Three Sisters by Chekhov is a very different play, written at the turn of the 20th century in Russia, in the realist style of drama. The realist style is a contrast to the 17th century French farce of Molii?? re: it is rambling and relatively uneventful, and has a large cast of characters. Chekhov satirizes several men, compared to Molii?? re’s focus on satirizing his protagonist Arnolphe. Chekhov’s satire works less overtly than that of Molii?? re.
Chekhov builds satire into the play mostly through his slow moving dialogue and plot: without exaggerated acting, or comic coincidences. In Three Sisters, Chekhov uses Vershinin and Toozenbach as representatives of educated, intelligent, respectable men. Their favourite hobby is their philosophising and they take quite some pride and seriousness in it. However, their philosophisings are often closer to being rambling flights of fancy than brilliant revelations. Chekhov uses Soliony to undermine the seriousness. “Cluck, cluck, cluck!
There’s nothing our good Baron loves as much as a nice bit of philosophizing. ” The silliness of the clucking points out similar silliness in the philosophizing, and Toozenbach’s following humourless reaction only serves to heighten the satire. Chekhov’s use of Soliony here is similar to the satire of Molii?? re: comic ridicule, albeit using a realist manner. One of Toozenbach’s favourite ideas is that work is the solution to all of society’s problems. He says, “this longing for work… How well I can understand it! “, despite never having worked in his life.
After his speech about the wonders of work, Chekhov brings us closer to reality through Chebutykin: “I’m not going to work. ” Toozenbach’s childish-sounding retort is “You don’t count. ” Years later in Act 2, Toozenbach finally resigns from the military, saying he is going to work. An act later he still has no job, saying “I really do intend to … start working there quite soon. ” His apathy in fulfilling his ‘dream’ serves to satirize the conviction of his ideas and their perceived nobleness and is also used by Chekhov to portray the inertia of the Russian bourgeoisie.
Koolyghin is a quite different character, a provincial man who Chekhov satirizes through the juxtaposing of his perceptions and his reality. We see what he cannot, producing a dramatic irony. He is described by Irena as “the kindest of men, but not the cleverest. ” He is happy with life, and oblivious to any problems, such as his wife Masha’s affair with Vershinin. He says, throughout the book: “I’m happy, happy, happy! ” “I’ve been lucky all my life. ” However, Chekhov portrays him as being stuck in a provincial rut.
He is happy with his marriage to Masha, and believes that she is happy too: “Masha loves me”, “I feel as if we were only married yesterday. ” This contrasts is in contrast with bored Masha: “He seemed terribly learned then, very clever and important. Now it’s quite different, unfortunately. ” She begins an affair with Vershinin, but Koolyghin remains unaware, often wondering “Where’s Masha? ” He works as a schoolteacher, and often uses Latin phrases: “In Vino Veritas”, “Mens sana in corpore sano”, flattering his perception of himself as intelligent and educated, when we see him as a simple countryman.
Chekhov’s dramatic irony in his treatment of Koolyghin is completely different from the comic satire of Molii?? re. The ironic juxtaposition occurs gradually over the several years of the play, as we learn bits and pieces through the rambling dialogue. This is compared to the immediate comic juxtaposition of Molii?? re, facilitated by the fast moving play and use of comic coincidence. Molii?? re satirizes his central character Arnolphe in an overt, exaggerated way, in fitting with the play’s farcical nature. Through Molii??
re’s ridicule of Arnolphe’s obsession with absolute control over Agnes, we are presented with the idea that love and marriage should be spontaneous, rather than calculated. Chekhov targets several of his characters, sometimes satirizing quite obviously (Soliony’s clucking), but often more subtly by contrasting perception and reality throughout the slow, sprawling structure of the play. Through Chekhov’s satire, he introduces the idea that self perceptions can prohibit the kind of self understanding that leads to personal growth and improvement in life.