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“The Marriage Proposal” by Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov is considered to be one of the most notable and acknowledged Russian playwrights among the world. His unique approach to writing plays is shown in their structure, themes, and language. Chekhov is primarily known for his significant dramatic masterpieces, including “Three Sisters” and “Uncle Vanya”, but it is important to notice that his creative path in dramaturgy began with the works in less serious genres, such as vaudeville. Those early plays are essential because they contain the origins of Chekhov’s unique style of writing.

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As I was asked to watch the staging of “The Marriage Proposal” (1888), a one-act vaudeville, I would reflect on its artistic features in order to reveal the peculiarities of Chekhov’s approach to creating the dramatic action. The plot of the piece is quite simple, since the play contains only one act: Lomov, a 35 years old landowner, visits his neighbor Chubukov to ask for his daughter’s hand (Chekhov 2). Chubukov is genuinely happy with the news, but he forgets to notify his daughter Natalia about the purpose of Lomov’s visit. The situational humor of the play is based on that misunderstanding: the characters begin to argue about a piece of land which would ultimately become their mutual property if they are getting married. When Natalia finally finds out about Lomov’s intentions, she forgets about their argument but the plighted lovers involve into another dispute about whose dog is better.

On the surface level, the play is an example of the vaudeville, since the action is fast-paced, the humor is primarily situational, and the characters are caught in misunderstanding of the situation. But what is amusing is the Chekhov’s execution of the vaudeville genre in order to produce not only comic effect. Early plays by Chekhov were criticized on the grounds of their discrepancy to the canon of the genre, since they lacked the development of action and there was too much domestic details. However, this criticism derived from the misunderstanding of the Chekhov’s method of dramaturgy. Firstly, his intention was to show the everyday life in its routine details. Secondly, even in such lightweight genre as vaudeville, he applied his own vision of comedy that could be described as the laughter combined with the poignancy. It will later fully flourish in his masterpieces, but the rudiments of Chekhov’s approach are found in his early works.

Personally, I was quite impressed with “The Marriage Proposal”. Foremost, it is a comedy play, and it serves that purpose with the excellence. Since it is dialogue-based and lasts only one act, the main focus is on the language. Chekhov portrays his characters through their speech, fulfilling the comic function, as well as the function of characters’ development. Another interesting trait of the play which should be considered is the development of the plot since it does not follow the vaudeville pattern. Usually, the story in vaudeville revolves around intrigues of some sort; the characters act to solve their problems, and it keeps the plot going. But in “The Marriage Proposal” the plot is driven by the inability to act, and when the proposal is finally made, it is not likely to call the ending happy. This is the most impressive feature of the play, in my opinion, because even in the genre of vaudeville Chekhov was able to express (even though it is implicit) the bitter feeling of people’s detachment and inability to hear each other. In general, I enjoyed the play quite a lot, and after watching it, I am willing to explore Chekhov’s artistic world further.

Works Cited

Chekhov, Anton Pavlovich. A Marriage Proposal. Samuel French, 1942.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, January 9). “The Marriage Proposal” by Anton Chekhov. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/the-marriage-proposal-by-anton-chekhov/

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StudyCorgi. (2022, January 9). “The Marriage Proposal” by Anton Chekhov. https://studycorgi.com/the-marriage-proposal-by-anton-chekhov/

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StudyCorgi. "“The Marriage Proposal” by Anton Chekhov." January 9, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/the-marriage-proposal-by-anton-chekhov/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "“The Marriage Proposal” by Anton Chekhov." January 9, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/the-marriage-proposal-by-anton-chekhov/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) '“The Marriage Proposal” by Anton Chekhov'. 9 January.

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