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Anton Chekov;s Cherry Orchard (A Critical Analysis by Qaisar Iqbal Janjua)

Anton Chekov;s Cherry Orchard (A Critical Analysis by Qaisar Iqbal Janjua)

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Published by: Qaisar Iqbal Janjua on Jan 08, 2010
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Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 94 678qaisarjanjua@hotmail.com
The Cherry Orchard
Anton Chekhov
“Hearing Chekhov’s plays make me want totear up my own”.
George Bernard Shaw
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 94 678qaisarjanjua@hotmail.com
Chekhov is one of Russia's many important literary figures, and one of the greatestplaywrights of modern times. He won the Pushkin Prize and he is known for his shortstories and his plays, works that often combine elements of both comedy and tragedy.While works reflect the frequently turbulent developments specific to his homeland,their lasting appeal lies in Chekhov's talent for exploring universally human situationswith such grace and dexterity.Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was born in Tanarog, Russia, near the Sea of Azov, on January 17, 1860. The very fabric of Russian society was permanently altered whenChekhov was only one year old: on February 19, 1861, Russia's serfs were freed. Chekhovhimself was the grandson of a serf, and the overturning of this older social order plays acentral role in many of his writings.When his father's business failed, the family moved to Moscow, a Russian centre forintellectuals. There, Chekhov grew intellectually, although he developed in two differentdirections. On the one hand, at the age of twenty he attended medical school at theUniversity of Moscow, preparing himself for his lifelong profession as a physician. Whileat medical school, Chekhov also began writing to help support his family. He worked asa freelance writer for newspapers and magazines; the respect he gained from these oftenhumorous pieces encouraged Chekhov to begin writing serious short stories. Tolstoy, anolder Russian contemporary of Chekhov's, was a great influence on the young writer andmedical student. Chekhov was quoted as saying that medicine was his lawful wife andliterature was his mistress, and he remained devoted to his two professions throughouthis life.Chekhov graduated from medical school in 1884, and while he began his life as aphysician, the period after his graduation also marks the moment when Chekhov beganwriting seriously. During the late eighties, Chekhov wrote both short stories, such as TheBear in 1888, and The Wedding in 1889, and plays, which include Ivanov in 1887 and TheWood Demon in 1889. Although these works are only of moderate acclaim and are notthe masterpieces that Chekhov is best known for, they form an important part of hisdevelopment as a literary figure. For example, Chekhov came back to The Wood Demonin 1896, and after re-working it and re-titling it, the finished product, known as UncleVanya, propelled Chekhov's success and fame in his own life and to this day.During the early 1890's, Chekhov's writing experienced something of a dry spell.Unfortunately, Chekhov suffered from health problems, and he spent much of the earlynineties with his family or travelling to gentler climates. During this time of travel,Chekhov was able to pursue his interest in all things French, particularly French farce,and a genre, which marks his own theatrical comedy.In 1896, Chekhov entered the period of creativity for which he is best known. At theturn of the century, he authored four plays, commentaries on Russian society, whichhave gained him lasting acclaim: The Sea Gull in 1896, Uncle Vanya (a derivative of1889's The Wood Demon) in 1896, The Three Sisters in 1901, and The Cherry Orchard, hislast great play, in 1904. Chekhov spent these years between Moscow and Crimea,dividing his time between his works and nursing his failing health. Olga Knipperperformed in each of these four plays; in 1901, she and Chekhov married. The CherryOrchard was first performed in Moscow on January 17, 1904, Chekhov's last birthday,with his wife in the leading role. Chekhov died of pulmonary tuberculosis on July secondof that year, in Germany.Chekhov changed the theatrical world with these four plays. He was oftendisappointed when they were performed as tragedies; although they each have sadelements to them, Chekhov believed that this darker side of the plays should in no way
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 94 678qaisarjanjua@hotmail.com
undercut the immensely funny comic elements, which pervade even in the seeminglydarkest moments. This confusion of the comic and tragic genres is one of Chekhov'simportant contributions not only to theatre, but also to literature in general. Chekhov isalso known for the emphasis he places on dialogue and off-stage action, otherwiseknown as "indirect action." The most important events in Chekhov's plays do notnecessarily occur on Chekhov's stage; often, the audience experiences some of the mostpivotal and dramatic action not by seeing it, but by hearing about it from the characters.In this concept of indirect action is an innovation on the part of Chekhov, whose impacton theatre and literature continues even today.

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