A Marriage Proposal

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A Marriage Proposal
Written by Anton Chekhov
Date premiered 1890 (1890)
Original language Russian
Genre One-act farce

A Marriage Proposal (sometimes translated as simply The Proposal, Russian: Предложение) is a one-act farce by Anton Chekhov, written in 1888-1889 and first performed in 1890. It is a fast-paced play of dialogue-based action and situational humour.

Characters[edit]

  • Stepan Stepanovitch Chubokov, 70 years old, man
  • Natalia Stepanovna, his daughter, 25 years old
  • Ivan Vassiliyitch Lomov, 35 years old, a neighbour of Tschubukov, a large and hearty, but very suspicious landowner

Plot synopsis[edit]

Ivan Vassiliyitch Lomov, a long-time neighbor of Stepan Stepanovitch Chubukov, has come to propose marriage to Chubukov's 25-year-old daughter, Natalya. After he has asked and received joyful permission to marry Natalya, she is invited into the room, and he tries to convey to her the proposal. Lomov is a hypochondriac, and, while trying to make clear his reasons for being there, he gets into an argument with Natalia about The Oxen Meadows, a disputed piece of land between their respective properties, which results in him having "palpitations" and numbness in his leg. After her father notices they are arguing, he joins in, and then sends Ivan out of the house. While Stepan rants about Lomov, he expresses his shock that "this fool dares to make you (Natalya) a proposal of marriage!" She immediately starts into hysterics, begging for her father to bring him back. He does, and Natalia and Ivan get into a second big argument, this time about the superiority of their respective hunting dogs, Otkatai and Ugadi. Ivan collapses from his exhaustion over arguing, and father and daughter fear he's dead. However, after a few minutes he regains consciousness, and Tschubukov all but forces him and his daughter to accept the proposal with a kiss. Immediately following the kiss, the couple gets into another argument.

Themes[edit]

The farce explores the process of getting married and could be read as a satire on the upper middle class and courtship.

The play points out the struggle to balance the economic necessities of marriage with what the characters themselves actually want. It shows the characters' desperation for marriage as comical.

In Chekhov's Russia, marriage was a means of economic stability for most people. They married to gain wealth and possessions or to satisfy social pressure. The satire is conveyed successfully by emphasizing the couple's foolish arguments over small things. The main arguments in the play revolve around The Oxen Meadows and two dogs called Flyer and Finder.

Performance history[edit]

The Proposal was successful in its first runs in St. Petersburg and Moscow, and quickly became popular in small towns across Russia.[1] Tsar Alexander III liked the play when he had it performed for him.[2] Chekhov himself thought farces were not really worth much as literature; before its success, he called The Proposal a "wretched, boring, vulgar little skit."[3] He advised its director, Leontiev, to "roll cigarettes out of it for all I care."[3]

When Vassar College staged The Proposal in the 1920s, they performed it three times in one evening, each with a very different staging: "as realism, expressionism, and constructivism."[2] In the second version, played closer to tragedy, the actors were masked, and in the third the actors were all dressed in work suits in a playground, tossing a ball between them.[2]

In 1935 in the Soviet Union, the seminal Russian theatre practitioner Vsevolod Meyerhold combined The Proposal with Chekhov's other short plays The Bear and The Anniversary to form a three-act play called 33 Swoons that demonstrated the weakness of the pre-revolutionary intelligentsia.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Meister (1988, 185) and Senelick (1985, 209).
  2. ^ a b c Meister (1988, 184).
  3. ^ a b Meister (1988, 185).
  4. ^ Senelick (214).
  • Meister, Charles W. 1988. "The Proposal." In Chekhov Criticism: 1880 Through 1986. Jefferson NC: McFarland. 184-85.
  • Senelick, Laurence. 1985. "Chekhov on Stage." In A Chekhov Companion. Ed. Toby W. Clyman. Westport CT: Greenwood. 209-32.

External links[edit]

  • Project Gutenberg eText, an English-language compilation of some of Chekov's shorter plays, including "The Proposal"