Anton Chekhov Biography

Anton Chekhov Biography

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Anton Chekhov was a man and author who overcame many obstacles during the course of his life. His contributions to literature were immense, but it came only through hard work and many failed attempts that he became the great author he is known as today. He was the poster-boy for art mimicking life. What Chekhov experienced and learned through his past was revealed through his writing. This was especially true for his plays, in particularly The Cherry Orchard.
Anton Chekhov was born on January 17, 1860, in Taganrog, Russia. He was the grandson of a Russian serf, and his father had to escape creditors by sneaking off to Moscow. This abandonment by his father, and soon his whole family, though temporary, robbed Chekhov of a childhood (Kirk 17-18). He was often heard saying, “ In childhood I had no childhood” (Kirk 34). Anton, who was sixteen at the time, spent the next three years in a house that no longer belonged to his family, trying to make a living by doing odd jobs and tutoring. Though Chekhov was initiated into poverty and humiliation early in life, there were lighter moments in his youth, and in those moments he used to entertain his friends. This ability to see the comic in life was probably the source of a writer whose tragic sense of life was always tempered by simultaneous awareness of the ridiculous (Kirk 18).
At the age of twenty he attended medical school at the University of Moscow, and while at medical school, Chekhov also began writing to help support his family. “A Letter from Don Landowner Stephan Vladimirovich N., to his Learned Neighbor Dr. Friedrick” was Chekhov’s first published story, which appeared in the March issue of Dragonfly in 1880. Chekhov wrote under the pseudonym Antosha Chekhonte. Because of the support Anton provided for the family, both financially and emotionally, Anton’s older brother often called him “Father Antosha”; once again a burden had a comic aspect (Kirk 18-19). Anton graduated from medical school in 1884. Throughout his life Anton would struggle with his loyalty between his two careers. He was quoted as saying that medicine was his lawful wife and that literature was his mistress (Kenney).
From 1880-1896 Chekhov concentrated mainly on his short stories but he was also interested in becoming a playwright. Cranking out short stories was easy for him, and despite a few rejections at the beginning of his career, most of his stories were instant successes.

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This was not true of his plays. At the turn of the century he authored four plays, commentaries on Russian society, which have gained him lasting acclaim (Kenney).
The Seagull marks Chekhov’s maturity as a playwright and it is also the most innovative of all his plays. It is innovative in Chekhov’s use of mood, subtext, and symbolism as a new dramatic form. It is also the first play where indirect action is exhibited. Indirect action is a technique Chekhov was most famous for. It involves action important to the play’s plot occurring off-stage, not on. Instead of seeing such action happen, the audience learns about it by watching characters react to it onstage (Kenney). Its thematic focus was: Humor, which has its source in the frequent absurdity of human behavior, is never without a sadness that dreams very rarely come true. The Seagull was written after three absolute flops of Chekhov’s - Platanov, Ivanov, and The Wood Demon. It was also rejected by audiences at first, but eventually succeeded (Kirk 47).
     He was a very interesting and well educated man and his plays and novels will live on forever.
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