Places: The Three Sisters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1901 as Tri sestry (revised, 1904; English translation, 1920)

First produced: 1901, at the Moscow Art Theater

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Impressionistic realism

Time of work: Nineteenth century

Places DiscussedProvincial town

Provincial Three Sisters, Thetown. The drabness of life in provincial Russia grates on the three Prozòrov sisters. Compelled to find some kind of happiness in life, Chekhov’s characters settle for professions and marriages that seem to provide some comfort against the tediousness of life, but which ultimately result in despair. Andrey’s marriage to Natasha threatens the position of his sisters within the household, and eventually the household itself, when Andrey mortgages the property at Natasha’s request.

Prozòrov house

Prozòrov house. Large provincial house left to the Prozòrov children by their father. The house is their birthright as well as the only possession of value that might provide the means of returning to Moscow. Natasha’s marriage to Andrey relegates the sisters to the position of guests in their own home, effectively eliminating any chance of selling the house for their return to Moscow. Once a symbol of hope for the sisters, the Prozòrov house becomes another anchor that keeps the sisters in the provinces.


Garden. As in many of Chekhov’s plays, a garden serves an important function in The Three Sisters by illustrating how simple and beautiful life should be. Baron Tusenbach articulates this idea just prior to his death in a duel with Solyony in the final act of the play. “What beautiful trees they are!” he says, “And how beautiful the life around them ought to be.”

BibliographyBarricelli, Jean-Pierre, ed. Chekhov’s Great Plays: A Critical Anthology. New York: New York University Press, 1981. An excellent collection of critical essays, of which four directly pertain to the play. One deals with the love theme, another discusses Vershinin, the third analyzes cyclical patterns and triads, and the fourth compares the women characters of the four major plays.Clyman, Toby W., ed. A Chekhov Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1985. An eclectic work examining many aspects of the plays and stories. Specific essays focus on Chekhov’s craftsmanship, his impact in the theater, and performance on stage and in film. Good bibliography.Melchinger, Siegfried. Anton Chekhov. Translated by Edith Tarcov. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1972. A slim volume of fewer than two hundred pages with photographs and selected bibliography. A good starting point for the student, containing biographical material, an analysis of Chekhov’s craft, and discussions of individual plays and productions in Europe and America.Troyat, Henri. Chekhov. Translated by Michael Henry Heim. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1986. A readable biography with rare photographs of the author. Includes an interesting description of the writing of The Three Sisters and the reception of the first production.Wellek, René, and Nonna D. Wellek, eds. Chekhov: New Perspectives. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1984. A brief collection of eight essays with a good discussion of The Three Sisters, as well as a historical review of criticism, typical dramatic structure, and Chekhov’s artistic development.
Categories: Places