The Cherry Orchard

The Cherry Orchard: Creating the Genre of the Tragicomedy

Anton Chekhov fought with the famed Stanislavsky over staging his play The Cherry Orchard as a tragedy. According to Chekhov, the play about a well-to-do family forced to surrender its home and orchard to a man who began life as a mere serf on their estate was intended to be viewed strictly as a comedy. Historically speaking, comedy and tragedy are the oldest genres of drama and can typically be differentiated according to their endings: a comedy ends happily, while a tragedy has a much more downbeat resolution. Chekhov claims he wrote The Cherry Orchard to be performed as a quite specific subgenre of comedy, a farce. What differentiates farce from other types of comedy is the introduction and utilisation of a more broadly-based humor, eccentric occurrences, and occasionally bawdy content. Konstantin Stanislavsky, famous for inventing “The Method” school of acting, ignored the declared authorial intent, and instead, foreshadowing the New Criticism around the corner, chose to stage the play according to his own interpretation of it as a tragedy (Haslam 24). Stanislavsky’s choice became the standard method for producing The Cherry Orchard, as later directors have shied away from the considerable problems associated with staging...

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