The Drama of Chekhov, Synge, Yeats, and Pirandello

The Drama of Chekhov, Synge, Yeats, and Pirandello

The Drama of Chekhov, Synge, Yeats, and Pirandello

The Drama of Chekhov, Synge, Yeats, and Pirandello

Excerpt

Chekhov's dramatic work consists mainly of some short pieces, largely farcical, which do not seem to me worth spending time on, in a world crammed with more good literature than life is long enough to read; and five important plays-- Ivánov , The Seagull , Uncle Vanya , The Three Sisters , and The Cherry Orchard .

Of the short pieces the best, perhaps, are On the High Road , which points forward to the low-life scenes of Maxim Gorky; and The Bear , which won a great and lasting success with its picture of a testy middle-aged landowner who comes to dun a widow for a debt; grows furious to the point of nearly fighting a pistol-duel with her; and then falls into her arms. But these are hardly the Chekhov that matters. The humour of his farces seems often strangely clumsy compared with the delightful humour of his letters.

His first full-length play was apparently written in the early eighteen-eighties and his own early twenties, with a hope of performance at the Moscow Maly Theatre; was shown to the actress Yermolova, who disapproved; rewritten; and then lost to sight till in 1920 the manuscript was rediscovered (without any title). Russian texts appeared in 1923, 1933, 1949; an English translation by B. A. Ashmole was published in 1952, with the title Don Juan (In the Russian Manner) ; and a fuller version by Dmitri Makaroff in 1961, with the title Platdnov . It is a burlesque melodrama about the philanderings of the said Platónov, whose feeble impulsiveness in some ways foreshadows Ivánov. But, as in Chekhov novel The Shooting Party (p. 9), the characters tend to baffle the English reader much more than the figures of Chekhov's maturer work-- they run to such Russian extremes, unbalanced and bizarre, inconsistent and illogical, incalculable and unaccountable. At all events Platdnov seems to me chaotic, unconvincing, and tedious. It has been pleaded that the play is largely farce (though it ends with the hero's being shot by one of the ladies he has trifled with). But nothing is more melancholy than a farce that fails to amuse. Its main interest lies, I think, in again showing how much its author's . . .

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