Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Sorin farm

Sorin farm. Setting for the entire play. Chekhov carefully crafts the setting of his play so that the action of the work gradually moves from the outside into the confined spaces of an interior room. The play begins on the back lawn of the Sorin farm. A small stage has been set up in the middle of a path leading down to a lake. The curtain is drawn so that the lake cannot be seen.

During the first act, a young aspiring writer named Konstantin puts on an avant-garde play which confuses the audience (particularly his mother, Irina Arkadina, a famous actress). He uses the natural setting of the moon rising over the lake to add a dramatic touch to the arid, overly intellectual verbiage of the play itself. A young woman named Nina Zarechnaya (her surname means “beyond the river”) delivers Konstantin’s words. She has spent her whole life by the lake and now yearns to become an actress.

In the second act, Konstantin presents her with the body of a seagull he has just killed, and this bird becomes an emblem of Nina’s future destiny. She is drawn to Arkadina’s lover, the writer Trigorin. He too finds Nina attractive, and he makes a note to write a story about a girl who loves the lake like a seagull, when along comes a man with nothing better to do but to destroy her life, just as the seagull was destroyed. Trigorin subsequently seduces Nina, but abandons her to remain with Arkadina.

The final act takes place in a parlor which Konstantin has converted into a study. Two years have passed, and the main characters have reassembled. Konstantin, however, has never left the farm. Nina arrives unannounced, drenched by a cold autumn rain. After she describes to Konstantin her difficulties, her nostalgia for her simple life by the lake, and her renewed determination to continue her acting career, she leaves him, and the young man kills himself out of despair. It is characteristic of Chekhov that the suicide occurs offstage while the other characters are engaged in mundane pursuits such as playing lotto.

Historical Context

(Drama for Students)

In the year in which Chekhov's The Seagull was first staged, 1896, Nicholas II, of the Romanov dynasty, became the last czar of...

(The entire section is 536 words.)

Literary Style

(Drama for Students)

The Seagull makes use of allusion to literary works that in their suggestiveness enrich the texture of...

(The entire section is 1729 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Drama for Students)

1890s: Long travel is difficult, limited principally to rail and horseback or horse-drawn cart, carriage, or sleigh, often...

(The entire section is 628 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Drama for Students)

Investigate Henrik Ibsen's use of symbolism in The Wild Duck and compare it to Chekhov's use of it in The...

(The entire section is 207 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Drama for Students)

In 1968, The Seagull was adapted to film by director Sidney Lumet. Its stellar casts includes James Mason as Trigorin, Alfred Lynch as...

(The entire section is 256 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Drama for Students)

August Strindberg's Miss Julie (1888) and its "Foreword," in which the dramatist reveals the Darwinian...

(The entire section is 218 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Drama for Students)

Auden, W. H., ‘‘Musee des Beaux Arts,’’ in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol....

(The entire section is 583 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Bristow, Eugene K., ed. Anton Chekhov’s Plays. New York: W. W. Norton, 1977. An anthology of Chekhov’s major plays, accompanied by thirteen critical articles. Of special interest is Thomas G. Winner’s “Chekhov’s Sea Gull and Shakespeare’s Hamlet: A Study of a Dramatic Device.”

Hingley, Ronald. Chekhov: A Biographical and Critical Study. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1950. A thoughtful study of all aspects of Chekhov’s art, emphasizing his life. Chapters on Chekhov’s connections with the Moscow Art Theater and his approach to drama are of special significance for understanding of The...

(The entire section is 234 words.)