Overview: The Seagull
The play is set over a number of years--the first scenes during one summer when a famous actress, Irina Abkadina, has come from Moscow into her country residence. Her son, Kostya, puts on a new play that he has written and the girl he loves, Nina, acts in it. The assorted friends and family find the highly symbolic (and highly pretentious) play comic, and Irina takes great delight in dismissing it as tripe. At the same time, a famous writer called Trigorin (with whom Irina is in a relationship), has come to stay, and Nina meets him and--swept off her feet by his charm and fame--falls in love with him. Kostya cannot understand why Nina is no longer interested in him, so he kills a seagull and brings it to her.
In the rest of the play, various characters see the seagull as a symbol of the lives that they lead, though none quite pin down its meaning. Irina becomes bored with her summer house and she decides that she and Trigorin should return to Moscow (despite her ailing father). Nina decides that she too will go to the capital to seek her fame as an actress, and Trigorin (despite his better judgement), tells her to stay at a certain hotel--suggesting that they will start an affair.
The final act takes place two years later. The main characters are once again gathered together. Irina is back because her father fears he is on his deathbed. Nina was a moderate success in theatres outside London, but never became the great actress she wanted to be. Nina was pregnant with Trigorin's child, but lost the baby. Kostya is well-thought-of as a writer, but he still compares it to Trigorin's writing and finds it wanting. He speaks with Nina, and he tells her that he never stopped loving her. Nina seems older--a broken woman--but she admits that she still loves Trigorin. Kostya goes into a backroom and shoots himself.
Like many of Chekhov's works, the three sisters is about the decay of the privileged class in Russia and the search for meaning in the modern world. In the play, Olga, Masha, and Irina are refined and cultured young women in their twenties who were raised in urban Moscow but have been living in a small, colorless provincial town for eleven years. With their father dead, their anticipated return to Moscow comes to represent their hopes for living a good life, while the ordinariness of day-to-day living tightens its hold...Continua