Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov


Anton Chekhov offers a critical introduction to the plays and productions of this canonical playwright, examining the genius of Chekhov's writing, theatrical representation and dramatic philosophy.

Emphasising Chekhov's continued relevance and his mastery of the tragicomic, Rose Whyman provides an insightful assessment of his life and work. All of Chekhov's major dramas are analysed, in addition to his vaudevilles, one-act plays and stories. The works are studied in relation to traditional criticism and more recent theoretical and cultural standpoints, including cultural materialism, philosophy and gender studies.

Analysis of key historical and recent productions, display the development of the drama, as well as the playwright's continued appeal. Anton Chekhov provides readers with an accessible comparative study of the relationship between Chekhov's life, work and ideological thought.


Art, politics and philosophy were entwined in the intellectual landscape for Chekhov’s work, as artists, critics and social agitators attempted to engage with political superstructures in the hope of bringing about reform in Russia. Chekhov’s own experience of life gave him a unique perspective on the problems of his society.

Chekhov’s life: serf’s son to intelligent in nineteenth
century Russia

Chekhov was the first famous writer in Russia to emerge from his class. His Russia was a vast empire with extremes of wealth and poverty, diverse cultures and a predominantly rural economy. Three tsars of the Romanov dynasty ruled in his lifetime: Alexander II (1855–81), Alexander III (1881–94) and his son Nicholas II (1894–1917). It was, until the year after Chekhov’s birth, a feudal system, where the basis for the economy was the enslavement of the peasantry; the serfs (four-fifths of the population) paid ‘quit-rent’ in cash or labour services, whereas the gentry did not pay income tax. By the nineteenth century, there was a rigid, inefficient, and in some ways corrupt, centralized bureaucracy.

In the eighteenth century, a Table of Ranks for the civil and military services was established, ascent through which conferred hereditary nobility, an opportunity for commoners to become noble and rich. This established a hierarchical and careerist society, which Chekhov was to satirize in plays like The Wedding. He drew attention to the effects of living in such a status-ridden environment in stories such as The Death of a Government Official (1883), Anna . . .

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