Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 566
Irina Arkadina (ihr-IHN-uh ahr-kah-DIH-nuh), an aging, famous Russian actress who is vain, egotistical, and selfish. Living only for public acclaim of her art, Irina is neither willing nor able to establish a warm human relationship with her lover, Boris Trigorin, or with her son, Constantine Treplieff. Her disregard for her son helps to drive him to self-destruction.
Constantine Treplieff (kohn-stahn-TIHN trehp-LYEHF), a struggling young writer, the son of Irina Arkadina. He is an extreme idealist, both in his love for Nina Zarietchnaya and in his art. Constantly seeking new forms in his writing, he ignores literary conventions and believes that life must be represented not as it is but as it ought to be. In a moment of despair over his work, he shoots a seagull (which symbolizes human aspiration) and then makes an unsuccessful attempt on his own life. Near the end of the play, deserted by Nina, misunderstood by his mother, and ignored by more successful literary men, he finds himself unable to believe in anything, and he commits suicide.
Boris Trigorin (boh-RIHS trih-GOH-rihn), a successful author and Irina Arkadina’s lover. Although his writing has brought him fame, he has no real satisfaction in his work or his honors. He finds that writing is a tyrant forcing him to produce new works. Unlike Constantine, he uses established forms and writes prolifically on every subject. His restlessness drives him to use people and then to discard them, and his weakness of character leads him to marry and then to desert Nina Zarietchnaya. Some critics believe Trigorin’s comments on writing embody the playwright’s own ideas.
Nina Zarietchnaya (NIH-nuh zah-REHCH-nuh-yah), an aspiring actress, the young daughter of a rich landowner. Deserted by Trigorin after their marriage, she continues her unsuccessful attempt at a career in the theater. She calls herself a seagull and aspires in the face of failure, but she does not expect honor and glory as she did when she was younger. Believing in her abilities, she can diminish her suffering; she is the only character in the play who learns that what is important in life is the strength to endure, like a seagull.
Peter Sorin (PYOH-tr soh-RIHN), Irina Arkadina’s brother, on whose country estate the action of the play occurs. Like those of the other characters, all of his youthful wishes and dreams are shattered, and he ends his days wishing to escape his boredom.
Ilia Shamraeff (ihl-YAH shahm-RAH-ehf), the manager of Sorin’s estate, a gruff, surly man dissatisfied with his status.
Paulina Shamraeff (poh-LIH-nuh), Ilia’s wife, frustrated in her love for Eugene Dorn. She is bored with her lot and yearns for the unattainable.
Masha Shamraeff (MAH-shuh), their daughter. Hopelessly in love with Constantine Treplieff, she settles for marriage to a dull, impoverished schoolmaster.
Simon Medviedenko (seh-MYOHN mehd-VEHD-ehn-koh), a provincial schoolteacher married to the nagging, dissatisfied Masha. He is overwhelmed by responsibilities and debts.
Eugene Dorn (ehv-GEH-nihy dohrn), a doctor fifty-five years old and unwilling to change his ways of living by eloping with Paulina Shamraeff. In spite of his long and meaningful practice, he is penniless, but he has no fear of death because he has joy in life.
a maid, and
A cook, servants in the Sorin household.
Unlock This Study Guide Now
- 30,000+ book summaries
- 20% study tools discount
- Ad-free content
- PDF downloads
- 300,000+ answers
- 5-star customer support