The Cherry Orchard: Catastrophe and Comedy

Overview

For decades after its first performance in 1904, Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard fomented controversy among producers, actors, critics, and audiences. Along with its intrinsic textual richness, linguistic power, and subtlety, the play is saturated with many different, apparently incompatible, elements; it constantly shifts from comedy to pathos, its language concomitantly oscillating from music hall vulgarity to prose poetry. Chekhov assigned a personal way of speaking to each character, divorcing consequence ...
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Overview

For decades after its first performance in 1904, Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard fomented controversy among producers, actors, critics, and audiences. Along with its intrinsic textual richness, linguistic power, and subtlety, the play is saturated with many different, apparently incompatible, elements; it constantly shifts from comedy to pathos, its language concomitantly oscillating from music hall vulgarity to prose poetry. Chekhov assigned a personal way of speaking to each character, divorcing consequence from action, cause from effect. Despite the controversy generated by its paradoxical nature, however, The Cherry Orchard has become a milestone in twentieth-century drama. In this astute analysis of Chekhov's last play, Donald Rayfield argues that The Cherry Orchard can be best understood when read as a culmination of the dramatist's major plays, particularly The Seagull (1896) and Three Sisters (1901). Stressing that Chekhov the playwright is inseparable from Chekhov the story writer, Rayfield points up instances in which the author "reuses" material from such classic stories as "A Visit to Friends," "Panpipes," "The Black Monk," and "The Bride." An engaging history of the how the play came to be - complete with citations from Chekhov's notebooks to show the parallels between his life and the lives of his characters - amplifies Rayfield's dissemination of the dramatist's themes and stylistics technique. Rayfield further uses Chekhov's letters to and from those involved in the initial production - the Moscow Arts Theater director Konstantin Stanislavsky; Chekhov's wife, the actress Olga Knipper; and various of Chekhov's contemporaries in the theater - to chronicle the play's evolution. The apparent contradiction of a play that is simultaneously comic and tragic is, Rayfield concludes, a fact of the modernist drama of Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, and Antonin Artaud. Rayfield's concise analysis is an essential companion to any reading of The Cherry Orc
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805744514
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/1994
  • Series: Twayne's Masterwork Studies Series , #13
  • Pages: 168
  • Product dimensions: 5.37 (w) x 8.43 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Table of Contents

Note on the References and Acknowledgments
Chronology: Anton Chekhov's Life and Works
Literary and Historical Context
1 Chekhov's Culture and Traditions 3
2 The Importance of The Cherry Orchard 11
3 Critical Reception 15
A Reading
4 The Making of the Text 31
5 Act 1 47
6 Act 2 64
7 Act 3 78
8 Act 4 87
9 The Metatext: Some Verbal and Nonverbal Elements 95
10 Intertextuality: Chekhov's Texts and The Cherry Orchard 100
11 Intertextuality: Other Authors' Texts and The Cherry Orchard 114
12 The Aftermath 125
Notes 133
Selected Bibliography 141
Index 143
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