Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings...©
of Work, Style, and Publication Year
is a stage play with elements of comedy and tragedy. One may wish to call
it a tragicomedy, although Anton Chekhov himself categorized it as a comedy.
The plot is uncomplicated; the style is simple and straightforward. Chekhov
effectively uses trivial circumstances and humdrum activities to shape
Chekhov completed the play in 1903, he debuted it on January 17, 1904,
at the Moscow Art Theater under the direction of Konstanin Stanislavsky
(1863-1938). Chekhov's wife, Olga (1868-1959), played the lead role (Madame
Ranevsky). Scribner's published an English translation of the play by Julius
West in New York in 1917. The plot summary on this page follows West's
action takes place between May and October at a rural estate in Russia
three to four decades after Czar Alexander II freed the serfs in 1861.
It is a time of revolutionary change, when nineteenth-century values and
traditions are yielding to a new way of life in which the upper classes
are losing their power and prestige and the lower classes are taking advantaging
of opportunities previously denied to them.
Andreyevna Ranevsky: Owner of an estate with a famous and highly prized
Ranevsky's daughter, who is seventeen.
Ranevsky's adopted daughter, who is twenty-seven. She is also called Barbara
Andreyevitch Gaev: Madame Ranevsky's unmarried brother.
Alexeyevitch Lopakhin: Wealthy merchant. His father was a serf.
Sergeyevitch Trofimov: Free-spirited student.
Borisovitch Simeonov-Pischin: A landowner.
Ivanovna: Anya's governess.
(Avdotya Fedorovna): A maidservant.
Panteleyevitch Epikhodov: A clerk (bookkeeper) at the Ranevsky estate.
He proposes to Dunyasha.
Servant and former serf. He is eighty-seven.
Countess: Aunt of Gaev and Ranevsky.
Wealthy man who bids on the Ranevsky's estate.
that hires Varya as a housekeeper.
Was a Serf?
nineteenth-century Russia, a serf was a peasant laborer attached to a landowner.
In effect, a serf was a slave.
is breaking on a chilly morning in May at a Russian country estate where
the trees of a cherry orchard are in bloom. There is a frost. The owner
of the estate is the widowed Madame Lubov Andreyevna Ranevsky. After her
husband drank himself to death six years before, her seven-year-old child,
Grisha, drowned. Distraught, Ranevsky ran off to France with a lover. When
he became ill at Mentone (also called Menton, a resort on the French Riviera),
she bought a villa there to attend him during his convalescence. But he
took advantage of her and drained her financial resources. After she sold
her villa to pay her debts, she moved to Paris. There, he abused her, took
more of her money, and left her for another woman. Now, after five years
abroad, she is on a train pulling into the railroad station near her Russian
estate. With her are her daughter Anya, seventeen, and Anya's governess,
Charlotta, along with a young servant, Yasha.
the Ranevsky estate, an eighty-seven-year-old servant, Fiers, prepares
Ranevsky's house for her return. Until middle age, Fiers was a serf. After
Czar Alexander II's Edict of Emancipation freed the serfs in 1861, Fiers
chose to remain with the estate, performing the same duties that occupied
him when he was in bondage.
a room once used as a nursery, Ermolai
a wealthy merchant, tells a maidservant, Dunyasha, u0093I have made a rotten
mess of it! I came here on purpose to meet them at the station, and then
remembers Ranevsky as a kindly woman from his days when he lived on the
estate as the son of a serf. In particular, he recalls the day when his
father punched him in the nose. Ranevsky took the time to comfort him,
saying, u0093Don't cry little man.u0094
is nervous about the arrival of the travelers. She thinks she might faint.
Dunyasha is not dressed like a servant but like a refined lady. Lopakhin
reminds her that she is just a menial, saying, "You should know our place."
Panteleyevitch Epikhodov enters
with a bouquet of flowers. He drops the bouquet, then picks it up. He says
it is from the gardener, noting that it is to be placed in the dining room.
When Dunyasha goes out to get some kvass for Lopakhin,
Epikhodov complains that his boots, highly polished, squeak and asks Lopakhin
what he can do to get rid of the annoying sound. Lopakhin simply tells
him to go away because he is a bore. Dunyasha brings in the kvass. Epikhodov,
who is accident prone, leaves the room, knocking over a chair. Dunyasha
tells Lopakhin that Epikhodov has asked her to marry him. She does not
know what to do, although she thinks he is a nice man.
Lopakhin hears the approach of carriages, he goes out with Dunyasha to
welcome Ranevsky and the others. A few moments later, Ranevsky enters the
house with Anya, Yasha, and Charlotta, who has Anya's dog. Accompanying
them are the welcomers: Lopakhin; Ranevsky's older brother, Leonid Andreyevitch
Gaev; Boris Borisovitch Simeonov-Pischin, a landowner; Varya, Madame Ranevsky's
adopted daughter; and Dunyasha, who is carrying an umbrella and a parcel.
Varya has been managing the estate in Ranevsky's absence.
and Anya browse and comment on what they see. When they enter the old nursery,
Ranevsky, in tears, says, u0093I used to sleep here when I was a baby. And
here I am like a little girl again.u0094 She kisses Leonid, Varya, and Dunyasha,
and everyone leaves the room except Dunyasha and Anya. Overjoyed at seeing
Anya, Dunyasha addresses her as u0093my petu0094 and discloses the news that Epikhodov
has proposed to her, saying she doesn't know u0093what to think about it.u0094
Anya does not respond to her comment. Instead, she looks into her room,
adjacent to the nursery, observing that it appears as it did five years
before. When Dunyasha tells Anya that her friend Peter Sergeyevitch Trofimov,
a u0093perpetualu0094 student, is in the bathhouse, still sleeping, Anya is very
returns to the nursery and sends Dunyasha to get a pot to make coffee for
Ranevsky. Varya and Anya then chat. Anya tells her about Paris and the
men and women who would visit Madame Ranevsky. Anya reports that her mother
has sold her villa at Mentone and has no money left. When Anya asks about
the financial condition of the estate, Varya has bad news: It, too, must
be sold. Then Anya asks whether Lopakhin has proposed to Varya. She says
no, adding that he pays little attention to her and that nothing will come
of their relationship. Anya goes into her room, followed by Varya, who
stands at the door.
Dunyasha returns with the pot and begins to make coffee, Yasha crosses
the room with a traveling bag and shawl.
hardly knew you, Yasha, says Dunyasha. u0093You have changed abroad.u0094
does not recognize her at first. When she tells him that she is the daughter
of Theodore Kozoyedov, he embraces her and she drops and breaks a saucer.
Anya comes back into the nursery and says thoughtfully, u0093Father died six
years ago, and a month later my brother Grisha was drowned in the riveru0097such
a dear little boy of seven! Mother couldn't bear it; she went away, away,
without looking round. . . . How I understand her; if only she knew! And
Peter Trofimov was Grisha's tutor. . . .u0094
enters and barks a command to Dunyasha to get cream for the coffee. She
runs for it. Fiers fusses around the coffee pot, mumbling. When Varya asks
him what he is saying, he expresses joy that Ranevsky has returned. u0093I've
lived to see her!u0094 he says. u0093Don't care if I die now.u0094
enters with Gaev, Lopakhin, and Simeonov-Pischin. Being in the nursery
makes Gaev recall childhood days.
upon a time you and I used both to sleep in this room, and now I'm fifty-one,u0094
he says to his sister. u0093It does seem strangeu0094
announces she is going to bed and kisses her mother. Gaev and Lopakhin
kiss her hand. Fiers brings coffee for Ranevsky and places a cushion under
her feet. u0093Thank you, dear old man,u0094 she says. u0093I'm so glad you're still
tells Ranevsky that Gaev thinks him a usurer and a snob. But, he says,
u0093Let him talk.u0094 However, he wishes she would u0093believe in me as you once
did. My father was the serf of your grandfather and your own father, but
you did so much for me once upon a time that I've forgotten everything
and love you as if you belonged to my family . . . .u0094
Lopakhin Announces Plan
gets up and walks around to look at familiar objects such as her u0093dear
little cupboardu0094 and u0093little table.u0094 Lopakhin has a train to catch, but
before leaving he says he has news for Ranevsky that will lift her spirits.
First, he says, her estate is due to be auctioned on August 22. However,
he says, he has a plan to save the estate.
estate is only thirteen miles from the town, the railway runs by, and if
the cherry orchard and the land by the river are broken up into building
lots and are then leased off for villas you'll get at least twenty-five
thousand roubles a year profit out of it.u0094
she begins advertising immediately, he maintains, all the vacant lots will
be leased by autumn. To prepare the land, however, she will have to demolish
the house and other buildings and cut down the cherry orchard. Ranevsky
balks at this proposition.
there's anything interesting or remarkable in the whole province,u0094 she
says, u0093it's this cherry orchard of ours.u0094
she does not approve his plan, Lopakhin says, the entire estate will go
to the highest bidder on August 22.
the old days, forty or fifty years back,u0094 says Fiers, u0093they dried the cherries,
soaked them and pickled them, and made jam of them . . . then sent the
dried cherries off in carts to Moscow and Kharkov. And money! And the dried
cherries were soft, juicy, sweet, and nicely scented. . .
notes that country estates, or villas, are springing up around towns everywhere,
for there are many people now eager to lease them.
and Yasha come in. Varya unlocks a cupboard and takes from it two telegrams
for Ranevsky from Paris. But she tears them up without reading them, saying,
u0093I've done with Paris.u0094 Lopakhin leaves, reminding Ranevsky to keep in
mind his plan for villas.
Lopakhin is gone, Gaev, says, u0093Snob. Still, I beg pardon. . . . Vary's
going to marry him.u0094
says Gaev talks too much, but Ranevsky says she would be happy to see Varya
marry Lopakhin. Pischin says Lopakhin is a good man, then asks Ranevsky
to lend him two hundred forty roubles so he can pay the interest on his
mortgage. But Varya and Madame say they have not money to spare.
opens a window, and Ranevsky and Gaev look out and admire the orchard and
its flowers. Peter Trofimov comes in to welcome Ranevsky. He reminds her
that he was once the tutor of Grisha.
Grisha . . . my boy . . . my Grisha . . . my son,u0094 she says.
renews his plea for a loan, and Ranevsky gives in and tells Gaev to give
it to him.
muses about ways to raise money to save the estate, saying, u0093It would be
nice to inherit a fortune from somebody, it would be nice to marry our
Anya to a rich man, it would be nice to go to Yaroslav and try my luck
with my aunt the Countess. My aunt is very, very rich.u0094 The trouble is,
though, that the countess does not like Madame Ranevsky because she did
not marry a nobleman and because she behaves in a way contrary to the countess's
comes back into the nursery, saying she cannot sleep. Gaev talks more about
schemes to raise money, and Anya says, u0093How good and clever you are, Uncle.u0094
The room clears after
everyone goes to get some rest.
Gather in a Field
the family members and their friends are together again, they are in a
field with poplars, behind which are the cherry trees. Sitting on a garden
bench are Charlotta, Yasha, and Dunyasha. Charlotta muses that she does
not know her true identity, for her parents died when she was very young
and a German woman reared her. She does recall, however, that her parents
used to take her to fairs, where she performed the salto
mortale. She says she likes to talk but never has anybody to talk
plays a guitar and sings. Then he stops and, speaking to Yasha, says he
is educated but has no direction in life. Therefore, he says, he does not
know whether he should live or die. Just in case he chooses dying, he says,
he carries a revolver with him. He shows it to Yasha. Charlotta leaves,
again bemoaning that she has no friends to talk to. She always feels alone,
she says, adding "I don't know who I am or why I live."
tells Dunyasha he wants to speak with her alone. She agrees to meet with
him and tells him go inside and fetch her cloak, saying it is damp outside.
After he leaves, Yasha kisses her, and she tells him she loves him. She
regards him as superior to the bumbling Epikhodov. When Madame Ranevsky,
Gaev, and Lopakhin approach, Dunyasha quickly kisses Yasha back, then runs
off. A short while later, Yasha also leaves the scene.
makes further efforts to persuade Ranevsky and Gaev to agree to his plan
to construct and lease villas on the land. But Ranevsky continues to reject
the plan, as does Gaev. Lopakhin, irked, walks away. But Ranevsky calls
after him, begging him to stay. He remains. Then she says, "We have been
too sinful." When Lopakhin asks what sins she has committed, she mentions
her spendthrift ways and her decision to marry a man who turned out to
be a good-for-nothing and "died of champagne." Another bad choice, she
says, was to take up with a man who humiliated her in France, causing her
to attempt suicide by poison.
a tipsy tramp wanders onto the grounds when Ranevsky, Lopakhin, Gaev, Varya,
Anya, and Trofimov are conversing. Trofimov is railing against those who
fail to work hard to achieve their goals and who treat peasants like animals.
When the tramp asks for thirty copecks, Ranevsky
gives him a gold coin. Varya chides her for providing the money at a time
when u0093there's nothing for the servants to eat.u0094
this incident, everyone goes inside except Anya and Trofimov. It is one
of the few occasions that they can talk when no one else is around. Trofimov
says, u0093Varya's afraid we may fall in love with each other and won't get
away from us for days on end. Her narrow mind won't allow her to understand
that we are above love. To escape all the petty and deceptive things which
prevent our being happy and free, that is the aim and meaning of our lives.u0094Anya
tells him that the cherry orchard does not mean as much to her as it used
thought there was no better place in the world than our orchard," she says.
then tells her that the orchard is a symbol of oppression inasmuch as it
was the product of the serfs who were owned by u0093your grandfather, your
great-grandfather, and all your ancestors.u0094
Auction Day Arrives
the summer wears on, so do Ranevsky's financial woes. What is more, no
one has taken any action to save the estate. When the day of the auction
arrives, Ranevsky gives a party at which Charlotta performs magic tricks
before the guests, including the postmaster and other local government
officials. Lopakhin comes in from the auction and announces that he has
bought the estate. The news appalls Ranevsky. Lopakhin, after all, was
the son of a serfu0097a lowly peasant whom her family formerly owned.
after the auction, the house stands nearly empty: no curtains, no pictures
on the walls. The house is now only an echo of what it used to be. Lopakhin
to look after the estate while he carries out plans for conversion of it
into a colony of villas. Varya, who worked hard to maintain and save the
estate, takes a job as housekeeper to the Ragulin family. Gaev takes a
job at a bank. Pischin comes by to see everyone. He announces that Englishmen
have found white clay on his land and taken out a twenty-four-year lease.
With his windfall, he immediately begins paying back what he owes.
says, "Good-bye, home! Good-bye, old life!"
Trofimov says, "Welcome, new life."
says, "My dead, my gentle, beautiful orchard! My life, my youth, my happiness,
has decided to return to Parisu0097to
the man who took advantage of her. Anya will be accompanying her.
was instructed to make arrangements for old Fiers, now drifting into senility,
to go to a hospital. But Yasha simply passed the instructions to another
servant, and they were never carried out. Consequently, when everyone leaves,
no one realizes that Fiers is still in the house. He hears the turn of
a key locking the door, then the rumble of carriages, and then the sound
of an axe driving into a cherry tree.
says, "It's locked. They've gone away. [Sits on a sofa] They've forgotten
about me. . . . Never mind, I'll sit here. . . . Oh, these young people!
[Mumbles something that cannot be understood] Life's gone on as if I'd
never lived. [Lying down] I'll lie down. . . . You've no strength left
in you, nothing left at all. . . ."
dies when an axe bites again into a cherry tree.
Effects of Change
main theme of the play is how changes in Russian social, economic, and
cultural life affect Madame Ranevsky and her daughters as well as her friends,
her acquaintances, and the servants on her estate. Madame Ranevsky refuses
to accept change, preferring instead to hold onto the pastu0097or
at least the remnants and memories of it. She even spends as she did when
she had money, driving herself deeper and deeper into debt.
shares his sister's fondness for the aristocratic past, but in the end
he yields to the reality of the present and takes a job at a bank. His
decision to accept a position that he believes is below his social station
no doubt resonates with elite modern workers forced by economic hard times
to accept menial labor.
embraces change, for it has allowed him to rise from poverty to wealth
and the social power that goes with it. But he tends to focus so much on
material gain that he ignores Varya. She loves him, and he is fond of her.
In Act 3, Varya tells Ranevsky,
can't propose to him myself, little mother. People have been talking about
him to me for two years now, but he either says nothing, or jokes about
it. I understand. He's getting rich, he's busy, he can't bother about me.
If I had some money, even a little, even only a hundred roubles, I'd throw
up everything and go away. I'd go into a convent........Others
do not know how to respond to change. Epikhodov,
for example, says to Yasha, "I'm an educated man, I read various remarkable
books, but I cannot understand the direction I myself want to gou0097whether
to live or to shoot myself, as it were. So, in case, I always carry a revolver
about with me." Charlotta exists in a vacuum: "I don't know who I am or
why I live." Old Fiers freezes time, choosing to live and work exactly
as he did when he was a serf bound to the land. Trofimov condemns the oppressive
days of serfdom and welcomes what lies ahead of him. He tells Anya,
All Russia is
our orchard. The land is great and beautiful, there are many marvellous
places in it. [Pause] Think, Anya, your grandfather, your great-grandfather,
and all your ancestors were serf-owners, they owned living souls; and now,
doesn't something human look at you from every cherry in the orchard, every
leaf and every stalk? . . . [W]e've left those two hundred years behind
us. So far we've gained nothing at allu0097we don't yet know what the past
is to be to usu0097we only philosophize, we complain that we are dull, or we
drink vodka. For it's so clear that in order to begin to live in the present
we must first redeem the past, and that can only be done by suffering,
by strenuous, uninterrupted labour. Understand that, Anya. (Act 2)Anya responds positively to
his viewpoint. Then he says,
I'm not thirty
yet, I'm young, I'm still a student, but I have undergone a great deal!
I'm as hungry as the winter, I'm ill, I'm shaken. I'm as poor as a beggar,
and where haven't I beenu0097fate has tossed me everywhere! But my soul is
always my own; every minute of the day and the night it is filled with
unspeakable presentiments. I know that happiness is coming, Anya, I see
it already. . . . (Act 2)Dunyasha's response to change
is to try to look and act like a lady. Lopakhin, noticing this behavior
in her, reminds her that she is maidservant, saying, "You dress just like
a lady, and you do your hair like one too. You oughtn't. You should know
your place" (Act 1). Then she tries to latch onto Yasha, viewing him as
superior to the bumbling Epikhodov. But Yasha is a bad choice, for he is
self-seeking and insensitiveu0097perhaps not unlike the man waiting for Madame
Ranevsky in Paris. When Ranevsky decides to return to Paris, Yasha chooses
to go with her. Here is the parting conversation between Dunyasha and Yasha.
DUNYASHA. If you
only looked at me once, Yasha. You're going away, leaving me behind. [Weeps
and hugs him round the neck.]
One may say that Dunyasha
has achieved her goal of becoming like a ladyu0097namely, Madame Ranevsky,
who allows a scoundrel to misuse her.
YASHA. What's the use
of crying ? [Drinks champagne] In six days I'll be again in Paris. To-morrow
we get into the express and off we go. I can hardly believe it. Vive la
France! It doesn't suit me here, I can't live here . . . it's no good.
Well, I've seen the uncivilized world; I have had enough of it. [Drinks
champagne] What do you want to cry for? You behave yourself properly, and
then you won't cry.
DUNYASHA. [Looks in a
small mirror and powders her face] Send me a letter from Paris. You know
I loved you, Yasha, so much! I'm a sensitive creature, Yasha. (Act 4)
social gap between the upper and lower classes is beginning to close in
the new Russia, as Fiers points. Once upon a time, he says, "The peasants
kept their distance from the masters and the masters kept their distance
from the peasants, but now everything's all anyhow and you can't understand
anything" (Act 2).
the gap is still wide enough to create tension. For example, when Lopakhin
broaches the idea of idea cutting down the cherry orchard to make room
for money-making villas, Ranevsky calls the plan a vulgar, bourgeois concept.
Class differences surface again when a discussion is under way about how
to save the estate and Gaev says, "My aunt's very rich, but she doesn't
like us. My sister, in the first place, married an advocate, not a noble.
She not only married a man who was not a noble, but she behaved herself
in a way which cannot be described as proper" (Act 1).
time to time in the play, Lopakhinu0097though a wealthy businessmanu0097acknowledges
his humble origins, with regret. For example, he says, "My father was a
peasant, an idiot, he understood nothing, he didn't teach me, he was always
drunk, and always used a stick on me. In point of fact, I'm a fool and
an idiot too. I've never learned anything, my handwriting is bad, I write
so that I'm quite ashamed before people, like a pig!" (Act 2).
to Grasp Reality
Ranevsky fails to grasp the seriousness of her financial straits and the
fact that the age of nobility and privilege is dying. It is as if she thinks
a god will appear, deus ex machina, to lead her to a pot of gold and restore
her to the happy days of her youth. When she imagines that she sees her
mother in the cherry orchard, she reveals her tendency to dwell in the
idyllic past and ignore the unsettling reality of the present.
Ranevsky makes choices that sabotage her well-beingu0097emotional,
financial, and otherwise. For example, she marries a man who turns out
to be a good-for-nothing drunk. Then, after her husband dies and her seven-year-old
son drowns, she takes up with a scoundrel, a man whom she nurses during
an illness. After he depletes her finances in Paris, he leaves her for
another woman. Later, he begs her to return. Meanwhile, she and her brother
have an opportunity to liquidate their debts by signing on to Lopakhin's
scheme to build and rent villas. But both she and Gaev refuse to take part
in it because it will mean the destruction of the beloved cherry orchard.
However, she does nothing to save her property. In the end, after Lopakhin
buys the property, she returns to the man who ruined her. Anya goes with
sabotage their welfare by doing nothing to improve their lot. Trofimov
attends a university, but one wonders whether he will ever graduate. Epikhodov
does not know whether to go on living or commit suicide.
all her failings, Ranevsky has a redeeming quality: generosity. She gives
freely of her loveu0097perhaps
too freely at timesu0097and
of what little money she has left, as the incident involving the tramp
demonstrates. Lopakhin also exhibits generosity when he offers Trofimov
money (Trofimov does not accept it) and hires Epikhodov to watch over the
estate after Madame Ranevsky returns to Paris.
climax occurs in Act 4 when Lopakhin announces that he has purchased Ranevsky's
property. He says,
The cherry orchard
is mine now, mine! [Roars with laughter] My God, my God, the cherry orchard's
mine! Tell me I'm drunk, or mad, or dreaming. . . . [Stamps his feet] Don't
laugh at me! If my father and grandfather rose from their graves and looked
at the whole affair, and saw how their Ermolai, their beaten and uneducated
Ermolai, who used to run barefoot in the winter, how that very Ermolai
has bought an estate, which is the most beautiful thing in the world! I've
bought the estate where my grandfather and my father were slaves, where
they weren't even allowed into the kitchen. I'm asleep, it's only a dream,
an illusion. . . . It's the fruit of imagination, wrapped in the fog of
the unknown. Conflict
central conflict of the play is the battle between the values of the old
Russia and the values of the new Russia.
depicting Ranevsky's prodigality, Chekhov is satirizing the extravagance
of aristocrats with inherited wealth who never held a job and never learned
the value of a single kopeck. In depicting Trofimov's idealism, Chekhov
appears to be satirizing visionaries who are all talk but no action. Instead
of acting to further his ideals, Trofimovu0097who
is nearly thirtyu0097continues
to attend the university as a "perpetual student."
To Madame Ranevsky, the cherry orchard represents the flowering of gentility
and refinement in the good old days at her estate. To Trofimov, the orchard
represents the serfdom and oppression of the people who tended the property
in bygone days. To Lopakhin, it represents commercialism and money. Lopakhin
views other plant life in the same way.
In the spring
I sowed three thousand acres of poppies, and now I've made forty thousand
roubles net profit. And when my poppies were in flower, what a picture
it was! So I, as I was saying, made forty thousand roubles. . . . . (Act
purse: In Act 2, while Ranevsky is outside with Gaev and Lopakhin,
she drops her purse. Gold coins scatter about. This incident symbolizes
Ranevksy's spendthrift ways.
Fiers' death at the end of the play symbolizes the death of the old Russia.
Nursery: This room
in the Ranevsky estate symbolizes the comfortable and secure past of Ranevsky
and Gaev. Moreover, it suggests that Ranevsky and Gaev still act like children
in many ways.
The line of telegraph poles symbolizes the modern world that Ranevsky and
The keys symbolize the control and order typifying her management of the
estate, qualities lacking in Ranevsky and Gaev.
play concludes with a supreme irony. Ranevsky, who once had power and money,
ends up with next to nothing. Lopakhin, who once had nothing as the son
of a serf, ends up as a man of power and wealth who owns the Ranevsky estate.
the frost (stage directions, beginning of the play) damages the cherry
blossoms is unknown. (Cherry orchards are especially vulnerable to a killing
frost.) But the frost nonetheless seems to foreshadow the loss of the cherry
orchard and the rest of the Ranevsky estate. In Act 4, Lopakhin acquires
the estate and begins felling the cherry trees to make way for the
construction of villas.
Henry Thomas Buckle (1821-1861), English historian famous for his unfinished
of Civilization in England.
(or kopeck): Monetary unit equaling 1/100 of a rouble.
Nurseries; day-care centers.
Dessiatine, a land measurement equal to about 2.7 acres.
German for one, two, three.
thee to a nunnery
(Act 2): Allusion to Shakespeare's Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Hamlet
speaks this line (3.1.121) in rebuffing Ophelia.
Fermented drink made from
bread, rye, and barley.
cavaliers à genou et remerciez vos dames!:
Gentlemen, go down on your knees and thank your ladies.
Magdalen" by Tolstoy:
Poem by Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy (1817-1875) about an immoral woman.
Menton, a resort town on the French Riviera in southern France.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900), German philosopher famous for
his declaration that "God is dead."
remember me in thine orisons
(Act 2): Allusion to Shakespeare's Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. The
words paraphrase what Hamlet says to Ophelia in the first scene of Act
3, lines 88-89: "Nymph, in thy orisons / Be all my sins remember'd." Orisons
à une paire:
Dance for couples.
(or ruble): Basic monetary unit of Russia.
Full somersault with the legs
drawn up to the chest.
Summer country house.
Questions and Essay Topics
Who is the most admirable character
in the play? Who is the least admirable?
Varya and Lopakhin seem to be
a good match. Both are practical-minded, hard-working, and competent in
the management of financial affairs. Ranevsky says, "You know very well,
Ermolai Alexeyevitch [Lopakhin], that I used to hope to marry her to you,
and I suppose you are going to marry somebody? She loves you, she's your
sort, and I don't understand, I really don't, why you seem to be keeping
away from each other. I don't understand!" Lopakhin replies, "To tell the
truth, I don't understand it myself. It's all so strange." But Lopakhin
never proposes and, by the end of the play, he and Varya go their separate
ways. Why? Is he perhaps reluctant to become involved with a family of
noble stock that once owned his father? Explain your answer.
How does the incident involving
the tramp help to define Madame Ranevsky's character?
Yasha is self-centered and obnoxious.
How does his presence help to define the other characters?
Is Epikhodov serious when he
says he is thinking about killing himself?
Write an essay explaining what
life was life for Russian serfs before their liberation in 1861.