The Seagull

Chekhov, Anton

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Oct-05-2003


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.


In Act II Treplev kills a seagull and presents it to Nina; he says, "Soon I shall kill myself in the same way." In Act IV the seagull returns to the stage, stuffed.

Dorn, the physician character in this play, is a friend of the family who has retired from active medical practice. In some respects, Dorn is an ideal physician--kindly and competent; always available; a source of worldly wisdom; involved with his patients' stories, yet not too involved. However, Dorn's "medical presence" does not bear up well under closer scrutiny, which reveals him to be an ineffectual healer.

Dorn attributes his present state to burnout after 30 years of medical practice. It is interesting to compare Dorn to Dr. Astrov in Uncle Vanya (see this database). Astrov is also a middle-aged family retainer who considers himself a failed physician. However, Astrov continues to practice and is passionately committed to environmental "health" (saving the forests).

For an interesting discussion of Chekhov's doctors, see J. H. Dirckx, Anton Chekhov's doctors (The Pharos, Summer 1991, pp. 32-35); see also Doctor Chekhov: A Study in Literature and Medicine (1997, in this database).


First produced in 1896; produced by the Moscow Arts Theater in 1898. Translated by Constance Garnett.

Primary Source

Four Great Plays by Chekhov



Place Published

New York