Here are some of my favorite quotes from Anton Chekhov’s play The Seagull:
Dorn’s views on death:
“The fear of death is an animal fear. You’ve got to suppress it. It’s only religious people who consciously fear death-because they believe in a future life and are afraid they’ll be punished for their sins.”
Treplyov’s views on writing:
“We don’t have to depict life as it is, or as it ought to be, but as we see it in our dreams.”
“Everyone writes what he wants to and as he is able to.”
Dorn’s views on writing:
“A work of art must express a clear, definite idea. You must know what you are aiming at when you write, for if you follow the enchanted path of literature without a definite goal in mind, you’ll lose your way and your talent will ruin you.”
Trigorin’s view on writing:
“I’m obsessed day and night by one thought: I must write, I must write, I must write…For some reason, as soon as I’ve finished one novel, I feel I must start writing another, then another, then another…I write in a rush, without stopping, and can’t do anything else.”
“Yes, while I’m writing I enjoy it. I enjoy reading proofs, too, but…as soon as the thing comes out in print I can no longer bear it. I immediately see that it’s not what I intended, that it’s a mistake, that it oughtn’t to have been written at all, and I feel angry and depressed…And then the public reads it and says: ‘Yes, it’s charming, so cleverly done…Charming, but a far cry from Tolstoy.’…Or ‘A very fine piece of work, but Turgenev’s Fathers and Children is a better book.’And so it will go on till my dying day-everything will be charming and clever-nothing more. And when I die, my friends as they pass by my grave, will say: ‘Here lies Trigorin. He was a good writer, but not as good as Turgenev.'”
UNCLE VANYA by Anton Chekhov is a play that was published in 1899. The theme is preoccupied with ideas of aging and wasted life.
Here are some poignant quotes:
“The old are just the same as the little ones, they like someone to pity them—but nobody pities the old.”
“When people have no real life, they live on their illusions. Anyway, it’s better than nothing.”
“When our time comes w shall die submissively, and over there, beyond the grave we shall say that we’ve suffered, that we’ve wept, that we’ve had a bitter life, and God will take pity on us.”
“The people who come a hundred years or a couple of hundred years after us and despise us for having live in so stupid and tasteless a fashion- perhaps they’ll find a way to be happy…As for us… There’s only one hope for you and me…The hope that when we’re at rest in our graves we may see visions-perhaps even pleasant ones.”
In Act One of IVANOV by Anton Chekhov, Nikolay Alexeyevich Ivanov says
“Well, five years have passed, and she [his wife] still loves me, but I…Here you are, telling me she’s soon going to die, and I don’t feel any love or pity but just a sort of indifference and lassitude…”
While this language may suggest that Ivanov is melodramatic he is nothing but deeply depressed and disturbed.
To a modern reader, the first two acts and Ivanov’s honest declarations may appear false and insincere. But closer and further reading suggests the opposite. Ivanov does not love his sick wife because he does not love anything anymore. In Act Three, he says
“I knew what inspiration was then, I knew charms and poetry of those quiet nights when you sit at your desk working from sunset till dawn, or just sit and muse, and dream.”
Even though he’s only thirty five, he feels old and the soliloquy suggests a deep depression and a longing for his long lost youth. He struggles with the idea of watching his wife die but cannot bring himself to love or care for her. He feels nothing and it is this nothing that upsets him most. Unlike melodramatics, Ivanov is aware of his true feelings and is not playing them up. He refers to himself as Hamlet in at least three instances throughout the play but it is in Act Four that his words ring the most true.
Suicide is sometimes viewed by people with depression as the only way out of their particular situation. The language at the end of Act Four suggests that Ivanov sees no other alternatives:
“To realize that your life’s energy has gone for ever, that you’ve got rusty and stuck up to your neck in disgusting bog of melancholy…I still have some pride and conscious left.”
His suicide in the final line of the play further reiterates the idea that he is not merely pretending to be a victim but, in reality, is one.