Biography of Anton Chekhov

Chekhov is one of Russia's many important literary figures, and one of the greatest playwrights of modern times. He won the Pushkin Prize and is known for his short stories and plays, which often combine elements of both comedy and tragedy. While his works reflect the frequently turbulent developments specific to his homeland, their lasting appeal lies in Chekhov's talent for exploring universally human situations with grace and dexterity.

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was born in Tanarog, Russia on January 17, 1860. His father was a struggling grocer and martinet, and Chekhov found his childhood difficult despite the kindness of his mother.

The very fabric of Russian society was permanently altered when Chekhov was only one year old: on February 19, 1861, Russia's serfs were freed. Chekhov himself was the grandson of a serf, and the overturning of this older social order plays a central role in many of his writings. When Chekhov's father's business failed, the family moved to Moscow. There, Chekhov grew intellectually. While at medical school, Chekhov also began writing to help support his family. He worked as a freelance writer for newspapers and magazines, starting his writing career with humorous anecdotes and short comic sketches.

In 1888 Chekhov published a long story, “Steppe,” in Severny vestnik, a significant literary review. He ultimately published more than 50 stories over the next sixteen years before his death. Though Chekhov was a skilled humorist, he began to write darker, more psychologically probing works such as “A Dreary Story” (1889) and the play Ivanov (1887-89), a work that examines suicide.

In 1890, annoyed by critics who found his works listless and devoid of direction, he withdrew to Sakhalin, a remote island and notorious imperial Russian penal settlement. He studied the islanders and later published his findings.

During the early 1890s, Chekhov experienced something of a dry spell regarding his writing. Unfortunately, Chekhov suffered from health problems, and he spent much of this time with his family or traveling to gentler climates. During this time of travel, Chekhov was able to pursue his interest in all things French, particularly French farce, a style that marks his own theatrical comedy.

In 1896, Chekhov entered the period of creativity for which he is best known. At the turn of the 20th century, he authored four plays, commentaries on Russian society, which have gained him lasting acclaim; these include The Seagull (1896) and The Cherry Orchard (1904).

While visiting Germany Chekhov died of pulmonary tuberculosis on July 2, 1904.

Chekhov changed the theatrical world with his plays. He was often disappointed when they were performed as tragedies; although they each have sad elements to them, Chekhov believed that this darker side of the plays should in no way undercut the immensely funny comic elements which pervade even the seemingly darkest moments. This confusion of the comic and tragic genres is one of Chekhov's important contributions not only to theater, but also to literature in general. Chekhov is also known for the emphasis he places on dialogue and off-stage action, otherwise known as "indirect action."


Study Guides on Works by Anton Chekhov

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was born in Russia in 1860. He initially wanted to study Medicine but he later also began a career as an author. He died in 1904 in Germany after being diagnosed with tuberculosis. Agafya focuses on the story of Savka, a...

"The Bet" is a short story by Anton Pavlovich Chekov, written in 1889. It centers on a bet that is made one night between a banker and a young lawyer at a party of intellectuals. The banker, a successful millionaire and gambler bets the lawyer...

"The Black Monk” belongs to that lush category of fiction which is said to have been inspired by the dreams of the author. The nature of remembering dreams being what it is, one should take any assertion on this subject with a grain of salt. This...

Anton Chekhov was a Russian playwright and short story writer of the nineteenth century. He was born during 1860 in Russia and died during 1904 in Germany. Chekhov possessed rather simplistic yet commendable literary talent as his top plays and...

"The Darling" is a story of Anton Chekhov, written in December 1898. First published in "The Family" magazine (1899, 1). It was included in the 9th volume in assembly of Chekhov's works, released by book publisher Adolph Marx. The story reflected...

"The Death of a Government Clerk" is a short humorous story by Anton Chekhov. For the first time it was published in "Fragments" in 1883 with the subtitle "The case". It was included in the stories collection "Motley Stories" (1886).

One day, in...

“A comedy – three f., six m., four acts, rural scenery (a view over a lake); much talk of literature, little action, five bushels of love.”

One month before Chekhov finished writing The Seagull, this is the synopsis he offered to Suvorin, a rich...

Three Sisters is a play in four acts written by Anton Chekhov in 1900. It was first published in the journal “Russian idea” ( 2 for the year 1901); it was published by a separate edition with changes and amendments in the same year in Marx's...

"Uncle Vanja" is a play by Anton Chekhov with the subtitle "Scenes of rural life in four acts." Finally completed in 1896.

In 1889, Chekhov finished piece "Goblin" (a comedy in four acts), published in 1890, which was later, after the writing of...

Anton Chekhov devoted several of his stories to the lives of ordinary people; in some famous cases, he focused specifically on unknown, obscure, and miserable individuals. One such poignant work is "Vanka," the story of a lonely peasant boy who...