The action takes place in the estate of Petr Nikolaevich Sorin. His sister, Irina Nikolaevna Arkadina, is an actress, she is on his estate with her son, Konstantin Gavrilovich Treplev, and Boris Alekseevich Trigorin, a novelist, quite famous, although he is not yet forty. They speak of him as a clever, simple man, somewhat melancholy and very decent. As for his literary activities, then, according to Treplev, it’s “nice, talented but after Tolstoy or Zola you do not want to read Trigorin.”
Konstantin Treplev himself also tries to write. Considering modern theater a prejudice, he seeks new forms of theatrical action. The people gathered in the estate are preparing to watch the play set by the author among the natural scenery. Nina Mikhailovna Zarechnaya, a young girl, the daughter of wealthy landlords, in whom Constantine is in love, must play the only role in it. Nina’s parents are categorically against her passion for theater, and therefore she must come to the estate secretly.
Constantine is sure that his mother is against staging the play and, not yet seeing it, hates her fervently, since the fiction writer she loves may like Nina Zarechnaya. He also feels that his mother does not like him, because by his age – and he is twenty-five years old – he reminds her of her own years. In addition, Constantine is haunted by the fact that his mother is a famous actress. He thinks that since he, like his father, now deceased, a Kiev philistine, he is tolerated in the company of famous artists and writers only because of his mother. He also suffers from the fact that his mother is openly living with Trigorin and her name constantly appears on the pages of newspapers, that she is mean, superstitious and jealous of someone else’s success.
All this in anticipation of Zarechnoy he tells his uncle. Sorin himself very much loves the theater and writers and admits to Treplev that he himself once wanted to become a writer, but failed. Instead, he served twenty-eight years in the judicial department.
Among those waiting for the performance are also Ilya Shamraev, the lieutenant in retirement, the manager of Sorin; his wife – Polina Andreevna and his daughter Masha; Evgeni Sergeevich Dorn, doctor; Semen Semenovich Medvedenko, teacher. Medvedenko unrequitedly in love with Masha, but Masha does not reciprocate with him, not only because they are different people and do not understand each other. Masha
loves Konstantin Treplev.
Finally comes Zarechnaya. She managed to escape from the house only for half an hour, and so everyone hastily begin to gather in the garden. On the stage there are no decorations: only the curtain, the first wings and the second wings. But a magnificent view of the lake. Above the horizon is a full moon and is reflected in the water. Nina Zarechnaya, all in white, sitting on a large stone, reads the text in the spirit of decadent literature, which immediately notes Arkadina. During the whole reading, the audience constantly talks, despite Treplev’s remarks. Soon he gets bored, and he, violently, stops the performance and leaves. Masha hurries after him to find him and calm him. Meanwhile, Arkadina presents Nina Trigorin, and after a short conversation Nina leaves home.
The play was not liked by anyone except Masha and Dorn. He wants to tell Treplev more pleasant, which he does. Masha admits to Dorn that he loves Treplev, and asks for advice, but Dorn can not advise her anything.
Several days pass. The action is transferred to the site for croquet. Nina Zarechnaya’s father and stepmother left for Tver for three days, and this gave her the opportunity to come to the estate of Sorin, Arkadina and Polina Andreevna going to the city, but Shamraev refuses to give them horses, arguing that all the horses in the field are harvesting rye. There is a small quarrel, Arkadina almost did not leave for Moscow. On the way to the house, Polina Andreevna almost admits to Dorn in love. Their meeting with Nina at the very house makes it clear to her that Dorn does not like her, but Zarechnaya.
Nina walks around the garden and is surprised that the life of famous actors and writers is exactly the same as the life of ordinary people, with their own quarrels, skirmishes, tears and joys, with their troubles. TREPLIEF brings her a dead seagull and compares this bird with herself. Nina tells him that she almost ceased to understand him, since he began to express his thoughts and feelings with symbols. Constantine tries to explain himself, but when he sees Trigorin, he quickly leaves.
Nina and Trigorin stay together. Trigorin constantly writes something in a notebook. Nina admires the world in which, according to her, Trigorin and Arkadina live, she admires with enthusiasm and believes that their life is full of happiness and miracles. Trigorin, by contrast, paints his life as a painful existence. After seeing the seagull killed by Treplev, Trigorin writes down a new story in the booklet for a short story about a young girl looking like a seagull. “A man came by chance, saw and nothing to do, ruined her.”
A week passes. In the dining room of the house Sorin Masha confesses to Trigorin that he loves Treplev and, in order to wrest this love from his heart, marries Medvedenko, although he does not like him. Trigorin is going to leave for Moscow together with Arkadina. Irina Nikolayevna is leaving because of her son, who was shooting, and now he is going to call Trigorin to a duel. Nina Zarechnaya is also going to leave, as she dreams of becoming an actress. She comes to say goodbye. Nina gives him a medallion, where the lines from his book are indicated. Opening the book in the right place, he reads: “If you ever need my life, then come and take it.” Trigorin wants to follow Nina, because it seems to him that this is the same feeling he has been looking for all his life. Learning about this, Irina Arkadina on her knees begs not to leave her. However, agreeing in words,
It takes two years. Sorin is sixty-two years old, very sick, but also full of thirst for life. Medvedenko and Masha are married, they have a child, but there is no happiness in their marriage. Masha is disgusting both husband and child, and Medvedenko himself suffers from this very much.
Treplev tells Dorn, who is interested in Nina Zarechnaya, her fate. She fled the house and met Trigorin. They had a baby, but soon died. Trigorin already stopped loving her and again returned to Arkadina. On the stage with Nina everything seemed to be even worse. She played a lot, but very “rude, tasteless, with howls.” She wrote letters to Trepleva, but she never complained. In the letters she subscribed to Chaika. Her parents do not want to know her and do not let her into the house even close. Now she is in the city. And she promised to come. Treplev is confident that he will not come.
However, he is mistaken. Nina appears completely unexpectedly. Constantine once again confesses to her in love and faithfulness. He is ready to forgive her everything and devote her whole life. Nina does not accept his victim. She still loves Trigorin, which Treplevu admits. She leaves for the province to play in the theater and invites Treplev to look at her game when she becomes a great actress.
Treplev after her departure tears all her manuscripts and throws them under the table, then leaves for the next room. In the room they left, Arkadina, Trigorin, Dorn and others gather. They are going to play and sing. A shot is heard. Dorn, having told that it, obviously, his test-tube burst, goes to the noise. Returning, he takes Trigorin aside and asks him to take away somewhere to Irina Nikolaevna, because her son, Konstantin Gavrilovich, shot himself.