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Ivanov
Written by Anton Chekhov
Date premiered 19 November 1887 (1887-11-19)
Original language Russian
Genre Realistic drama

Ivanov (Russian: Ivanov: Drama v chetyryokh deystviyakh) is a four-act drama by the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov.

Ivanov was first performed in 1887, when Fiodor Korsh, owner of the Korsh Theatre in Moscow, commissioned Chekhov to write a comedy. Chekhov, however, responded with a four-act drama, which he wrote in ten days. Despite the success of its first performance, the production disgusted Chekhov himself. In a letter to his brother, he wrote that he "did not recognise his first remarks as my own" and that the actors "do not know their parts and talk nonsense". Irritated by this failure, Chekhov made alterations to the play. Consequently the final version is different from that first showing. After this re-write, it was accepted to be performed in St. Petersburg in 1889. Checkov's re-write was a success and offered a foretaste for the style and themes of his subsequent masterpieces.[1]

Contents

Characters

  • Nikolai Ivanov - A government official concerned with peasant affairs, Chekhov paints him as the quintessentially melancholy Russian from the upper social strata. Severely afflicted by internal conflicts; his loss of appetite for life, love of his wife, and external pressures; managing his estate and his debts, collide in a melodramatic climax.
  • Anna (née Sarah Abramson) - Ivanov's wife of 5 years who (unknowingly) suffers from Tuberculosis. She renounced her Jewish heritage and converted to Russian Orthodox in order to marry Ivanov.
  • Paul Lebedev- Chairman of the rural district council. Confidante and good friend to Ivanov.
  • Zinaida - Lebedev's wife. She is a wealthy lender to whom Ivanov owes a large sum of money.
  • Sasha - The Lebedevs' 20-year-old daughter. She is infatuated with Ivanov, an infatuation which ends in her nearly marrying him.
  • Eugene Lvov - A pompous young doctor on the council's panel, and an honest man. Throughout the play, he moralizes and attacks Ivanov's character. He later resolves to reveal what he believes are Ivanov's intentions in marrying Sasha.
  • Count Matthew Shabelsky- Ivanov's maternal uncle, a geriatric buffoon.
  • Martha Babakin - A young widow, estate-owner, and the daughter of a rich businessman. She has a turbulent relationship with the Count.
  • Michael Borkin - A distant relative of Ivanov and manager of his estate. Somewhat of a jester, he comes out with many money-making schemes throughout the play - including his proposal for the Count and Martha Babakin to marry.
  • Dmitry Kosykh - An excise officer.

Synopsis

The play itself tells the story of Nikolai Ivanov. For the past five years, he has been married to Anna Petrovna who is currently very ill. Ivanov's estate is run by a distant relative, Mikhail Borkin, who is frequently advising people on how he can help them make money. The doctor, Lvov, an honest man as he frequently reminds the rest of the cast, informs Ivanov that his wife is dying of Tuberculosis, and that she needs rest in the Crimea. Unfortunately, Ivanov is unable to afford that, since he owes Zeenaeda Saveshna 9000 roubles. Many of the characters admonish Ivanov, who is spending time at Pavel Lyebedev's house rather than being with his sick wife. At the end of Act One, Ivanov departs to visit there, and is followed by Anna and Lvov.

Act Two shows a party at Lyebedev's, and features various people discussing Ivanov. They say his only motive for marrying Anna was for the large dowry, however when she married him, she converted from Judaism to Russian Orthodox and was disowned. Lyebedev is married to Saveshna, and they have a daughter, Sasha, whom Ivanov seems to be flirting with. The act concludes with the two kissing, something that is overseen by Anna, who faints.

Act Three shows a number of conversations between Ivanov and other members of the cast, varying from talks with Lyebedev about money, to Lvov about the way he treats Anna. The scene ends with Anna bursting in upon Ivanov and Sasha, who are simply talking, with the result that Ivanov blurts out that Anna is dying, a fact she (Anna) previously has not known.

Act Four occurs a year after the previous one. Anna has died, and Ivanov and Sasha are preparing to marry. As the wedding is about to begin, Lvov appears, unveils Ivanov's supposed intentions, simply to marry Sasha for the dowry, and calls him a cad. Ivanov draws a gun, but Sasha intervenes. Ivanov walks off stage and shoots himself. The play ends.

Adaptations

The play is frequently produced in English and several translations are available. The Vivian Beaumont Theater at the Lincoln Center in New York used a colloquial version from David Hare in 1997.[2] David Harrower's version was presented at the National Theatre, London, in 2002.[3] Using a translation by actress Helen Rappaport, Tom Stoppard adapted the play for a production at Wyndham's Theatre in London in 2008, starring Kenneth Branagh as Ivanov.[4][5]

References in other media

References

External links

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