Less than five seconds ago I finished reading Chekhov’s Sea Gull and I am full of it the way that good plays fill you up, to the point where your seams nearly burst and your belly bulges to contain the powerful emotions that come with absorbing a play too fast. Goes to your head, like too-cold lemonade in July. Where to begin?
The sea gull, I think, and Treplev’s gift to Nina, symbolizes the fact (to Treplev) that Treplev could not give Nina anything of value. Sea gulls are easy and worthless to shoot. A gift of a seagull is like a gift of sand. And then you have Trigorin’s trite analysis, in which Chekhov just fucking outdoes himself: it (a) sets up Treplev as the bad guy to Nina, it (b) foreshadows Trigorin’s seduction of Nina, and (c) it blocks Treplev’s implied message. AMAZING! New! Wild! Different! How the hell do you write so many things with such brevity?!
I can see, though, why this play was recommended for Acting 1. It’s easy to get along with. Prolly played to huge audiences, because there’s not enough really deep stuff in it to alienate the common audiences. Also the illuminati prolly liked it due to Chekhov’s message about the destiny of theater, through Treplev’s speeches in Act One. Gets you on a lot of levels at once. Also you’ve got Masha and Medvedenko as subplots AND comic relief. Only Walt Disney does it better.
I don’t like the ending line. It’s a bit of a cheat. Sure, it’s shocking to hear that Treplev has just shot himself but if you kill the lights on that line there is nowhere to be gone. The play is not only over, it’s killed. I would sorta have liked it if we HADN’T have known it Treplev had shot himself or not. That would have annoyed the shit out of audiences but it would have given the play a micro-degree more of class.