The story takes place on a steamer bound for Sebastopol, where the narrator meets Ivan Ilych Shamokhin, who tells the story of his helpless love for Ariadne. She was his neighbor, a beautiful but cold young woman, "a nightingale made of metal," who challenged him to fall in love with her. When Shamokhin refused to elope with her, she eloped with Lubkov, a married man with four children.

Months later, Ariadne wrote again to Shamokhin, begging him to join her in Abbazzia. When Shamokhin finally caved in and went to her, he discovered that Ariadne and Lubkov were lovers. A year later, Lubkov had used up all his money and returned to his wife. Shamokhin then became Ariadne's lover. Now his money is almost gone and his life is destroyed, but he feels helpless to leave her.


This fairly complicated plot puts the lie to those who say that nothing happens in a Chekhov story. It is a tale of obsession and the way in which obsessive behavior can destroy a person. Ariadne is a strikingly contemporary character, a representative of the "me" generation whose whole life is style and surface. It is interesting that the author chose the name

"Ariadne," suggesting that Shamokhin's fate is unavoidable, or that he is caught in a web from which he cannot extricate himself. "Ariadne" is also an example of a story within a story (i. e. the protagonist tells the tale to another character), a narrative technique that Chekhov employed in a number of his later stories.


First published in 1895. Translated from the Russian by Constance Garnett.

Primary Source

The Tales of Chekhov, Vol. 1: The Darling and Other Stories



Place Published

New York


1972, 1984

Page Count