Translated by Constance Garnett
This is the first of what are generally considered to be Chekhov's four major plays. It was written in 1895 and first produced in 1896. It dramatises the romantic and artistic conflicts between four characters: the famous middlebrow story writer Boris Trigorin, the ingenue Nina, the fading actress Irina Arkadina, and her son the symbolist playwright Konstantin Tréplev. The character of Trigorin is considered Chekhov's greatest male role, though as with the rest of Chekhov's full-length plays, The Seagull relies upon an ensemble cast of diverse, fully developed characters. In contrast to the melodrama of the mainstream theatre of the 19th century, lurid actions (such as Konstantin's suicide attempts) are not shown onstage. Characters tend to speak in ways that skirt around issues rather than addressing them directly; in other words, their lines are full of what is known in dramatic practice as subtext, or text that is not spoken aloud.
Inspired by a real-life incident of the death of a sea gull, this is hailed as the best written play by Chekov. It tells a poignant love story centered on literary non-entity Konstantin's tragic quest for a burgeoning actress Nina. Swirling around the country estate are characters who reflect Konstantin's pain and suffering in their own harshly realistic ways. In this famed play, Chekov introduces a brand new form of literature to emphasize characters other than plot. Instead of placing characters beneath a steady frame, Chekov lets his characters guide the subtle movement of the sad tale of devastated dreams and hopes. The dying sea gull symbolizes the emptiness of defeat and further stressing the beauty of life. The fullness of being simply alive comes beaming with power and touches life.
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