Panchronic comedy: past to future trajectory of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard
FOXCROFT, NIGEL (2011) Panchronic comedy: past to future trajectory of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard Sun Yat-sen Journal of Humanities, 30 . pp. 139-53. ISSN 1024-3131
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In consideration of whether (or not) characters can change their future, Chekhov’s original intention as to the atmosphere of The Cherry Orchard has been much misunderstood by directors (e.g. Stanislavsky) and critics alike; his play was conceived as being not a tragedy but a comedy. This necessitates a full consideration of the nature of Chekhovian humour and its links to ‘laughter through tears’ in Dead Souls, Gogol’s spiritual odyssey. Chekhov’s comic protagonists highlight certain attributes of Mrs Lyuba Ranevsky’s character, the dominant theme being the inescapability of socio-economic transformation. Indeed, nearly every character is observed in relationship to status and wealth. As the epitome of change, the self-made, pragmatic merchant, Lopakhin acts as a bridge between the past and the present, between the old world and the new, though, like Chekhov himself, he is receptive to literature, theatre, and beauty. Combining naturalism and symbolism, The Cherry Orchard emphasizes psychology of character rather than plot. Influenced by the plight of the ‘superfluous man’ in Ivan Turgenev’s works, Chekhov presents us with the transformation of the Russian intellectual into Trofimov, the idealist thinker. Seen by different characters in different ways, the crucial image of the Cherry Orchard itself spans personal memories and historical events. In Chekhov’s own blend of panchronic comedy, its axe connects the past to the future destiny of Mother Russia on the threshold of a new revolutionary era.
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