The Cherry Orchard
Scene from Act 3 of the original Moscow Art Theatre production
Written byAnton Chekhov
Date premiered1904
Place premieredMoscow Art Theatre
Original languageRussian

The Cherry Orchard (Russian: Вишнёвый сад, romanizedVishnyovyi sad) is the last play by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. Written in 1903, it was first published by Znaniye (Book Two, 1904),[1] and came out as a separate edition later that year in Saint Petersburg, via A.F. Marks Publishers.[2] On the 17th of January, 1904, it opened at the Moscow Art Theatre in a production directed by Konstantin Stanislavski. Chekhov described the play as a comedy, with some elements of farce, though Stanislavski treated it as a tragedy. Since its first production, directors have contended with its dual nature. It is often identified as one of the three or four outstanding plays by Chekhov, along with The Seagull, Three Sisters, and Uncle Vanya.[3]

The play revolves around an aristocratic Russian landowner who returns to her family estate (which includes a large and well-known cherry orchard) just before it is auctioned to pay the mortgage. Unresponsive to offers to save the estate, she allows its sale to the son of a former serf; the family leaves to the sound of the cherry orchard being cut down. The story presents themes of cultural futility – both the futile attempts of the aristocracy to maintain its status and of the bourgeoisie to find meaning in its new-found materialism.[citation needed] It dramatizes the socioeconomic forces in Russia at the turn of the 20th century, including the rise of the middle class after the abolition of serfdom in the mid-19th century and the decline of the power of the aristocracy.[4]

Widely regarded as a classic of 20th-century theatre,[citation needed] the play has been translated and adapted into many languages and produced around the world. Major theatre directors have staged it, including Charles Laughton, Peter Brook, Andrei Șerban, Jean-Louis Barrault, Tyrone Guthrie, Katie Mitchell, Robert Falls, and Giorgio Strehler. It has influenced many other playwrights, including Eugene O'Neill, George Bernard Shaw, David Mamet, and Arthur Miller.


The spelling of character names depends on the transliteration used.

Konstantin Stanislavski as Leonid Gayev, c. 1922


Act 1

The play opens on a day in May in the nursery of Lyubov Andreyevna Ranevskaya's home in the provinces of Russia, at the start of the 20th century. Ranevskaya has been living in France since her young son drowned. After she had tried to kill herself, Ranevskaya's 17-year-old daughter Anya and Anya's governess Charlotta Ivanovna have brought her home to Russia, accompanied by Yasha, Ranevskaya's valet. Upon returning, they are met by Lopakhin, Dunyasha, Varya (who has overseen the estate in Ranevskaya's absence), Ranevskaya's brother Gayev, Boris Simeonov-Pishchik, Semyon Yepikhodov, and Firs.

Lopakhin has come to remind Ranevskaya and Gayev that their estate, including the cherry orchard, will be auctioned soon to pay off the family's debts. He proposes to save the estate by allowing part of it to be developed into summer cottages; however, this would require the destruction of the cherry orchard, which is nationally known for its size.

Ranevskaya is enjoying the view of the orchard as day breaks, when she is surprised by Peter Trofimov, a young student and former tutor of Ranevskaya's dead son, Grisha. Trofimov had insisted on seeing Ranevskaya upon her return, and she is grief-stricken at the reminder of this tragedy. After Ranevskaya retires for the evening, Anya confesses to Varya that their mother is heavily in debt. They all go to bed with the hope that the estate will be saved and the cherry orchard preserved. Trofimov stares after the departing Anya in adoration.

Act 2

Act II takes place outdoors near the orchard. Yepikhodov and Yasha vie for the affection of Dunyasha by singing and playing guitar while Charlotta soliloquizes about her life. In Act I it was revealed that Yepikhodov proposed to Dunyasha at Easter; however, she has become infatuated with the more "cultured" Yasha. Charlotta leaves so that Dunyasha and Yasha might have some time alone, but that is interrupted when they hear their employer coming. Yasha shoos Dunyasha away to avoid being caught, and Ranevskaya, Gayev, and Lopakhin appear, once more discussing the uncertain fate of the cherry orchard. Soon Anya, Varya, and Trofimov arrive as well. Lopakhin teases Trofimov for being a perpetual student, and Trofimov espouses his philosophy of work and useful purpose, to the delight and humour of everyone around. During their conversations, a disheveled beggar passes by; Ranevskaya gives him all her money, despite his protestations of Varya. Shaken by the disturbance, the family departs for dinner. Anya stays behind to talk with Trofimov, who disapproves of Varya, reassuring Anya that they are 'above love'. To impress Trofimov, Anya vows to leave the past behind her and start a new life. The two depart for the river as Varya calls in the background.

Act 3

It is the end of August, and Ranevskaya's party is held. Musicians play as the family and guests drink and entertain themselves. It is also the day of the auction; Gayev has received a paltry amount of money from his and Ranevskaya's aunt, and the family members, despite the general merriment around them, are anxious while they wait for news. Varya worries about paying the musicians and scolds their neighbor Pishchik for drinking, Dunyasha for dancing, and Yepikhodov for playing billiards. Charlotta performs magic tricks. Ranevskaya scolds Trofimov for his teasing of Varya, whom he refers to as "Madame Lopakhin". She then urges Varya to marry Lopakhin, but Varya demurs, reminding her that it is Lopakhin's duty to ask for her hand in marriage, not the other way around. She says that if she had money she would move as far away as possible. Alone with Ranevskaya, Trofimov insists that she finally face the fact that the house and orchard will be sold at auction. Ranevskaya shows him a telegram she has received and reveals that her former lover is ill and has begged her to return to Paris. She is seriously considering this, despite his cruel behaviour to her in the past. Trofimov is stunned at this; they argue about the nature of love and their respective experiences. Trofimov leaves, but falls down the stairs off-stage and is carried in by the others. Ranevskaya laughs and forgives him for his folly and the two reconcile. Anya enters with a rumour that the estate has been sold. Lopakhin arrives with Gayev, both of them exhausted from the trip and the day's events. Gayev is distant and goes to bed without saying a word of the outcome of the auction. When Ranevskaya asks who bought the estate, Lopakhin reveals that he is the purchaser, and intends to chop down the orchard. Ranevskaya, distraught, clings to Anya, who reassures her that the future will be better now.

Act 4

Several weeks later the family's belongings are being packed as the family prepares to leave the estate. Trofimov enters, and he and Lopakhin exchange opposing world views. Lopakhin does not propose to Varya. Anya enters and reprimands Lopakhin for ordering his workers to begin chopping down the cherry orchard while the family is still there; Lopakhin apologises and rushes out to stop them for the time being, in the hopes that he will be somehow reconciled with the family. Charlotta enters, lost and in a daze, and insists that the family find her a new position. Ranevskaya bids her old life goodbye and leaves as the house is shut up forever. In the gloom, Firs wanders into the room and discovers that they have left without him and boarded him inside the abandoned house to die. He lies down and resigns himself to this fate. The sound of axes cutting down trees is heard off-stage.


One of the main themes of the play is the effect social change has on people. The emancipation of the serfs on 19 February 1861 by Alexander II allowed former serfs to gain wealth and status while some aristocrats were becoming impoverished, unable to tend their estates without the cheap labor of slavery. The effect of these reforms was still being felt when Chekhov was writing forty years after the mass emancipation.[5]

Chekhov originally intended the play as a comedy (indeed, the title page of the work refers to it as such), and in letters noted that it is, in places, almost farcical.[6] When he saw the original Moscow Art Theatre production directed by Konstantin Stanislavski, he was horrified to find that the director had moulded the play into a tragedy. Ever since that time, productions have had to struggle with this dual nature of the play (and of Chekhov's works in general).[citation needed] Ranevskaya's failure to address the problems facing her estate and family means that she eventually loses almost everything, and her fate can be seen as a criticism of those people who are unwilling to adapt to the new Russia. Her petulant refusal to accept the truth of her past, in both life and love, is her downfall throughout the play. She ultimately runs between her life in Paris and in Russia (she arrives from Paris at the start of the play and returns there afterwards). She is a woman who lives in an illusion of the past (often reliving memories about her son's death, etc.). The speeches by the student Trofimov, attacking intellectuals were later seen as early manifestations of Bolshevik ideas and his lines were often censored by the Tsarist officials. Cherry trees themselves are often seen as symbols of sadness or regret at the passing away of a certain situation or of the times in general.

The idea of independence and freedom is relevant to the positions of Firs and Lopakhin. Firs has been with the estate for decades, and all he has ever known is to serve his masters. When the news of the orchard being sold breaks, Firs seems unfazed, and continues to carry out his duties, but is unable to find his independence and freedom; Lopakhin was able to "free" himself, in the sense that he was able to find motivation to keep on going. Even though the two are polar opposites on the social ladder, they both have internal struggles regarding what their life is going to be after the orchard is chopped down.[7]

Production history

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Initial 1904 production

The play opened on 17 January 1904, the director's birthday, at the Moscow Art Theatre under the direction of the actor-director Konstantin Stanislavski. During rehearsals, the structure of Act Two was re-written. Famously contrary to Chekhov's wishes, Stanislavski's version was, by and large, a tragedy. Chekhov disliked the Stanislavski production intensely, concluding that Stanislavski had "ruined" his play. In one of many letters on the subject, Chekhov would complain, "Anya, I fear, should not have any sort of tearful tone... Not once does my Anya cry, and nowhere do I speak of a tearful tone; in the second act, there are tears in their eyes, but the tone is happy and lively. Why did you speak in your telegram about so many tears in my play? Where are they? ... Often you will find the words "through tears," but I am describing only the expression on their faces, not tears. And in the second act there is no graveyard."[8] The playwright's wife Olga Knipper played Madame Ranevskaya in the original Moscow Art Theatre production, as well as in the 300th production of the play by the theatre in 1943.

Although critics at the time were divided in their response to the play, the debut of The Cherry Orchard by the Moscow Art Theatre on 17 January 1904 (Stanislavski's birthday) was a resounding theatrical success and the play was almost immediately presented in many of the important provincial cities. This success was not confined only to Russia, as the play was soon seen abroad with great acclaim as well. Shortly after the play's debut, Chekhov departed for Germany due to his worsening health, and by July 1904 he was dead.

The modest and newly urbanized audiences attending pre-revolutionary performances at S. V. Panin's People's House in Saint Petersburg reportedly cheered as the cherry orchard was felled on-stage.[9]

Other productions in the 20th century

21st century



Other media


The Cherry Orchard memorabilia at the Chekhov Gymnasium literary museum.

The Japanese manga Sakura no Sono (1985-86) and its live-action film adaptations are about a drama group in a girls-only private high school putting on a production of The Cherry Orchard.

The play has a role in the comedy film Henry's Crime (2011).


English translations


  1. ^ "Сборник товарищества «Знание» за 1903 год". Книга вторая. СПб., 1904, стр. 29—105. Подпись: А. Чехов.
  2. ^ Commentaries to Вишневый сад Archived 2017-05-31 at the Wayback Machine. The Complete Chekhov in 30 Volumes. Vol. 13. // Чехов А. П. Вишневый сад: Комедия в 4-х действиях // Чехов А. П. Полное собрание сочинений и писем: В 30 т. Сочинения: В 18 т. / АН СССР. Ин-т мировой лит. им. А. М. Горького. — М.: Наука, 1974—1982. Т. 13. Пьесы. 1895—1904. — М.: Наука, 1978. — С. 195—254.
  3. ^ Harold Bloom, Genius: A Study of One Hundred Exemplary Authors.
  5. ^ A general overview of these themes, among others, can be found in: Jean-Pierre Barricelli, ed., Chekhov’s Great Plays: A Critical Anthology (New York, 1981), Richard Peace, Chekhov: A Study of the Four Major Plays (New Haven, 1983), Donald Rayfield, Understanding Chekhov: A Critical Study of Chekhov’s Prose and Drama (Madison, 1999).
  6. ^ Hirst, David L. Tragicomedy: Variations of melodrama: Chekhov and Shaw. London: Routledge, 1984, 83
  7. ^ GradeSaver. "The Cherry Orchard Themes | GradeSaver". Retrieved 2020-03-02.
  8. ^ Gregory Stroud, Retrospective Revolution: A History of Time and Memory in Urban Russia, 1903–1923 (Urbana-Champaign, 2006), 63–4.
  9. ^ Richard Stites, Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution (New York, 1989), 63.
  10. ^ "Oxford Playhouse 70th". Archived from the original on 3 November 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  11. ^ Sperdakos, Paula (1998-01-01). "Acting in Canada: Frances Hyland, Kate Reid, Martha Henry and the Stratford Festival's 1965 The Cherry Orchard". Theatre Research in Canada / Recherches théâtrales au Canada. 19 (1). doi:10.3138/tric.19.1.35. ISSN 1913-9101.
  12. ^ "'The Cherry Orchard' Listing" ibdb, Retrieved 18 November 2011
  13. ^ a b Miles, Patrick."Appendix"Chekhov on the British stage (1993), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-38467-2, p. 247
  14. ^ Gottlieb, Vera (4 November 2000). The Cambridge companion to Chekhov. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. p. 255. ISBN 0-521-58917-7.
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  17. ^ Tshechof, Anton, (cyf. W. Gareth Jones) Y Gelli Geirios, (Aberystwyth, Y Ganolfan Astudiaethau Addysg, Prifysgol Aberystwyth, 2007), t.ii.
  18. ^ Phillips, Michael."Steppenwolf's capable production of Chekhov's 'Cherry Orchard' takes flight in brief, discrete moments" Chicago Tribune, 14 November 2005
  19. ^ McCarter, Jeremy."Theater Review: 'The Cherry Orchard'" New York Magazine, 18 June 2005
  20. ^ Hernandez, Ernio."Annette Bening and Alfred Molina Roam into The Cherry Orchard in L.A", 2 February 2006
  21. ^ "BU – CFA – School of Theatre – Huntington Theatre Company". 27 December 2007. Archived from the original on 27 December 2007.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  22. ^ Giuliano, Charles."Huntington Theatre's 'The Cherry Orchard', 11 January 2007
  23. ^ Walker, Lynne."Review, 'The Cherry Orchard'"[dead link]The Independent, 22 March 2007. (Retrieved 30 March 2007) (#4)
  24. ^ Richter, Judy."Oregon Shakespeare Festival: 'The Cherry Orchard'", accessed 19 November 2011
  25. ^ Billington, Michael."Theatre Review, 'The Cherry Orchard'"The Guardian, 25 May 2008
  26. ^ Brantley, Ben."Theater Review, 'The Chery Orchard'"The New York Times, 16 January 2009
  27. ^ "Blackeyed Theatre – Home".
  28. ^ "Before I Sleep". dreamthinkspeak. Retrieved 2011-02-23.
  29. ^ Brian Logan (17 May 2010). "Before I Sleep". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  30. ^ "Before I Sleep, Old Co-op Building, BrightonEurydice, Maria, Young Vic, LondonMacbeth, Globe, London". The Independent. 2010-05-09. Retrieved 2011-02-23.
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  32. ^ Wolf, Matt."Chekhov's Villain Gives an Audience Someone to Root For"The New York Times, 31 May 2011
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  34. ^ "Taking Nantucket To Chekhov".
  35. ^ "Cherry Orachard (includes director's notes on the play, production still photographs, and related information". Retrieved 30 October 2013.
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  37. ^ BWW News Desk. "PK Productions to Stage New Adaptation of THE CHERRY ORCHARD, 3–8 November".
  38. ^ "THE CHERRY ORCHARD – New Theatre Sydney". 24 May 2017.
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  40. ^ Viagas, Robert (16 October 2016). "See What the Critics Said About 'The Cherry Orchard' on Broadway". Playbill.
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  42. ^ "Shaw Festival's Chekhov-inspired familial tale builds a legacy of its own | The Star". Retrieved 2018-10-31.
  43. ^ "The Orchard (After Chekhov) – Shaw Festival Theatre". Shaw Festival Theatre. Retrieved 2018-10-31.
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