Anton Pavlovich Chekhov

Personal History

Anton was the son of a grocer. He was born into the town of Taganrog in 1860. In the next few years of his youth, Anton performed on the stage himself in amateur and professional theatre. Generally, he became known as a young, talented, aspiring actor.

It wasn't until the last seven or eight years of his life that he took playwrighting seriously. This was because in the time period it was hard for a playwright to get his work produced. Because of this unfortunete situation, he turned to submitting short stories into magazines. Short stories were easy to write and brought money in more quickly. His work such as these short stories was started in 1880 under his pen name of Antosha Chekhnote.

In 1884, he began to practice medecine. This was a second career of his. He worked hard at this job, however, it brought him little income.

His first play was called Ivanov. It was written for a producer who wanted a comedy, however it did not last long on the stage. The Seagull opened in 1886, but only survived for five nights on the stage. A year later, he realized he was suffering from advanced consumption and a violent lung hemorrhage.

In 1889 Checkhov moved to Yalta and Stanilsavsky (A producer of the Moscow Arts Theatre) revived The Seagull. The same year, Anton wrote The Wood Demon (later it became the raw material for Uncle Vanya) and had it performed, but it only appeared on the stage three times.

A year later after The Wood Demon, Uncle Vanya was produced successfully by the Moscow Arts Theatre. The Three Sisters was produced in 1901, but to poor reviews. Anton Pavlovich's last play was The Cherry Orchard. This was produced in January of 1904. By this time Chekhov was severely ill.

The same year, after two heart attacks he died in a hotel bedroom in the German spa of Badenweiler.

His Goals as a Playwright

Chekhov believed for if work wished to be immortal, it must possess, namely, the power to influence people and to induce them to create a new and better life for themselves.

He also thought that playwrights should be aquainted with the stage that his work was to be produced. To go along with this, be original, intellectual, but never be afraid to be silly with things such as love declarations, affairs, tears shed by widows or a broken hearted lover and ecetera. A play must be compact. The more tight and compact a play is the more interesting and esspressive it is. Words and phrases shouldn't be flowery. The same goes with movement. An actor should not over do an action to be "graceful". Chekhov stated, "When a man spends the least possible number of movements on some defenite action, then that is gracefullness."

Tricks of the stage, he considered, more important than the subject matter of the play. A playwright must be a poet and artist to conquer the stage and not let the opposite happen. He said, "You must never put a loaded rifle on stage if no one is to fire it." to demonstrate his point on this matter.

He often found himself mad at the Moscow Art Theatre because they saw things in his plays that he never wrote. He thought he was being misinterpreted. "... They invent something about me out of their own heads, anything they like, something I never thought of or dreamed of. This is beginning to make me mad. I am describing life, ordinary life, and not black desponency. They either make me into a cry baby or a bore..." Chekhov was a realist. He wanted his plays to show the stories of everyday people and their everyday lives. He didn't want things to be turned into a great tragedy, like in his last play, The Cherry Orchard.

Structure of Anton's Plays

Every one of his full length plays has four acts. "The first act can go on as long as an hour, but the others must not be more than 30 minutes. The climax of the play must occure in the third act, but it must not be to big a climax to kill the fourth act," Chekhov said.

He'd write a play and then continue to revise it until he thought it was good enough