12/2/2013 12:53 PM
Ivanov is one of Anton Chekhov’s early plays and is lesser known than his four major works. The play depicts the struggle of Nikolai Ivanov, a financially ruined government official whose wife, Anna, is dying of tuberculosis. Throughout the play, Ivanov is tormented with guilt over his inability to help his wife and pay off his debts. After Anna’s death, Ivanov nearly marries a young woman in town, but is so overcome with his own guilt that he shoots himself at the end of the play.
Ivanov’s dynamic plot sets itself apart from Chekhov’s later works. The play’s dramatic circumstances invade the lives of each character. While the characters in Chekhov’s later plays create their own conflicts, Nikolai Ivanov’s psychological struggle arises externally from his wife’s death.
While Chekhov is famous for effortlessly blurring the lines between comedy and drama, Ivanov separates the two. Entire scenes are often split into categories of either farce or melodrama, and laughter rarely colors dramatic moments. Chekhov seems to develop his two styles side-by-side in Ivanov before combining them in his later works.
Ivanov lacks some of the sophistication of Chekhov’s later works but still grapples with the difficult issues of Anti-Semitism and mental health. Nikolai Ivanov emerges as one of Chekhov’s most complex characters after his guilt drives him into depression. These dramatic circumstances that characterize Ivanov as an early work give rise to its poignancy.