Aristotle on Tragedy (Summary)

The events of a life, even the life of an imaginary character, must be sorted and organized. Homer, for example, does not include all of the details known about Odysseus’s life in the Odyssey, but selects a series of events (the hero’s homecoming) and assembles them into a consistent and unified whole.

Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard adheres to Aristotle’s definition of plot. Instead of chronicling every detail of Lyubov’s life, he focuses on a specific section of it: the loss of her cherry orchard, what led to it, and what happened directly afterward. For instance, Chekhov lets us know about Lyubov’s time in France through her and Anya’s speeches, but he does not actually show them in France and on the road at the beginning of the play, because that would be unnecessary.

Aristotle also says that surprises in a drama should be necessary to the plot and inevitable in hindsight, not just shocking for the heck of it. The big twist of The Cherry Orchard also follows this rule. In the end, when Lopahin buys the orchard, the readers and the other characters alike are surprised. But then, looking back on it, the action seems inevitable: Lopahin had the financial means to do it, he had an elaborate plan in mind, and he was one of the main characters. If the other millionaire had ended up buying the orchard, or some other wealthy person, then the selling of the orchard would not benefit the plot. It would be random to introduce someone new so far into the story. Therefore, Lopahin buying the property just makes sense.

According to Dr. Jerz’s summary, Aristotle believed that comedies depicted the worst in people and tragedies, the best. Because The Cherry Orchard contains comedic and tragic elements, it shows us both sides. Chekhov intended this play to be a comedy, and in it, he satirizes the undesirable characteristics of society: Firs’ senility, Yasha’s carelessness, Gaev’s randomness, Lyubov’s irresponsibility, Lopahin’s lack of remorse. And yet, the sadness of the plot brings out humanity’s best qualities in these characters, too: Firs’ loyalty and chivalry, Yasha’s longing for a better life, Gaev’s perseverance, Lyubov’s generosity and compassion, Lopahin’s patience and diligence.

The characters genuinely care about each other and want each other to have the best lives possible, even when their plans conflict and their ideals clash. Because of this, Chekhov’s play shows us both sides of Aristotle’s views on drama.

 

Source: Aristotle on Tragedy (Summary)

1 thought on “Aristotle on Tragedy (Summary)

  1. I agree with the connection you made about Aristotle and Chekov because it definitely shows in The Cherry Orchard. The parts that you mentioned about the play are definitely spot on and I also agree with your thoughts about the buying of the orchard because it falls into place perfectly. Being as though he is one of the main characters in the play it would only be right for him to have bought the orchard over someone else.

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