Anton Chekhov (1860-1904)
The Cherry Orchard (1903)
In Act One, the major characters are all presented. Together with that, a general picture of their social relationship is portrayed.
1) Take a close look at the list of characters. Draw a chart of the social status of the characters and their inter-relationships. We have a landowner and her daughters, brother, her friends (another landowner, a governess), her maid, an old man servant of hers, a young valet. Together with them, we have a student and a merchant.
2) For your close analysis, you may want to focus on the relationship between the landowner and the merchant. On the one hand, the landowner's cherry orchard and her estate is to be sold to pay her debts, and on the other hand, the rich merchant who used to be the son of the landowner's serf is proposing to make the most of the profits of the land--i.e. to cut down the cherry orchard and divide the land up into units for summer villas.
3) What does the chart of characters tell you about social picture of the play?
4) What does the relationship between the landowner and the merchant tell you about these characters' changing status and situations?
5) More importantly, how does the playwright present these characters? Do you think he is harsh/critical to any one of these characters? For example, do you feel Lopahin, the merchant, is unpleasant, or do you like/dislike Lubov (Madame Ranevsky) because of the way she acts or is treated in the play? Why or why not?
6) Pick up any character that interests you and do a close characterization analysis of that character.
The play starts with the return of owner of the cherry orchard, Madame Ranevsky.
What kind of past events are revealed in this act?
What do we know about the landowner and her relationship with other characters in this play?
What event is foreshadowed in this act (e.g. the auction of the cherry orchard and possible solution for the landowner to keep her estate), and what impact does it have on these characters?
More significantly, what is happening in the present Except for Lopahin, who is in a hurry to go on for his next business trip, these characters seem to be doing nothing but talking about the past. What is pleasant about the past that they are sharing?
How is it contrasted to the present situation they are facing?
How do they avoid facing the present and the future by indulging in the past?
Try to give specific examples of the past experience they shared (e.g. Madame Ranevsky's experience in the cherry orchard, her past memories of the estate, bookcase, her experience in Paris, Anya's account of her traveling experience with her mother, Fir's experience of the past glory of the cherry orchard, or even Lopahin's account of his past with Madame Ranevsky.