'The poetic power of Chekhov's plays does not manifest itself at the first reading. After having read them, you say to yourself: This is good, but . . . it's nothing special, nothing to stun you with admiration. Everything is as it should be. Familiar . . . truthful . . . nothing new. . .

'Not infrequently, the first reading of his plays is even disappointing. You feel you have nothing to say about them. The plot? The subject? You can explain them in a couple of words. Acting parts? Many are good, but none are striking enough to stimulate an ambitious actor.

'Yet, as you recollect some phrases and scenes, you feel you want to think about them more, think about them longer. In your mind, you go over other phrases and scenes, over the whole of the play. . . . You want to re-read it -- and then you realize the depths hidden under the surface. . . .'

ThusStanislavsky in My Life in Art. 'Chekhov is inexhaustible because, despite the everyday life which he appears to depict in his plays, he is really talking all the time not of the accidental and specific, but of the Human, with the capital "h". That is his basic spiritual Leitmotif.

'His plays are full of action, not in their external but in their inner development. In the very inactivity of his characters a complex inner activity is concealed.'

Just as the artistic effect of Chekhov's plays remains elusive, difficult to describe and to explain, so his own place among the schools of dramatists is not easy to define.

'His dramatic effects are most varied and often unconsciously employed,' writes Stanislavsky. 'At times he is an impressionist, at times a symbolist; he is a "realist" where it is necessary, and occasionally almost a "naturalist".

'A purblind eye would see only that Chekhov lightly traces the outward lines of the plot, that he is engaged in representing everyday life, the minute details of ordinary living. He certainly does these . . .

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