Anton Chekhov: Plays & Short Stories

Instructor: Megan Pryor

Megan has tutored extensively and has a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Fiction.

Anton Chekhov was a famous Russian playwright and writer. In this lesson we will learn about his life, plays, and short stories. A short quiz will test our knowledge.


Anton Chekhov was a Russian author who lived between 1860 and 1904. Best known for his short stories and plays, Anton Chekhov also worked as a physician. His job as a doctor did not pay very well, so Chekhov did a lot of different things for money, including writing.

Although he started writing originally to support himself and his family, Anton Chekhov eventually began to take his writing more seriously, especially after the famous Russian writer Dmitry Grigorovich wrote to him and told him he had a lot of talent and should focus on the literary quality of his writing.

Anton Chekhov was one of the first authors to use certain literary techniques, such as stream-of-consciousness, a technique later popularized by James Joyce and William Faulkner. He believed that it was the job of a writer to raise questions in the readers' minds, and some of his short stories have open endings.

Russian Playwright And Writer Anton Chekhov
Photo of Anton Chekhov

Even if you've never read any of Anton Chekhov's plays or stories, you may still be familiar with the idea of Chekhov's gun, a foreshadowing technique that states that if a gun is put into a play (or a story) in act one, then it needs to be fired later. The idea behind the concept of Chekhov's gun is that everything put into a play or a story should be relevant.

Anton Chekhov wrote in his native language, Russian, and was translated by Constance Clara Garnett. Constance translated several other famous Russian authors. Her translations of Chekhov's works meant that they were read by people like James Joyce, who was heavily influenced by Chekhov's writing, especially his use of stream-of-consciousness.


Anton Chekhov wrote 14 plays, but the following four are his most critically acclaimed:

The Seagull

In this play, which is one of Anton Chekhov's most famous, a struggling writer loves an actress who does not return his feelings. This play is highly symbolic and has a lot of subtext. In the play, the writer shoots a seagull and gives it to the actress. The seagull can be seen as a symbol for the actresses' dreams of freedom.

Uncle Vanya

'Uncle Vanya' features an older professor and his younger second wife who visit their rural estate. Even though the estate supports several different people, including his first wife's brother, the professor announces that he plans to sell the estate, simply so he can take the money and invest it for his own personal gain. The play deals with themes of unhappiness and frustration.

Three Sisters

'Three Sisters' is based on the lives of the Bronte sisters. It follows three sisters' search for meaning in their lives despite being stuck in a rural setting. Like 'The Seagull,' this play deals with themes of disappointment and frustration.

The Cherry Orchard

'The Cherry Orchard' is Anton Chekhov's last play. He wanted it to be a comedy, but the director made it into a tragedy. The play is about the auction of a rich family's estate to pay off their debt. The play, like much of Chekhov's work, explores the characters' socio-economic standing and the meaning of life.

Short Stories

Anton Chekhov wrote over 200 short stories. The exact number is unknown because he wrote extensively to support his family and himself and not everything he has written has been translated into English.

The Lady with the Dog

One of Chekhov's most famous short stories, 'The Lady with the Dog' is a story about an affair between a man and a woman. The story leaves the reader without any answers about whether or not the affair works out in the long-run, but it is nevertheless considered by some critics one of the finest short stories ever.

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