Chekhov's gun is a dramatic principle requiring that every element in a narrative be necessary and irreplaceable, and that everything else be removed. Stated by Anton Chekhov, "Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there."
Variations on the statement include:
- "One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn't going to go off. It's wrong to make promises you don't mean to keep." Chekhov, letter to Aleksandr Semenovich Lazarev (pseudonym of A. S. Gruzinsky), 1 November 1889. Here the "gun" is a monologue that Chekhov deemed superfluous and unrelated to the rest of the play.
- "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there." From Gurlyand's Reminiscences of A. P. Chekhov, in Teatr i iskusstvo 1904, No. 28, 11 July, p. 521.
- Foreshadowing, casual use of elements which become important later
- Red herring, drawing attention to a certain element in order to mislead
- Petr Mikhaĭlovich Bit︠s︡illi (1983), Chekhov's art, a stylistic analysis, Ardis, p. x
- Daniel S. Burt (2008), The Literature 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Novelists, Playwrights, and Poets of All Time, Infobase Publishing
- Valentine T. Bill (1987), Chekhov: The Silent Voice of Freedom, Philosophical Library
- S. Shchukin, Memoirs (1911)
- Anton Chekov entry at The Isaiah Berlin Virtual Library]
- Чехов А. П. (1 ноября 1889.), "Чехов — Лазареву (Грузинскому) А. С.", Чехов А. П. Полное собрание сочинений и писем (АН СССР. Ин-т мировой лит.)
- Leah Goldberg (1976), Russian Literature in the Nineteenth Century: Essays, Magnes Press, Hebrew University, p. 163
- In 1889, 24-year-old Ilia Gurliand noted these words down from Chekhov's conversation: "If in Act I you have a pistol hanging on the wall, then it must fire in the last act". Donald Rayfield, Anton Chekhov: A Life, New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1997, ISBN 0-8050-5747-1, 203. Ernest. J. Simmons says that Chekhov repeated the point later (which may account for the variations). Ernest J. Simmons, Chekhov: A Biography, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962, ISBN 0-226-75805-2, 190.