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Chekhov for the 21st Century. Carol Apollonio and Angela Brintlinger, eds. Bloomington, IN: Slavica Publishers, 2012, 167–79.       The Marriage of Figaro, the Marriage of Lopakhin: The Hero’s Revolt Anna Muza Already   some   of   the   first   viewers   of   The   Cherry   Orchard   observed   that   the   main  action,  or  inaction,  of  Chekhov’s  play—the  vacantly  discussed,  looming,   imminent   sale   of   the   estate—resonates   in   the   similarly   developed   theme   of   Lopakhin’s  marriage.1  Ermolai  Lopakhin  tries  to  convince  his  former  masters   that  they  must  cut  down  the  orchard  and  develop  their  land;  Ranevskaya  tries   to  convince  Lopakhin  that  he  needs  to  marry  her  adopted  daughter  Varya,  a   girl  of  low  birth,  unprepossessing  and  hard-­‐‑working  (Act  II,  221).2  Lopakhin   does   not   object,   yet   when   the   matter   is   brought   up   in   Varya’s   presence,   he   recites  Hamlet’s  exhortation  to  Ophelia  to  get  herself  to  a  nunnery.  Shortly  be-­‐‑ fore  the  final  curtain,  when  everything  is  already  lost,  Ranevskaya  still  begs   Lopakhin  to  propose,  promising  that  it  will  only  take  a  minute,  no  more,  as  if   he  had  to  get  a  tooth  pulled  before  catching  his  train.  The  subsequent  tête-­‐‑à-­‐‑ tête  between  Lopakhin  and  Varya  is  as  brief  as  it  is  barren:  the  conversation   never  gets  near  its  intended  subject.  Lopakhin  leaves  abruptly,  rescued  from   his  impasse  by  a  disembodied  “call  from  outside”;  Varya  slumps  on  the  floor,   sobbing,  reduced  to  one  of  the  properties  of  departure  scattered  around  the   stage:  bundles,  suitcases,  old  galoshes.  The  resolute,  self-­‐‑made  man  of  busi-­‐‑ ness  seems  no  more  capable  of  getting  married  than  his  fellow  characters  are   of  getting  their  affairs  straight—or  indeed  of  getting  to  a  nunnery,  as  Varya’s   professed  desire  has  always  been  to  become  a  pilgrim.     Why  does  Lopakhin  not  marry  Varya?  The  question  may  not  be  one  of   the  grand  questions  of  Russian  literature,  yet  the  elaborate  dramatic  architec-­‐‑ ture  of  Chekhov’s  last  work  relies  on  it  no  less  than  Hamlet  does  on  Ophelia’s   madness;   and   Lopakhin’s   challenging,   controversial   character   is   predicated   not  only  on  his  acquisition  of  the  estate  but  also  on  his  failure  to  crown  the   comedy   with   a   wedding   feast.   Ever   since   the   manuscript   of   The   Cherry                                                                                                                             1  A[leksandr]   Amfiteatrov,   “Vishnevyi  sad:  Stat’ia  pervaia,”  in  A.  P.  Chekhov  v  russkoi   teatral’noi  kritike:  Kommentirovannaia  antologiia,  1887–1917,  vol.  1,  Teatr  molodogo  veka…   1887–1904  (Moscow:  Letnii  sad,  2007),  313.     2  “Жениться   вам   нужно,   мой   друг.   […]   На   нашей   бы   Варе.   […]   Она   у   меня   из   простых,  работает  целый  день…” Russian  citations  are  from  the  text  of  Vishnevyi  sad   in  Works  13.  In  this  article,  acts  and  page  numbers  are  given  in  parentheses.  All  English   translations  are  mine.—A.M.   168 ANNA MUZA Orchard  reached  the  Moscow  Art  Theater  in  October  of  1903,  every  director   staging—and  every  critic  and  scholar  writing  about—the  play  has  sought  to   illuminate   the   hasty   stage   exit   of   Chekhov’s   hero,   which   equally   affects   his   identity  and  our  sense  of  the  dramatic  whole.  The  diverse  and  contradictory   interpretations  of  Lopakhin’s  rejection  of  Varya  have  ranged  from  psychologi-­‐‑ cal   and   romantic   (his   emotional   immaturity   or   deep   unrecognized   love   for   Ranevskaya)  to  ironic  and  metaliterary  (a  lack  of  erotic  charge  in  Chekhov’s   last  play  or  Chekhov’s  avoidance  of  happy  endings),3  but  on  the  whole  Lopa-­‐‑ khin’s   and   Varya’s   dis-­‐‑engagement   has   been   treated   as   an   expression   of   incompleteness  and  discontinuity,  both  in  the  play’s  inner  world  and  in  the   dramatic  tradition  at  large.  Instead  of  the  classical  comedic  harmony  brought   about   by   the   union   of   young   lovers,   Chekhov’s   play   appears   to   enact   a   ghostly,  Beckettian  ritual:  a  non-­‐‑wedding  celebrated  with  an  empty  bottle  of   champagne  to  the  sound  of  a  breaking  string.   I  wish  to  suggest,  however,  that  the  dramaturgical  concept  and  generic   frame  of  Chekhov’s  play  invite  a  different,  less  mournful  and  more  construc-­‐‑ tive,  reading  of  the  hero’s  unrealized  marriage.  Although  The  Cherry  Orchard’s   overt,  self-­‐‑conscious  theatricality  has  long  been  recognized  in  scholarship  and   in  stage  practice,  it  has  been  mostly  associated  with  the  eccentric  and  buffoon-­‐‑ ish  figures  of  the  “downstairs”  world  of  the  servants  travestying  and  expos-­‐‑ ing   the   vulnerabilities   of   the   masters.   Yet   Chekhov’s   use   of   the   convention   and   legacy   of   classical   theater   can   also   be   seen   in   the   construction   and                                                                                                                             3  The  critical  trends  outlined  below  by  no  means  exhaust  the  diversity  of  opinions  on   what  remains  one  of  the  play’s  most  elusive  aspects.  The  idea  of  Lopakhin’s  infatu-­‐‑ ation   with   Ranevskaya   originated   already   in   Chekhov’s   lifetime:   in   a...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780893578923
Related ISBN
9780893573928
MARC Record
OCLC
859687104
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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