Illustration of the profiles of three women

The Three Sisters

by Anton Chekhov

Start Free Trial

Where does The Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov blend comedy and tragedy?

Quick answer:

It's not like Chekhov has funny scenes in which the characters tell jokes and laugh, he's not that sort of writer. But if you define comedy as disappointment followed by happiness, then there are times when we see this happening in The Three Sisters. And while the play isn't a tragedy and won't leave us feeling devastated over life's unfairness and loss of love, it is sad or poignant, and has the ability to move us.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

If you're looking for laugh out loud funny moments or jokes, then this sort of comedy is hard to find (most would argue not there at all) in The Three Sisters.  Nor does the play fit the traditional structure of a Comedy, in which events sort themselves out, sometimes ending in the marriage of the play's lovers. Chekhov was a master of character study, of depicting the subtle qualities that make us the quirky human beings that we are.  His plays don't really proceed in a conventional beginning, middle and end, they depict, rather, a slice of life.

Some of the humor or comedy of the play comes from the sisters' striving to leave their hum-drum small town life and get to Moscow.  They are constantly deciding to leave, but never go anywhere.  The comedy comes from listening to the characters, yet again, declare that they're going to Moscow, or hearing Irina (who hates to work), proclaim that work is everything and the solution to life's problems is work.  This has a subtle humor, but is also a bit sad, bringing in the play's pathos.

As for tragedy, I don't think, at least in it's dramatic sense, that this word works for any of Chekhov's plays.  Disappointing things happen to the characters here, but you get the sense that there life will pretty much go on as before, which negates the earth-shattering alterations and learning of lessons expected in a Tragedy.  I would call it pathos and not tragedy. The lack of meaning that the characters find in their lives is an emptiness that the audience can feel along with them, and this emotional connection, audience with character, is called pathos.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial