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Letters of Anton Chekhov to his family and friends -- With a Biographical Sketch, Translated by Constance Garnett * eBooks@Adelaide 2004
Oh, this character gets much more interesting in performance. Maybe because Prozorovs self-centered souls become obvious -- and she is the only one who give the future for their name (through Andrey's children and saving the house).

Go and find her monologues in the play by yourself!

Quoting Framji Minwalla :
Part of Chekhov's brilliance is in suggesting the ambivalence of any given situation. He once referred to the play's "four heroines," presumably including Natasha. In the original production by the Moscow Art Theatre, Natasha was played (by Mariya Lilina) not as a predatory monster, but as nauseatingly sweet, a small-minded bourgeoise eager to do the right thing, by her own lights. If you condemn her for adultery, you have to condemn Masha as well, for the same reason. Chekhov doesn't write villains. Even characters who come across as unsympathetic, such as Natasha, the Professor in UNCLE VANYA, and Yasha in CHERRY ORCHARD, are given justifications for their behavior.
But, over the course of a lifetime writing about Chekhov, I have encountered many scholars and audience members, who want to see the Three Sisters as Slavic saints, brilliant representatives of an intelligentsia defeated by a ruthless philistinism -- they resent any suggestion that the Prozorov women might be responsible for their plight. In such a scheme, Natasha thus becomes Lady Macbeth of the suburbs. It reduces a complex play to the dimensions of a soap opera.
Laurence Senelick

> question: is natasha's dispossession of the prozorov's premeditated? > i ask, while grading papers, because i've always thought that her > behavior is selfish and careless, but not planned with malicious > intent. yet all my students writing about the play either argue or > note that she acts according to a larger plan. certainly the play can > be produced following this interpretation, but it seems then that the > sisters no longer share any blame for their hapless, thwarted lives. (i > suppose this is a question, ultimately, about agency). the critical > literature tends to fall both ways. >

> any consensus on this? >

> framji > >

> Framji Minwalla
> Assistant Professor
> Department of Theater and Dance/English
> The George Washington University
> 801 22nd Street, NW
> Rome 760
> Washington, DC  20052
> (202) 994-6902

Why not both possibilities simultaneously? I'm with Laurence on this when he suggests that Chekhov's characters are richly ambivalent. Natasha's actions can contain both a premeditation, as a vaguely drawn idea or possibility, and something developed as the play progresses. She seizes the initiative as the three sisters become increasingly preoccupied with their own angst. This suggests a theatrical and more fluid development; we watch events unfold in a give-and-take arena (the stage) rather than observe static-antecedent decisions drawn with predictability and inevitability. Besides, characters (and people) can walk and chew gum at the same time; the notion that her motives are either premeditated or spontaneous--with no room for both--limns a rather one-dimensional figure.


...About Chekhov's characters:

Notwithstanding their wonderful accessibility to the techniques of the Stanislavsky method, Chekhov's characters seem to me to retain an equally wonderful impenetrability at their core. Natasha impresses me as an almost archetypal example of this quality. In performance the character seems simply to manifest itself, in a sort of peasant-like robustness, rather than to change or develop, let alone engaging in consciously planned strategy. Early on, we simply didn't see all that was in her, or perhaps we were even led in a mistaken direction by her initial embarrassment--led not "deliberately" by Natasha herself but simply by what Chevhov gives her to do and say in action and situation. She begins to ring true to us as the second and third acts develop, partly through indirection: we begin to surmise more substantial things about her character by the evident pernicious effect she has on her miserable and abject husband. Meanwhile, the dynamic that develops between Natasha and the three sisters, who are far from innocent bystanders (even the much-preoccupied Masha), draws out Natasha's remarkable proprietary and acquisitory instincts.

One can gain a useful understanding of character in general and Chekhovian character in particular in a certain phenomenological way, through careful observation of surfaces rather than by virtue of psychological analysis. The latter method will, I suspect, be eventually frustrated by the ultimate, radical opaqueness of the character. The reason I think Natasha is an archetypal instance of Chekhovian character is that she seems opaque even to herself. But, then, much in the manner of the human beings they sometimes painfully resemble, Chekhov's characters are typically opaque in this way, unknown to themselves, richly instinctual, moved by forces of which they are only dimly aware or entirely unaware. This is perhaps what we are getting at in saying how deeply realized they are. If we approach Natasha from this observational, holistic perspective, the question of intentionality fades into insignificance. We often find ourselves trying to get to the heart of a character by grasping at motives, needs, and desires, and so imposing a certain Freudian analytical model whose goal is exposure; but there are other, perhaps ultimately better ways--ways that Pinter's characters (to take another example) challenge us to adopt.

How one adapts whatever benefits this approach may have to actorly methods of building a character I leave to others to explore.

Joe Donohue

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