The play “Three sisters” came to life in the 19th century and it contains many motives that can be found in most of the works from that time. Men were much more passive, questioned their existence and stopped fighting the outer world and started fighting with themselves which is notable in long inner monologues. Plays of that time gain a whole new perspective, change the exterior, deepen the psychological characterization and change the scenery. The ground basis of those plays struggled in every way: truth and justice confronted each other as well as men confronted their destinies, dreams and individuals confronted the society.
Chekhov showed the struggle with the motives he dragged through all of his works and some of them were spiritual ideals, life meaning, injustice, beauty in every form, boredom, emptiness, inequality and others. He described every possible character that existed in one nation and in social classes through common life situations. He chose to show everyday situations in a careful, artistic way by picking the perfect thesis. Peace, quietness, and music are the terms often related to Chekhov’s world. He doesn’t have a classic scenic confrontation in his plays and all of the events emerge from the psychological states, feelings and inner conflicts of the characters. Also, he insists on pointing out time passing by and it is often the ground base of his plays. The constant thinking about the future and time fleeing keeps the situations tense. Furthermore, he uses a lot of stage directions to profound the psychological and mental states of his characters so that the readers would have a better insight into the plot and the characters’ minds.
The usage of motives and his way of writing create a blurry and passive atmosphere in “Three sisters” where desperation and longing prevail.
The plot is based on the tragedy of the characters and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that, despite the eternal optimism, never go away. The play is an analysis of social, moral and psychological components. The three sisters embody beauty, class, elegance and desire for a better life but, because of their helplessness, they subject themselves to their brother’s wife’s will. Not listening to each other and not helping each other is a characteristic they all share.
The play has four acts and all of them happen peacefully with no major turn of events in any one of them. Everything happens in the 19th century in a little provincial Russian town where the family Prozorov lives: sisters Olga, Maria, Irina, Andrei. Even though they came to the city eleven years ago from Moscow, the Prozorov’s sister never got used to living in a small town. Moscow was the magic solution to the sisters’ problem and they wanted to go back there because for them it was the future where they will start a new life. The life they had in the small town for them was just a dream and a temporary state. The play also talks about the intellectuals of the small town who waste their power in the process of getting aware of their own helplessness. Happiness is a synonym for fruitless fantasies about a bright future and the only firm point is a home or an estate from which they are trying to run away.
The first act, described as a morning of hope, starts with a beautiful sunny day and the sisters are the center of attention. Irina was celebrating her birthday and she was the symbol of youth and spring, Olga was in charge of everything after their father passed away and Maria is a sister displeased with her marriage and unhappy about her wasted away youth.
The three sisters live with their brother Andrei after their father passes away. They come to a small town and want to go back to Moscow where they lived and studied. Andrei’s wife Natasha and her lover Protopopov make the sister’s life miserable and the beautiful home turns into a provincial house filled with lies and frauds. The whole melancholic atmosphere started to fill with more helplessness, sadness, and desperation.
In the first act, the main events are Irina’s celebration and the anniversary of their father’s death. The house is visited by military men Tuzenbach, Solyony, Fedotik Rode, Vershinin and the military doctor Chebutykin. Irina can’t hide her happiness and she also questions herself. Maria was whistling in hopes she’ll hide her point of view of her sister’s happiness and tried to get her mind off of her failed marriage and wasted youth but Irina kept on spreading her happiness. The house filled with joy but also with sadness, lies, and inhumanity. In the meantime, they all discussed philosophic works and happiness they brought to men, life’s meaning and then Vershinin came. He was a lieutenant colonel and he admired the sisters’ beauty and how they grew up.
After their talk, the sisters started longing for Moscow so they started asking questions about it. In the meantime, Andrei started to play the violin and later on he joined the conversation. Soon after, Kulygin came to congratulate Irina on her birthday. The whole event was accompanied by beautiful, sunny spring weather which was also a symbol of a happy beginning that fades away with time. They started drinking and some of them started to leave. At the end of the act, Natasha’s displeasure about her not being accepted by the guests emerges and Andrei comforts her with kind words and admits his love for her. His confession will, later on, turn into an engagement. He did it a bit fast and afterwards, he regretted his actions.
The second act is mostly composed without any special events. Each of the characters lives their own life expecting a new celebration which will bring joy and happiness to their home. Ferapont came and talked to Andrei about his current state and the Moscow University. Maria and Vershinin came and they become the center of attention. Vershinin declares his love for her and she complains about her husband. Irina and Tusebach enter the scene and start their own dialogue. She came back from work and talked about an incident that occurred. In the meantime, we found out that Andrei started to gamble again and that he lost a lot of money so Natasha took the lead and he had to subject himself to her. In the end, the characters discuss life and drink together. Natasha prohibited any house celebrations that weren’t her taste and she used her son as an excuse to do it. Afterwards she went on a ride with her lover Protopopov.
The third act begins with a culmination when a fire breaks out somewhere in the town. The beginning of it is filled with catastrophic details and everything happens four years in the future. The Prozorov’s house was on fire and the sister’s hopes, enthusiasm, and faith burned with it. Through the whole event inner and outer motives interfere. The sisters find out that Andrei gambled the house away and remember nostalgically the days they had faith in him and on the other side Ferapont makes a joke about Moscow being on fire in 1812 and it breaks the sister’s hopes and dreams because Moscow was also burning in their hearts. Andrei was cold and indifferent to the whole situation and he just played his violin. Many sounds and noises are heard such as the violin, sisters’ screams, sirens, street shouts…
Natasha walks around the house with a candle as if she was the one who set the fire. The only realist between the sisters is Masha who was aware of Natasha’s destructiveness and Andrei’s inability to stand up to her. In the meantime, Natasha’s only concern was that her children don’t get ill and she fired their housekeeper Anfisa after insulting her. Natasha’s real personality was completely shown in these situations. Other things take place and make the situation even more desperate. Chebutkin was drunk and smashed a clock which reminded the sisters of their mother and Moscow and then he judged himself for not being able to save some woman and keeps on drinking. In his drunk state, he insulted the sisters’ memory of Moscow and their mother who he used to love in the past. Maria admitted her love for Vershinin and Kulygin pick the broken pieces off of the floor as if he was picking the pieces of his own marriage with Maria. Andrei, still unaware of the fact that he had lost the key to his sisters’ hearts, asks Olga for some lost key. Irina agrees to marry Tusenbach, even though she didn’t love him, just so she could go back to Moscow. All of their talents, virtues and knowledge are under lock and key, lost and useless.
In the fourth act, the soldiers leave the city and say goodbye to the sisters in a dark and sad atmosphere. Their act is called fall of forgiveness. The real wheatear is a part of the play, it changes the atmosphere and changes its own meaning. Everything starts off as a spring morning of hopes and ends with a fall day in which all of the hopes turn into dust. It gives the play a higher dimension common in tragedies and linked to the unstoppable forces that rule people’s lives. In the beginning, it seemed as if the sisters had an opportunity to start a new life but in the end, it all ends up being fake. Solyony is attacked by Tusenbach because he was also in love with Irina.
Tusenbach died in the fight and Chebutkin was a passive viewer who did nothing to stop the two of them from fighting. Irina changed her job and still hated it because it only reminded her of time that was passing by. Olga became an administrator and went to live in an apartment with Anafisa. The fourth act is filled with departures and goodbyes and the sisters leave their home forever. The fall day doesn’t only bring sadness and melancholy but also suggests life maturity and experience. Natasha walked around the house giving orders. The sisters’ hope didn’t disappear for good but the end of the play doesn’t provide a variety of options for them. The play stays partially unfinished and the future of its characters is unpredictable and left to the reader’s imagination.
It ends with monologs of the sisters and they say them accompanied by the music and soldiers leaving the town. The monologs reveal that they are aware that nothing good comes with the future and how they are condemned to a meaningless life.
Time: 19th century
Characters: Irina, Olga, Maria, Andrei, Natasha, Chebutkin, Vershinin, Fedotik, Rode, Ferapont, Anfisa, Solyony, Tusenbach…
Olga is the oldest one. She works as a professor and she wants to have a husband to feel that her life is more fulfilled. As well as her sisters she wants to go back to Moscow. Since she was the oldest she took care of everything after their father died. She hated her life and generally her existence, life obligations… Her job keeps her under the impression that she lived through everything she needed and that she was too old for anything else. She doesn’t have a lot of hope like the others. The only thing that keeps her going is the thought of going back to Moscow.
Maria was well aware of the fact that she married too early. She was only eighteen at the time. She didn’t experience happiness and thought that she had wasted her marriage with Kulygin. Maria was, as her others sisters, very well educated and the fact that neither one of them could use their knowledge for something was killing her because they could only work without poetry and without thoughts. She was in a constant battle between her dreams and making them come true. Near the end of the play, she admitted her love for Vershinin who showed great affection for her.
Irina also thought that she would find love and happiness in Moscow so she rejected every man who approached her. She is the youngest one. Irina believed that work fulfills and build a man up. Time passing by terrified her and everyone always perceived her as a little girl while she wanted to feel older and have more obligations.
Natasha was Andrei’s fiancée and later on his wife. In the peak of the third and fourth act, she revealed her true self. Through the whole play, she was under the radar and she was cold to her housekeeper and babysitter. Andrei didn’t know why he loved her that much but with time his feelings fade away. Natasha had a lover and after chasing everyone out of her house she went away with him. Her character is very negative and after she moves in with the Prozorov’s she spreads her negative energy.
Andrei lost all love for his work after his father died. He was the projections of his sister’s ambitions but he was too lazy to make a real man out of himself. He always aimed for a high position at a university but he never worked for it. Natasha and her lover manipulated him. Andrei had no interest for life and wasn’t very active. He is the symbol of the social and spiritual decadence of the Prozorovs.
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov Biography
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was born in 1860 in Ukraine. He finished high school in his hometown and went to med school in Moscow. He had a heart condition and married the actress O. L. Knipper
As a student, he started writing and except for plays he also wrote novels and stories. His best works are mostly short stories. Chekov had a great influence on the development of playwriting.
Some of his most famous works are : “Uncle Vanya”, “Three sisters”, “The Cherry Orchard”.
He wrote short stories about people who were changed by the social reality. His plots are simple with no big heroes or events. He died in Badenweiler hospital in 1904.