By Laurence Senelick (auth.)
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Extra resources for Anton Chekhov
Ivanov' Ivanov, Chekhov's first work to be staged, was written at the prompting of Korsh and in the wake of the creative gust that had produced the important transitional story 'The Steppe'. Chekhov dashed off the play in a couple of weeks in October 1887, pleased with its 'unhackneyed subject' and its lack of longueurs. He defined his own originality this way: 'Modern dramatists start their plays exclusively with angels, cads and buffoons - try and find those elements anywhere in Russia! Sure, you'lI find them, but not in such extreme guises as dramatists need.
Maybe I'm not a hero, but I shall become one! I shall sprout eagle's wings, and won't be frightened by this blaze or the devil himself! Let the forest buro - I'Il plant a new one! Let someone not love me - I'Il fall in love with someone else! By means of rhetoric Chekhov is endeavouring to surpass his earlier dramatic statements. Both Without Patrir,nony and Ivanov centred upon somewhat outstanding individuals corroded by their own cynicism, self-doubt and reflective propensities. In The Wood Demon, those qualities re-emerge in Voynitsky, who, riddled with irony, finds the less complicated natures of Fyodor and Khrushchyov appealing; himself incapable of change, he 47 Anton Chekhov has to commit suicide, to leave the stage dear for the reversals of the last act.
Chekhov, however, was constrained to write long expository speeches, endless explanations, confessions, acts of contrition, to counter his audience's preconceptions of heroism and villainy. The earliest revision was for the Alexandra Theatre in St. Petersburg. Chekhov wrote, 'Now my Mr. Ivanov will be much better understood. The finale doesn't satisfy me 36 Journeyman E//orts exactly (except for the shooting, everything is weak) but I am comforted that its form is still not finished' (19 December 1888).