Chekhov is usually called “Shakespeare of the 20th century”. Indeed, his dramaturgy, like Shakespeare’s, played a huge pivotal role in the history of the world drama. Born in Russia at the turn of the new century, she developed into such an innovative artistic system that defined the ways of the future development of drama and theater around the world.
Of course, the innovation of Chekhov’s dramaturgy was prepared by the searches and discoveries of his great predecessors, the dramatic works of Pushkin and Gogol, Ostrovsky and Turgenev, whose good and strong tradition he relied on. But it was Chekhov’s plays that made a genuine revolution in the theatrical thinking of his time. His entry into the field of drama marked a new starting point in the history of Russian artistic culture. By the end of the nineteenth century, Russian drama was in a state of almost disrepair.
Under the pen of craftsmen, the once high traditions of the drama degenerated into routine cliches, turned into the deadened canons. The scene is too noticeably removed from life. At that time, when the great prose of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky Russian prose was raised to an unprecedented height, the Russian drama dragged on a miserable existence. Overcome this gap between prose and drama, between literature and theater and was destined to none other than Chekhov. By his efforts, the Russian stage was raised to the level of great Russian literature, to the level of Tolstoy
Contemporaries did not think that he simply offered short written great novels for the stage. His plays were struck by an unusual narrative, a realistic thoroughness of his manner. This manner was not accidental. Chekhov was convinced that the drama can not be the property of only outstanding, exceptional personalities, a springboard for only grandiose events. He wanted to discover the drama of the most ordinary everyday reality. In order to give access to the drama of everyday life, Chekhov had to destroy all the obsolete, firmly entrenched dramaturgic canons. “Let everything on the stage be as simple and at the same time as difficult as in life: people are dining, only having dinner, and at that time their happiness is built up and their lives are broken,” Chekhov said, deducing the formula of the new drama. And he began to write plays,
But under the upper layer of everyday life, in an unbiased, seemingly randomly scooped daily routine, where people “just dined”, he discovered an unexpected drama “composing their happiness and shattering their lives.” Deeply hidden in the underwater current of life, the drama of everyday life was the first most important discovery of the writer. This discovery required a revision of the former conception of characters, the correlation of the hero and the environment, another construction of the plot and conflict, another function of events, the breaking of the usual notions of dramatic action, its string, culmination and denouement, the appointment of the word and silence, gesture and gaze.
In short, the entire dramatic structure from top to bottom has undergone a complete re-creation. Chekhov ridiculed the power of everyday life over a man, showed how in a vulgar milieu, any human emotion melts and distorts, as a solemn ritual (funeral, wedding, jubilee) turns into an absurdity, as everyday life kills holidays. Discovering vulgarity in every cell of life, Chekhov combined merry mockery with good humor. He laughed at the human absurdity, but he did not kill the man himself with laughter.
In peaceful everyday life, he saw not only a threat, but also protection, valued the worldly comfort, the warmth of the hearth, the saving power of gravity. The genre of vaudeville gravitated toward tragic fares and tragicomedy. Perhaps that is why his jocular stories concealed the motive of humanity, understanding and sympathy.