Biography of Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov was a Russian playwright, a writer of short stories, and one of the most prominent dramatists in theater history. He was born in Taganrog, a bustling port in southern Russia. The third of six children, his family were once serfs, but his grandfather managed to purchase their freedom. Only a year after Chekhov's birth, Russian peasants were emancipated and the feudal system was abolished. Still, Chekhov was weighed down by the class status of his family. His father was a merchant and was often physically abusive to his family. Eventually, his father went bankrupt, and Anton became financially responsible for his family. He wrote vignettes about Russian street life to support himself while also pursuing a medical degree. At the time, Russia was so socially stratified that there were no successful writers of his class; Chekhov became the only great Russian writer of the 19th century from the peasant class.

In 1887, Chekhov was commissioned to write a play, Ivanov. In 1895, he wrote The Seagull, which was a failure: after it ended, the audience booed, and Chekhov renounced theater. In 1898, however, the play was revived by Stanislavski's Moscow Art Theatre, to great critical acclaim. This launched Chekhov's career as a playwright, and Stanislavski would go on to produce Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, and The Cherry Orchard.

In 1901, Chekhov married Russian actress Olga Knipper, who had acted in many of his plays in Moscow. Their marriage lasted only three years: Chekhov died of tuberculosis in 1904. That same year, his final play, The Cherry Orchard, premiered to great acclaim. Posthumously, Chekhov became a Russian literary celebrity on par with Tolstoy, who was a friend and admirer. Gradually, Chekhov became popular elsewhere. In the United States, his popularity is linked to the trend of Stanislavski's school of method acting becoming more popular in the 20th century. There, Chekhov's approach to psychology and drama greatly influenced the work of many theater practitioners, including Clifford Odets, Lee Strasberg, and actors like Marlon Brando. He also influenced non-dramatic writers, such as Raymond Carver and William Boyd.


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 short story by Anton Chekhov, written in December 1898. First published in The Family magazine, it was ultimately included in the nine volume of Chekhov's work, released by book publisher Adolph Marx. The story draws from...

"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...

"The Lady with the Dog" was written in 1899 by Russian writer and playwright Anton Chekhov, and was first published in the journal Russian Idea. It has often been deemed by critics to be Chekhov's answer to Anna Karenina; Lyudmila Parts calls it...

Technically, the title of this story by Anton Chekhov usually carries the indefinite article rather than the definite, thus making it a story about “A Malefactor” rather than “The Malefactor.” Since there are only two major characters at play,...

“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 written by Anton Chekhov in 1900. It follows the lives of the Prozorov sisters as their fortune is in decline and they must seek out a happy life against the odds. The play traces various human disappointments, specifically...

Uncle Vanya, Scenes of Country Life in Four Acts (1897) is one of Russian playwright Anton Chekov’s most notable dramas and a mainstay of the theater. The play is set at the estate of the first wife of Professor Serebryakov, where he and his...

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...