From left to
right (sitting): brother Mikhail, sister Mary, father Pavel Yegorovitch, mother
Yevgenia Yakovlevna, Aunt Ludmila Pavlovna, cousin George;
(standing): brother Ivan, Anton, brother Nikolay, brother Alexander, Uncle Mitrofan Egorovich.
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was born January 17, 1860 in Taganrog, Russia to Pavel Yegorovich and Yevgeniya Chekhov. He was the son of a grocer who tried to force his son to follow his strict religious beliefs. It is said that Chekhov’s “childhood remained a painful memory to Chekhov, although it later proved to be a vivid and absorbing experience that he often invoked in his works” (Encyclopedia Britannica online). Chekhov attended a Greek school for boys and later entered high school until his father’s bankruptcy relocated the family to Moscow. Chekhov stayed behind in Taganrog to finish school and tutor until he joined his family in 1879 in Moscow. He attended school at the Moscow University School to study medicine. He graduated school as a doctor in 1884. (Magarshack)
Anton supported his family with earnings he made as a free-lance journalist and comic sketch artist, while still keeping up with his medical studies and active social life. At this time, he signed all of his work pseudonymously. It is said that “Chekhov’s medical and science experiment is evident in much of his work as evidenced by the apathy many of the characters show toward tragic events” (online-literature.com).
By 1888, Chekhov’s work became famous and he printed two full length novels. He wrote the majority of his work during this time. 1888 also marked the year that his writing became more serious and less comical. It is said that “he also experimented in serious writing, providing studies of human misery and despair strangely at variance with the frenzied facetiousness of his comic work” (Encyclopedia Britannica online). Two significant experiences that occurred during this year was the publication of his first work Northern Herald and winning the Pushkin Prize.
Throughout 1887-89 Chekhov writes the play “Ivanov,” which is considered one of his “clinical studies” since the work “explore[s] the experiences of the mentally of physically ill” (Encyclopedia Britannica online). This, in turn, is also influenced by the writer’s previous experience with working in the medical field.
In 1889 Chekhov was elected member of The Society of Lovers of Russian Literature. This achievement gained Chekhov a lot of recognition and it was said that “the ingenuity and insight displayed in this tour de force was especially remarkable, coming from an author so young” (Encyclopedia Britannica online). With this, Chekhov gained praise from critics and writers alike, including Tolstoy and Leskov.
In 1889, Chekhov’s play “The Wood Demon” was considered a failure and he began to feel the pressure from society demanding that he take a more affirmative stance on politics and social views. This, in turn, led the author to withdraw from literature for a bit and again focus on medicine. At this time, Chekhov visited a Siberian penal colony and published his findings in a work entitled The Island of Sakhalin.
In 1892, Chekhov moved to a country village in Melikhove and became a full time writer. He invited the rest of his family to live with him. His years spent in Melikhove were considered to be “the most creatively effective [period] of Chekhov’s life so far as short stories were concerned” (Encyclopedia Britannica Online).
For the next 5 years Chekhov produces works such as: Neighbors, Ward Number Six, An Anonymous Story, The Black Monk, A Woman’s Kingdom, Murder, Ariadne, and Three Years. In 1896 Chekhov produces the play “Seagull” which was poorly received upon its first performance. However, two years later it was performed again and received better reviews by the audience and critics.
In 1897, Chekhov fell ill with tuberculosis and moved to Yalta. He spent the rest of his winters there, very much cut off from Moscow or St. Petersburg, despite the fact that his plays were starting to gain serious attention in those two cities. Regardless, it was in Yalta where Chekhov wrote his most famous stories. During the next two years some of the stories Chekhov produced were: The Man in the Case, Gooseberries, and The Lady with the Dog. In 1899, Chekhov sold his writings to publisher A.F. Marx for a mere 75,000 rubles.
During 1899-1901, Marx issued first comprehensive edition of Chekhov’s works. Also in 1901, Chekhov marries actress Olga Knipper who had been a performer in some of his plays. Toward the end of his life, Chekhov’s attention turned once more to theater and he wrote “Three Sisters” (1901) and “The Cherry Orchard” (1904). Written for and performed in the Moscow Art Theater, Chekhov often attended rehearsals of his plays. However, he was very dissatisfied with the theater’s founders, Vladimir Nemirovich – Dan chenko and Konstantin Stanislavsky for their want to lighten the tone of the plays. Anton Pavlovich Chekhov died on July 15, 1904 in Germany. He was buried in the Novodeviche Monastery in Moscow.
Chekhov finally became internationally famous after WWI. Constance Garnett was the main translator of Chekhov’s works. From 1955-1951, The Complete Works of A.P. Chekhov was published, which included eight volumes of his correspondence in several thousand letters.
"Chekhov, Anton." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2005. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 15 Nov. 2005 <http://search.eb.com/eb/article-9022754>.
The Encyclopædia Britannica Online is a resource that highlights and overviews the life and works of Anton Chekhov. This website separates Chekhov’s life into specific developmental and stages both in regards to his life and his progression as a writer. An advantage to this online resource is that it provides suggestions for additional regard about the life of Chekhov.
The Literature Network. Anton Chekhov. 2005. 10 Nov. 2005
This online resource provides a brief yet accurate summary of the life of Anton Chekhov. A significant advantage of this online resource is that it provides links to all of Chekhov’s works online. A person can search and find the entire selection of Chekhov’s fiction, plays, and short stories.
Magarshack, David. Chekhov: A Life. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1952.
This book is a wonderful and in depth biography of Anton Chekhov. Much like the Encyclopedia Britannica, this book separates Chekhov’s life into developmental stages; however, describing these stages in much detail. Magarshack does an excellent job of discussing Chekhov’s life, significant situations and experiences, as well as the influences on his writing.