • At a party, Anna witnesses Ivanov kissing Sasha. In a fit of rage that night, Ivanov reveals to Anna that she is dying. 
  • A year later, Anna has died, and it is Sasha and Ivanov’s wedding day. Ivanov’s melancholy has reached its climax, and after attempting to call off the wedding, he commits suicide.

Download Ivanov Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Summary

Ivanov by Russian writer Anton Chekhov is a four-act tragic play that opens in the countryside home of its titular character, Nicholas Ivanov, a member of nineteenth-century central Russia’s minor aristocracy. Ivanov is married to Anna, a Jewish woman, whose name was Sarah Abramson before marriage. In marrying Ivanov, a Christian member of the Russian orthodox church, Anna has left her faith as well as her disapproving parents.

Act 1 begins with Michael Borkin, Ivanov’s estate manager, requesting that Ivanov give him money to pay their workmen wages. However, Ivanov suggests Borkin wait until Ivanov gets his salary, which suggests that the Ivanovs are struggling financially. The two are joined by Eugene Lvov, a physician, and Count Shabelski, a misanthropic older relative of Ivanov’s who lives with him and Anna. As Anna opens a window to peer into the garden where the men are talking, Ivanov scolds her for exposing herself to the cold.

The reason for Ivanov’s urgent injunction becomes clear when Lvov tells him that Anna’s “consumption,” has worsened. Lvov suggests that Ivanov take Anna to Crimea, which has a well-equipped sanatorium for tuberculosis patients. However, Ivanov dismisses the idea, since he cannot afford to travel. Ivanov seems curiously dispassionate about his wife’s worsening condition while Shabelski dismisses Lvov’s diagnosis, claiming the doctor is a “charlatan.” Thus, the indifferent attitude of both the men she lives with foreshadows Anna’s fate in the play. Though Ivanov’s melancholy and apathy paint him in an unfavourable light, he is, at least, honest. Ivanov confesses to Lvov that he no longer feels either love or pity for his wife, “even though she is… an exceptional woman.” Ivanov’s admission disgusts the upright Lvov.

To escape the stifling atmosphere at his home, Ivanov spends most of his evenings at the house of his old friend Paul Lebedev. However, Ivanov’s relationship with Lebedev is complicated by the fact that he owes Lebedev’s wife, Zinaida, a considerable sum of money. As Ivanov prepares to head off to the Lebedevs’ house, Anna implores him to stay back, but Ivanov refuses, claiming he needs to get away because his dislike for Anna intensifies in the evenings. Shabelski, on the other hand, manages to coax Ivanov to take him along. Left alone with Lvov, Anna decides to follow Ivanov to the Lebedevs’.

Act 2 takes place at the Lebedev home, where many guests, including the wealthy widow Martha Babakina, are talking and playing card games. It is the birthday of Sasha, Lebedev’s daughter. The conversation soon turns to Ivanov. Zinaida expresses the popular opinion that Ivanov’s indifference for Anna stems from the fact that her wealthy parents have denied her a dowry for marrying a Christian. Repelled by the gossip, Sasha expresses the view that despite their own shortcomings, people are too quick to judge complex people like Ivanov. Soon Shabelski, Ivanov, and Borkin join the Lebedevs.

Sasha and Ivanov withdraw to the garden, where Ivanov reveals that he feels little solace even when surrounded by people. Sasha tells him that her love can cure him of his bleak mood and that they should “run off” together to America. Ivanov tells Sasha not to romanticize him, excusing himself briefly to speak to Sasha’s mother, Zinaida, so...

(The entire section is 1,197 words.)