dinsdag 20 september 2011

anton chekhov (1860-1904)

THE most important dramatist which Russia has so far produced is Anton Chekhov (1860-1904), a physician of Moscow who left, besides many fine short stories, a few dramas which are strikingly original. Chekhov combined a naturalistic method with a philosophic mind and a humanitarian gentleness of temper. At least four of his plays -- The Sea Gull, The Cherry Orchard, Uncle Vanya, and The Three Sisters -- have become widely known throughout the world, particularly through the interpretation of the Moscow Art Theater players. The Cherry Orchard is perhaps most typical both of the author's method and of his success in creating "atmosphere." The surviving members of an ancient land-holding family come back from Paris to find that their country place is about to be sold at auction for debts. A family frient and former peasant, now a prosperous merchant, suggests that they cut down the cherry orchard and built little cottages which they can rent out and thus pay off their debt; but family pride and a general spirit of procrastination will not permit them to consent to such a solution. In their natures, sorrow over trouble and levity over responsibilities are inextricably mixed. They can take nothing seriously. They argue and talk it all over in their own charming fashion until finally the house is sold over their heads and the sound of the axe is heard in the beloved orchard. When they leave, with characteristic absent-mindedness they accidentally lock the faithful old servant, Firs, in the empty and abandoned house. That is all: there is no struggle, nothing that could technically be called a plot; yet on the stage the representation is full of suspense and pathos. The author's conception is intense, though detached. There is no hint of social "problems" or blame for anybody or any party -- only a tender, acute delineation of weak, delightful people. Among the naturalists of the theater, Chekhov and Synge alone have been able to achieve the classic tragic note. Their scenes rise out of human experiences, wherein love and tenderness and family relationships have had their due meed. Especially with Chekhov does one feel the presence of an understanding heart; nothing escapes his observation, yet all is rendered with sympathy and pity.