Chekhov's Plays

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The Cherry Orchard, The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, and other plays of Anton Chekhov have been acclaimed by audiences and readers since they first began appearing in the late nineteenth century. In this eloquent and insightful book, an eminent critic explores the reasons behind the enduring power of Chekhov's works.

Richard Gilman examines each of Chekhov's full-length plays, showing how they relate to each other, to Chekhov's short stories, and to his life. He also places the plays in the context of Russian and European drama and the larger culture of the period. Gilman interweaves biographical narrative with textual commentary and with a discussion of stagecraft and dramaturgy-Chekhov's techniques for influencing viewers, the scenic framing of the action, and issues of genre and temporal structuring. Although previous critics of Chekhov have tended to view him as an essentially social dramatist or as an observer of the smaller aspects of existence, Gilman asserts that Chekhov was far more of an innovative playwright, a revolutionary, than has been seen. His book-the most complete, acute, and elegant study of this master playwright ever written-will appeal to all those who care about Chekhov, theater, and the life of the mind.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a highly impressive if occasionally meandering series of essays, Yale drama professor Gilman (The Making of Modern Drama) presents an extended look at the dramatic methods employed by Chekhov in each of his plays. Often drawing on Chekhov's letters and fiction, Gilman argues against both the Soviet school of criticism, which perceived Chekhov as writing political drama about the sterility of middle-class lives, and also against those critics who saw his plays as plotless excercises in Naturalism. Instead Gilman argues that Chekhov was a theatrical revolutionary, a deliberately anti-dramatic writer in whose plays events that don't happen are often more important than those that do, and whose disjointed and often digressive dialogue allowed him to write in a musical and allusive rather than mechanical and melodramatic way. Gilman sees in Chekhov a precursor of Samuel Beckett, although Chekhov's objectivity and emotional restraint kept his plays more balanced and less despairing than Beckett's. The case Gilman makes for his subject's formal radicalism and literary stature is convincing as well as free from academic cant. Though he has a tendency to ramble, Gilman's encyclopedic knowledge of all things Chekhovian makes for interesting digressions, and this work should be eagerly received not only by admirers of Chekhov but by serious devotees of the theater. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Gilman (Yale Sch. of Drama) has written an eloquent tribute to Chekhov (1860-1904), both the man and the artist. After an introductory chapter of personal reflections about Chekhov, Gilman devotes a chapter to each of the major plays-Ivanov (1887), Uncle Vanya (1897), Three Sisters (1901), and The Cherry Orchard (1904)-placing them in the context of Chekhov's life as a doctor and devoted husband and brother, as well as in the larger milieu of late 19th-century Russian theater. Chekhov died tragically young-at age 44-of tuberculosis. Gilman astutely recognizes that, for Chekhov, a healthy body was inextricably linked to a healthy and creative mind, which may account for his refusal to diagnose his own illness until the very end. Chekhov's delicate touch and intuitive sense of character put him ahead of his time. In fact, his plays were sometimes criticized by contemporaries as being too much alike. Gilman's infectious enthusiasm for his subject makes this a definite improvement over much of the Chekhov scholarship. Highly recommended.-Diane Gardner Premo, SILS, SUNY at Buffalo
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300072563
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 286
  • Sales rank: 1,561,143
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Chekhov: Truth, Moral Reality, Imagination 1
2 Iranov: Prologue to a Revolution 36
3 The Seagull: Art and Love, Love and Art 70
4 Uncle Vanya, or How It Is 101
5 Three Sisters, or I Can't Go On, I'll Go On 141
6 The Cherry Orchard, or "An Aperture into Eternity" 197
Notes 245
Index 255
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