A famous actress, extremely neurotic and self-obsessed, Arkadina is one of the principal protagonists of the play. She is having a love affair with Trigorin, the famous writer, much to the displeasure of her son Konstantin. Once upon a time, Arkadina may have been famous and beautiful, but she now seems more shrewish and selfish than anything else. Still, she is successful and a member of the highest class.
Like many things in the play, Arkadina is extremely contradictory. She is entirely self-obsessed, and yet worries about Konstantin after his aborted play, and particularly, after his first attempt at suicide (between Acts 2 and 3). She desperately wants Konstantin to feel better, yet when Sorin suggests (in Act 3) that she gives him some money, she refuses, though she undoubtedly has money to her name.
The plays Arkadina appears in -- repertory classics and hammy potboilers -- perhaps point towards the way we are supposed to see her character: theatricalized to the extreme.
(Sometimes called "Kostya"). Arkadina's son begins the play with aspirations to be a writer. But as the only son of Arkadina, he lives immensely in her shadow and seems terrorized by the pressure of living up both to her and his own expectations.
Konstantin rails against the theater he associates with his mother's acting -- an outdated, hammy theater of gaslight and melodrama. However, he does not seem to have clear ideas about what he wants to replace this theatrical tradition with. His own play is a rather confusing blend of symbolism and abstraction, and offers no strong challenge to his mother's theater.
Konstantin is in love with Nina, who, even at the beginning, seems rather less than interested in him. Yet, fundamentally, at the heart of his personality seems a desperate need for his mother's attention and approval. His relationship with Nina, then, comes to mirror this desperate quest for his mother's love, ultimately ending in the tragedy of another offstage suicide attempt.
Arkadina's brother and an old, ill man. Now retired after serving twenty-eight years in the Department of Justice, Sorin is unable to go out as much as he would like to. Before he leaves his country estate to go into town in Act 3, there is an extensive to-and-fro discussion about whether he should go, or indeed can even go.
By Act 4, Sorin has declined to wheelchair-bound status, even having a bed made up in the room which is used as Konstantin's office. It is never stated in the play explicitly, but it seems very likely that he is close to death.
Sorin, like so many of the characters in the play, is also a man of failed ambitions. He says at a few points in the play that he wanted to be a great man, that he had ideas for stories, and that he wanted to marry. He has never achieved any of these goals.
The young daughter of a wealthy landowner, who lives with Nina's stepmother by the lake. Nina's father and stepmother keep her under strict lock and key, and until she runs away from her home to be with Trigorin, Chekhov makes it quite clear that she is kept under lock and key. She loves and lives by the lake, just as Trigorin imagines the seagull in his to-be-written story might.
Nina is fascinated by fame and the famous, particularly by Trigorin. She effectively invites Trigorin to seduce her, and when he does, gives up her life to be with him. She is supposed to be in love with Konstantin at the start of the play, but her real feelings are made clear when she kisses Trigorin at the end of Act 3. After that, it is a downhill journey, across the time gap between Acts 3 and 4, before a last maddened return in the final act.
A retired lieutenant, and Sorin's steward, Shamrayev is responsible for keeping his house, and looking after his horses and land. He's married to Polina and supposedly father of Masha (though this, some critics have argued, is an honour which in fact falls to Dorn).
Shamrayev is extremely quick to anger, with a quick temper. He constantly and continually falls out with people about the touchy subject of his horses and whether they can be used to travel into town.
Married to Shamrayev and the mother of Masha, Polina is not a major character in the play, but another example of the "tonne of love" Chekhov thought the play embodied. She is madly in love with Dorn, who sidesteps her advances continually throughout the play. It also seems possible that Dorn is, in fact, Masha's father.
The daughter of Shamrayev and Polina (or perhaps, Dorn and Polina), Masha always wears black, and is, as the play opens, "in mourning for her life". She is in love with Konstantin, but eventually marries Medvedenko. Their marriage seems destined for unhappiness.
A famous novelist, who, at the start of the play, is having an affair with Arkadina at the beginning of the play, Trigorin later becomes captivated by Nina. Nina explicitly pursues Trigorin, and, partly because he is so obsessed with his own writing, and his own affairs, it actually takes him a while to realize what is going on.
Trigorin eventually has an affair with Nina (between Acts 3 and 4) but returns to Arkadina afterwards. He is fundamentally, as he says in Act 3 to Arkadina, easily led by women. At the close of the play, Trigorin seems little changed by events and is still obsessed with himself and his own writing.
Dorn is the local doctor. He has never married - though, when younger, was an extremely handsome man and the lothario of the area. Chekhov hints that he has had an affair - at some point - with Arkadina, and it seems very likely that he has had an affair with Polina, perhaps even being Masha's real father.
A schoolteacher, Medvedenko is very pedantic and nerdy. He is in love with Masha, who does not care for him, though she does eventually agree to marry him. At the end of the play, he is miserable, and returns through the stormy weather to care for their child, previously left at home.
Yakov is a workman who serves as stagehand on Konstantin's play but also is seen lifting Arkadina's belongings as she leaves during Act 3.
Includes a cook, and various maids.
The Seagull Questions and Answers
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