The play, The Three Sisters was written by Russian author Anton Chekhov in 1900 and first produced in 1901. This play was most probably inspired by the life of the three Bronte sisters.
Chekhov is known for his realism. Realism is an important tool in his writings. They tend to be naturalistic and towards reality and real life.
Act III, from “They bring in things for tea” to the end of the act, pp.284-292.
The Three Sisters is a naturalistic play about the death of traditionalism and a journey of finding meaning of life in the modern world. The characters are ordinary and their lives are ordinary. The play revolves around three sisters, their family, their stressed lives and the notion of having a life in Moscow. The three sisters: Olga, Masha and Irina are torn between choices and their confused lives. They are either in a tangle or are just entering it. All of the characters in the play are fed up of the way their lives have turned out and are in search of meaning in the modern world.
Olga is the eldest and a headmistress at a school for girls, Masha is married and is stubborn and Irina is the youngest and a dreamer. The play revolves around the three sisters’ house and family members. The three sisters have a brother, André, and his wife Natasha and a house keeper, Anfisa. There are other characters too like Vershinin, the soldiers and the three sisters’ mother’s friend, Chebutykin.
Olga is a headmistress and she is the wisest among the sisters. She is unmarried and acts very motherly to her sisters and even to Anfisa. Masha has a short temper, distaste in marriage-even her own, and she has a strong loathing for Natasha. Irina is very childlike, although she says in Act I that she has grown up. She is the baby of the family and has a very jolly nature.
The sisters have one goal in common. They all wish and dream of going back to Moscow. They have associated a life in Moscow that is happy and perfect in all ways unlike their own, which is troubled. Moscow is linked with happiness as the sisters aspire to go there and live a life that is happy and untroubled. The sisters are not pleased with the way their lives have turned out to be. Each one of them is unhappy and depressed. Even their brother is not happy with his life. The three sisters and their brother live in the past and wish to go back to Moscow where according to their beliefs they’ll live a happy and peaceful life without any worries.
Moscow is a symbolic symbol and has been mentioned many times throughout the play. The three sisters and their brother have stated their dreams and ambitions and desire to go to Moscow plenty of times. Moscow is like a safe haven for them. It is like a solace; a hideout from the cruel life and evil world. However, the irony of the situation is that as the lay ends, we learn that they never go to Moscow.
This is a realistic play, so the characters are busy with their work onstage as they act. There is a background and a foreground and the stage is always busy with action. Also, we can see that the sisters are never left alone. They have no scene alone. They are always in the company of others. This is a symbolic way to show the busy, troubled, chaotic and apprehensive lives of the three sisters. Chekhov has shown action in every character’s dialogue. These characters show the audience the reality of the situation as they perform activities while saying their lines. Unlike Shakespearean plays, which were full of drama, these characters reflect everyday lives. The Shakespearean characters had no action other than delivering the content. Shakespeare focused on the dialogues and costume and set whereas Chekhovian style gives less importance to these things. The content, the subject and the matter hold great importance to Chekhov’s plays. The action is vital in Chekhovian plays. Chekhov knows that action is important for realism. His plays gradually reveal what a person’s character really is.
In this play, the three sisters along with other characters lose something they cherish and want to hold on to forever. Olga loses her youth, for she never marries and spends her life caring for others. Irina forgets what she was taught, Chebutykin loses his skills as a doctor and André loses his ambition to become a scientist. The sisters also lose their house. Natasha is a very greedy woman and the three sisters lose their house to her.
As the play advances on, the world of the three sisters disappears and life sets in. We see that even though the three sisters lose their house and never visit Moscow, they are still hoping and living their lives. The play shows a great deal of realism throughout the end: crisis strikes but life goes on, the way life happens and doesn’t stop.
The play has four acts and time lapse of four years but Chekhov has placed timings such that it’s like one day has passed in the three sisters’ lives. The setting has a symbolic relationship to the meaning of the play. We see how the three sisters are repressed act by act and by the end are thrown out of their own house. There is a debate about the Future throughout the play and there are so many references to time, past and the present.
The space setting has a symbolic relationship to the meaning of the play. The stage has two parts; the background and the foreground. We see life happening in both of them. The characters are not for a second left alone on the stage. They are always in the presence of others. This shows how open and distressed their lives are.
The three sisters never find out the solution to the problems. They watch their dream of going back to Moscow die and they have to seek out the answer to the meaning of life themselves.