Showing 41 - 50 of 77 annotations in the genre "Play"

An Enemy of the People

Ibsen, Henrik

Last Updated: May-02-2006
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Dr. Thomas Stockmann, a public-minded doctor in a small town famous for its public baths, discovers that the water supply for the baths is contaminated and has probably been the cause of some illness among the tourists who are the town's economic lifeblood. In his effort to clean up the water supply, Dr. Stockmann runs into political cowards, sold-out journalists, shortsighted armchair economists, and a benighted citizenry. His own principled idealism exacerbates the conflict. The well-meaning doctor is publicly labeled an enemy of the people, and he and his family are all but driven out of the town he was trying to save.

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Wild Honey

Chekhov, Anton; Frayn, Michael

Last Updated: May-09-2005
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

According to the Soviet version, in 1921 Russian scholars discovered the manuscript of a "lost" play by Chekhov among his papers in a safety deposit box in a bank in Moscow. In reality, the play wasn’t lost at all. During the turmoil of the Revolution in 1918, Maria Chekhov, Anton’s sister, had placed in the safety deposit box papers and manuscripts that she considered particularly valuable.

Subsequently, she was unable to travel to Moscow from her home in Yalta until 1921, because of the continuing Civil War in southern Russia. By the time she did return to Moscow, the Communists had "liberated" her brother’s safety deposit box and made their amazing discovery. The title page of the manuscript was missing, so scholars named the play "Platonov" after its major protagonist.

"Platonov" is a huge wreck of a play with numerous characters and subplots that would require about six hours to perform. It is obviously Chekhov’s earliest known play. The majority belief is that it was written between 1880 and 1882, during his first or second year of medical school. Most critics stress its many dramatic faults. However, as Michael Frayn points out in his introduction to "Wild Honey," the play is more remarkable for its strengths than its weaknesses, especially considering that a 21 or 22-year-old medical student wrote it. By carefully pruning the underbrush, Frayn has created a clearly Chekhovian comedy that takes perhaps two and a half hours to perform.

The story takes place in a provincial country estate (so what else is new?), where the widowed landowner returns for the summer after spending the winter months in Moscow. All the local friends and hangers-on gather to greet her, including among others two elderly suitors, the district doctor, and Platonov (the schoolteacher) and his wife. The widow wants to have an affair with Platonov--in fact, three women, one of them married, vie for Platonov’s attention; while Platonov, for the most part, tries to remain faithful to his wife.

The first scene of the second act is a classic comedy of errors. It takes place at night in the forest, just outside Platonov’s house where his wife is sleeping. Anna Petrovna, the landowner, appears out of the darkness and wants to spirit Platonov off to the summerhouse to make hay. But various other characters, some of them drunk and some sober, keep interrupting this rendezvous. One of them is Sofya, married to Platonov’s best friend, who wants to run away with him. The comings and goings in this scene are hilarious--reminiscent of one of Shakespeare’s comedies in which each character misinterprets what every other character says or does.

The play ends, though, on a dark note, or at least a sobering note. Platonov’s wife has left him due to these misunderstandings, and each of the three other women is closing in for the (metaphorical) kill. He decides to run away, and the play ends as he is running down the tracks distractedly, not paying any attention to the train that overtakes him from behind and kills him. This is not a tragic death; it’s funny, but also very sad. Platonov is, after all, a good man, even though weakness and indecision led to his downfall and meaningless death.

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The Imaginary Invalid

Molière

Last Updated: Oct-21-2003
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Argan, a fearful but miserly hypochondriac, divides his time between summoning the doctor to care for his ills and trying not to settle the resultant bills. He resolves to marry his daughter, Angélique, to a medical student, hoping to acquire unlimited access to gratis consultation. The chosen fiancé is an unattractive dolt, who would never interest Angélique, even if she were not already in love with clever, handsome Cléante, who poses as her music instructor.

Argan's wife, however, plans to send Angélique to a convent, removing her from the line inheritance. At the urging of the sensible servant Toinette, he feigns death to test his wife's affection only to discover her contempt. Again with the help of Toinette, the young lovers convince Argan to liberate himself from the twin tyrannies of his ailing body and his grasping physicians by becoming his own doctor. The play closes with the physicians' lively examination of Argan and his entry into the profession, full of musical pomp and pidgin Latin.

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Three Sisters

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Oct-05-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

The play takes place over a several-year period in the provincial town in which the Prozorov sisters and their brother Andrei live. Olga, the oldest, is a high school teacher; Masha is unhappily married to a teacher in the same school; and Irina and Andrei have dreams of moving back to Moscow. Vershinin, the new Army commander, joins the group of military hangers-on around the Prozorov home, a group that also includes the ineffectual doctor, Chebutykin, who lets everyone know that he has forgotten all the medicine he ever knew.

As time passes, Andrei marries Natalya and devotes himself to gambling, while Natalya has babies and takes over the household. Masha has a romantic affair with Vershinin; Natalya commits adultery with the school administrator. A fire rages through the town, but Chebutykin is drunk and unable to help the victims. In the end, just before the Army contingent moves to another post, Irina's fiancee is killed in a duel.

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The Seagull

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Oct-05-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

At Madame Treplev's estate, her son, Konstantin, presents an outdoor performance of his new play, in which the single character (actually just a voice) is played by Nina, a neighbor's daughter, with whom Konstantin is hopelessly in love. When Madame Treplev, a famous actress, makes light of the angst-filled play, Konstantin angrily stops the performance

Later, Nina becomes infatuated with Trigorin, a literary man and Madame Treplev's current lover. When Madame Treplev and Trigorin move back to Moscow, Nina follows, hoping to become an actress. There, she has an affair with Trigorin. Masha, the daughter of the family steward, is in love with Konstantin (who couldn't care less for her), but marries Medvedenko, the local schoolmaster.

Two years later, Nina has returned to the country, where Konstantin continues to live and work on his writing. Konstantin believes that he and Nina might make a fresh start together, but she rejects him. In the end, he goes out and shoots himself.

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Richard III

Shakespeare, William

Last Updated: Feb-22-2003
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This history play narrates the rise to power through treachery and murder of Richard Plantaganet, Duke of Gloucester and last king of the House of York. Set in England during the Wars of the Roses (1455-1485), the play opens after the Lancastrian King Henry VI and his son Edward have been killed and Richard’s brother has been crowned Edward IV.

In the course of the play, Richard woos and wins Prince Edward’s widow Anne Neville and engineers the murders of his other brother (George, Duke of Clarence), his nephews, his closest advisor, possibly his wife, and other members of the court. He is crowned king but later dies a violent death in the Battle of Bosworth, defeated by Henry Tudor, Duke of Richmond, who will become the first Tudor King Henry VII.

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Philoctetes

Sophocles

Last Updated: Nov-11-2002
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

En route to the way to the Trojan War, warrior Philoctetes, wielder of the bow of Heracles, is bitten by a poisonous snake at the shrine of the goddess Chryse. The infected wound becomes so painful that Philoctetes’s screams of agony repel the Greek commanders, who order Odysseus to leave him on the island of Lemnos. Ten years later (the time of the play’s opening scene), Odysseus returns to Lemnos with Neoptolemus, son of the now-dead Achilles, to retrieve Philoctetes’s bow. It has been prophesied that only with this bow can Troy be conquered.

Promising him glory and honor, Odysseus convinces Neoptolemus to win Philoctetes’s trust and take the bow. Philoctetes, delighted to see any human and especially another Greek, shares his story with Neoptolemus, begs him to take him back to Greece, and entrusts him with the bow when he is overcome by a spasm of pain.

Deeply moved by witnessing Philoctetes’s misery firsthand, Neoptolemus confesses the truth to him, but tries to persuade Philoctetes to accompany him to Troy. When Odysseus appears, Neoptolemus returns the bow, declaring that only with Philoctetes himself wielding it will the prophesy be fulfilled. He asks forgiveness, and invites Philoctetes to come back with him to be healed and then on to Troy to contribute to the battle. The only thing that ends Philoctetes’s refusal is the sudden appearance of Heracles, who announces that Philoctetes and Neoptolemus must join together to take Troy.

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Fortitude

Vonnegut, Jr., Kurt

Last Updated: Mar-05-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

In "Fortitude" Dr. Elbert Little, a Vermont family physician, visits the laboratory of Dr. Frankenstein and his trusty assistant, Dr. Tom Swift. Frankenstein has only one patient, Sylvia Lovejoy. His life work has been to keep Lovejoy alive. In 78 operations over the last 36 years, Frankenstein has replaced every one of her organs with prosthetic devices, so that now she consists of a head on a tripod, attached by tubes to various machines.

Frankenstein controls her mood, as he controls all her functions, from a "fantastically complicated" master console. Usually he makes sure that she feels joyful and loving, but last month a transistor went bad in one of the machines and she felt depressed for a while; so depressed, in fact, that she wrote to Dr. Little and asked him to bring her some cyanide.

Lovejoy's only friend is Gloria, the beautician who comes every day to care for her hair. Gloria is horrified over what Sylvia Lovejoy has become; she sees only a "spark" of the real person remaining, but she knows that the "spark" wants to die. After Frankenstein fires Gloria for speaking about death in Sylvia's presence, she sneaks back into the room when Sylvia is sleeping and puts a loaded revolver in her knitting bag.

Later, Sylvia finds the gun and tries to kill herself, but her prosthetic arms have been designed not to allow her to do that. Instead, she shoots Frankenstein, who promptly becomes the second head attached to the machines. (It seems he has designed all the prosthetic organs to be able to serve two "persons," so that he and Sylvia will be able to "live in such perfect harmony . . . that the gods themselves will tear out their hair in envy!")

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Of Mice and Men

Steinbeck, John

Last Updated: Feb-19-2002
Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

George tries to take care of his mentally retarded friend, Lennie, whose mental disability makes it impossible for him to judge his powerful strength. Lennie means well and tried hard; he likes soft, furry things, like a mouse and a puppy, both of which he squeezes to death accidentally. Though his great strength is useful on the ranch where he works, his inability to govern his behavior leads him into an accidental homicide. George, not wanting Lennie to live the rest of his life in prison, shoots him in the head as an act of mercy.

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The Cherry Orchard

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Aug-29-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Madame Ranevsky returns to her estate after five years in Paris, where she had fled after the accidental death of her young son. In the interim her brother and adopted daughter have been running the estate, which has gone hopelessly into debt, largely because of Madame Ranevsky's improvident life style. As she and her adolescent daughter Anya arrive, friends and retainers have gathered to greet them. Among these are Trofimov, her dead son's tutor and an ineffectual idealist; and Lopahin, a brilliantly successful businessman whose father had once been a serf on the Ranevsky estate.

The family's beloved cherry orchard, along with the house and the rest of the estate, are about to go on the auction block. Lopahin proposes a solution: break up the cherry orchard into building plots and lease them to city folks to build summer villas. This would generate an annual income of 25,000 rubles and, thus, solve all of Madame Ranevsky's financial problems. She refuses to consider cutting down the orchard. Her brother, Gaev, gravitates ineffectually around the problem, suggesting various harebrained schemes to raise money, but in the end he believes there is no solution: "Someone gets sick, you know, and the doctor suggests one thing after another, that means there's no cure . . . " (p. 346)

The auction occurs, and, lo and behold, Lopahin himself has purchased the estate with the intention of developing the property for summer villas. In the last act, as Madame Ranevsky and her family prepare to vacate the house, workmen hover in the background, ready to begin chopping down the orchard. Madame Ranevsky departs for Paris, and Lopahin leaves to pursue his business in the city. A much alluded-to liaison between Lopahin and Varya, the adopted daughter, dies on the vine, apparently because the businessman has neither the time nor inclination for romance. As the house is closed up, Firs, the senile 87-year-old servant, is inadvertently left behind.

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