The Cherry Orchard

The Cherry Orchard The "Theater-Poem"

In a highly influential article by Francis Fergusson entitled "The Cherry Orchard: A Theater-Poem of the Suffering of Change" (found in both Jean-Pierre Barricelli's Chekhov's Great Plays: A Critical Anthology and Harold Bloom's Modern Critical Views: Anton Chekhov), Chekhov's play "The Cherry Orchard" is described as a theater-poem.

Fergusson designates "The Cherry Orchard" as "theater-poem," because the play does not follow any strict notion of drama. It does not have a plot, and it does not present a thesis of any kind, to suit the rational attendee of the play. In contrast, Fergusson argues that the play addresses the poetic sensibility, and that the scenes pass in the way words collect in the composition of a poem. The seemingly casual incidents that occur throughout the play are precisely the details which give the play its naturalist feeling.

In the end, the play is a true imitation of the action of life, and the whole of it is structured around the basic question of the estate and the cherry orchard. The stage is crowded with characters, each with his or her own individual history and individual response to the passing of the estate, whether it be economic, sentimental, or cultural. The arrival reverses after the estate is sold, and all of the characters depart, save for Firs. The general impression upon the reader is one of "a rich chord of feeling."

Fergusson compares Chekhov's play as the work of a virtuoso, in the manner of Mozart composing his piano concertos. By resisting the traditional stylized forms of the theater that had been developed to that point, Chekhov had remained strict to his perception of the real and life around a moment of supreme social change, and in so doing, returned to the "ancient root" of theater.