chapter  6
23 Pages

Work and women: Three Sisters

Chekhov began writing Three Sisters in 1899 and it opened at the Moscow Art Theatre in January 1901. It has been described as a ‘play about love’ (Gilman 1995). The action in the play revolves around ‘the question of love’ (Kramer 1981: 62). It is also seen as a play about ‘delusions’ (Llewellyn Smith 1973: 26-28). Also, McVay writes: ‘Three Sisters is a play about happiness, or about the elusiveness of happiness’ (1995: 37). Brahms, discussing Chekhov’s families, states: ‘The Family Prozorov are the saddest because for them fate can find no happy ending’ (1976: 58). Hahn contrasts the sisters’ ‘bleak future’ with the theme in the play of optimism about the future of the human race (Hahn 1977: 287). Styan asks: ‘Is this a play of hope? Rather of resignation and endurance’ (1971: 236). There are varied interpretations but essentially the play asks the questions: what is happiness? How can meaning be found in life? Bristow notes that Three Sisters is ‘centrally concerned with the meaning of existence … perhaps more than any other Chekhovian play’ (1981: 91). Moreover, women are the main protagonists, the difficulty of their situation and search for happiness and fulfilment in life heightened by the restrictions on women in patriarchal Russian society of the time. Their story takes place against a military backdrop as the sisters are from a military family.