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Russian Theater and Anton Chekhov's The Seagull

            In Russian theater, Anton Chekhov is an icon of modern naturalism. His plays, like his stories, are studies of the spiritual failure of characters in a patrician society that is inevitably destabilising. With its high point around the 1880's naturalist theatre, having roots in 18th century realism but separate to, attempted to mirror life with utmost devotion. The movement in the theater of Chekhov away from the extremely emphasised expression of scenic emotion went hand in hand with the gradual de-emphasis of movement and physical actions on the stage: instead where all characters became the product of their environment. Treplef's passionate monologue is better worth quoting as a first step in this analysis of naturalism in early 20th century theatre, as deconstructed through the naturalist play "The Seagull." The emergence of naturalism did not mark a radical break with realism, rather the new style being an extension of the old (Ekambaram, 2012). The term was invented by Émile Zola (1902), a French writer and the most important figure of the literary school of naturalism. Zola stated that the writer's task was to dissect the environment and human nature with the clinical precision of a scientist [Per 06]. His work particularly focused on the lower social strata, whereas Zola claims, "the state of the social environment and its heredity are particularly visible" (Innes, Naturalism, 2006). Naturalist movement is informed by 19th century science particularly by Darwin's biological theories (On the Origin of Species, 1859); Bernard's scientific observations of human psychology; and Taine's deterministic theories of history (Ekambaram, 2012).
             As with Ibsen's "Ghosts" (1881), Chekhov initially was not well received by either the European or American communities. His characters were called upon to highlight dramatic emotions in a detached way by changing positions, sitting down, standing up, retreating and advancing, turning around, crossing the stage, and so forth (Marker, 1975, pg.

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