Anton Chekhov The Seagull with Natalie Portman, Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Christopher Walken

As performed on Saturday August 18, 2001, Final edited version by Stephen C. Sanders, September 10, 2001


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In as much as the fishing analogy is threaded throughout The Seagull, there are several other significant analogies or metaphors, which demand our attention.

The Flower Analogy The most important other metaphor/analogy is the flower. Chekhov being an MD was well versed in biology, therefore knowing the true purpose of the flower and its various organs. The reason I even bother to state this is Chekhov's use of the character of Dorn an M.D. (Larry Pine) having him sing a little ditty and the only line we hear is " tell her my flowers ". This is Chekhov's own way of bringing our attention to the idea that the flower is important along with all the relevant scientific or biological information. It is the character of Polina (played by Debra Monk) in her character's one notable scene where Debra Monk steals the audience's attention with the clever bit about flower being a metaphor for Nina. When Debra Monk delivers her lines about the flower being so pretty and delicate (after making a sexual pass at Dorn) and then takes way the flower from Dorn, tearing apart the flower and throwing it way, the audience "gets" the metaphor and roars with laughter. Aditionally I believe that a strong case can be made for believing that Nina is indeed a virgin, whose "flower" will be taken, and yes torn apart by Trigorin before the play is finished.

In the scene immediately following the above flower "gag" or "bit" (as other writers/reviewers have called it), we have Nina on stage alone delivering her naive and innocent mini soliloquy regarding fame and fortune. Natalie Portman plays the part well with a believable naiveté and youthful abandon. When she is finished with this we have Konstantin (Philip Seymour Hoffman) enter, ask if they are alone. and lays down his lifeless flesh, the seagull at Nina's feet.

Chekhov is taking us from one metaphor, to another, in rapid fire succession, each time sticking our nose in it, so we must know that Chekhov is "... saying things somehow crosswise, in symbols or something..."
" I mean, look at this seagull. a symbol if I ever saw one, but of what.."

(Anton Chekhov The Seagull A New Version by Tom Stoppard, Nina to Konstantin, pg 30)

Chekhov's The Seagull is so rich in symbols, and the main characters purposes or motivations are so well intertwined, that we can read or see the play, understanding it both literally and symbolically at the same time. For example the simple device of the flower, gets explained to us again when Trigorin likens his life to a bee gathering the pollen from the flowers to make honey for the readers.

A flowers life is short (as Chekhov's life would be short having Tb), its purpose being attracting bees with its pretty petals and scent. The nectar being what the bees are need to make honey for the hive (perhaps a reference to the theory of communism), but form the flowers point of view an expendable resource to serve the need of reproduction (essential to the survival of the species).

Earlier in this essay I noted that Chekhov must have wanted his work to survive in a climate where there were so many other great writers. Additionally Chekhov had a lot riding on this play and was very relieved after it was applauded after previously being panned by the audience. Chekhov's play The Seagull, needs to be analyzed as literature due to the fact that its true meaning can be derived both literally as well as metaphorically. The literal story line itself holds together as a believable tale, however there is enough symbolism and imagery in this play about writers, and actors, as well as the common working class to allow for alternate significant interpretations.

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