The Seagull (Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)
Madame Arkadina, an aging but accomplished actress, entertains assorted friends and relatives at her country estate; her guests include the famous novelist Trigorin and a lovely neighborhood girl named Nina. Arkadina’s son Treplev has written a play in the new Symbolist style. When it is presented with Nina in the lead role, the visitors laugh, sending Treplev into fits of rage and artistic despair. Nina, disenchanted with Treplev, falls in love with the dissipated Trigorin, already Arkadina’s lover, and elicits from him a promise to sponsor her acting career in the city in exchange for becoming his mistress.
Chekhov draws his portraits in great detail, mercilessly revealing flaws and showing the fragile, exposed egos beneath the surface. The penultimate scene, between a broken Treplev and a fallen Nina, stands for man’s inability to regain the zeal and passionate integrity of youth.
After one false start, the play was successfully staged by the Moscow Art Theatre, which took the sea gull as its symbol in honor of the playwright and the new dramatic approach the play initiated. All of today’s realistic drama owes a debt to the innovations of Chekhov’s work: naturalistic dialogue without obvious construction, a loosening of strictly Aristotelian rules of dramatic structure, and condensed, psychologically convincing characterization.
Bristow, Eugene K., ed. Anton Chekhov’s Plays....
(The entire section is 449 words.)