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21 Feb

The Swan Song: Anton Chekhov

“The Swan Song” by Anton Chekhov revolves round Svietlovidoff, a sixty-eight –year-old actor .He was an actor playing his part in a drama staged for his benefit. He had fallen asleep in the dressing room when the play was over.  He was a foolish old man .He had been drinking and so had fallen asleep in the dressing room. He had poured down his throat plenty of beer and wine. His body was burning all over. He could play the fool and boast and pretend to be young but his life was over.

He came out of the dressing room with a candle in his hand to the stage of a country theatre. On the stage there was no sound. Only echoes answered him. He felt that he was probably locked up in the theatre.  He had been on the stage for forty five years. However he had never been on stage in total darkness at night .It was cold too. As he stood there Nikita Ivanitch, the prompter, came out of the dressing room in a long white coat and he was afraid.

Svietlovidoff told Ivanitch that the audience was thrilled to see him. They had brought him flowers. But no one came when it was all over to wake the poor drunken old man and take him home. He had nobody. He had no wife and no children. He was like the wind blowing across the lonely field .He felt awful to be alone with no one to cheer him, no one to caress him and no one to help him to bed.

In his youth he had served in the army, in the artillery .He was then handsome daring and eager. When he first went on the stage a woman loved him for his acting. She was beautiful, graceful, young, innocent, pure and bright as summer dawn. Once she spoke to him with her eyes.Her eyes were so tender, so soft, so deep, so bright and so young. He had stood before her once and asked her to marry him. She said that she would marry him if he gave up acting. He understood that the worship of art of acting was an empty dream. He understood his audience at last. He was always a stranger to the audience He was in deep despair. He began to wander about aimlessly. He lived from day to day without looking ahead. He began to take the parts of buffoons and low comedians. Thus he threw away his talents. He lost his looks, lost the power of expressing himself and became a comedian in the end.

He told the prompter that once he had great power and eloquence.   With Nikita’s prompting he recited some famous speeches from the plays of Shakespeare and Pushkin. He recited  passages from KING LEAR and HAMLET. He even asked the prompter to take the fool’s part. He simply enjoyed playing his part. He felt that where there was art and genius there never can be such thing as old age or loneliness or sickness. It made him think of the horrible experiences in his life. It reminded him that he was a great actor who had great talent and genius .Indeed his performance by reciting the moving lines from OTHELLO is indeed the swan song of his forty five year long career in the theatre.  

It is indeed a brilliant drama .He makes excellent portrayal of the character of Svietlovidoff. His craftsmanship is beyond comparison. The drama ends on a positive note as he discovers that he is still a talented actor.


C         1.         First two sentences of  Para 1 and para 3

            2.           Para 1 and para   3

            3.         First two sentences of  Para 1 and para  2 & 4

B.        1.         He felt that he was ruining his health by drinking. Besides he was old.

2.         He compares himself to the wind blowing across the lonely field as he had no wife and children. Infact he had nobody to cheer him and help him and he was alone .

3.         He felt that he remained a stranger to them because the woman he loved     refused to marry him unless he gave up acting. He understood that the worship of art was an empty dream.

4.         Svietlovidoff evokes in his swan song Shakespeare and Pushkin the great masters of the theatre.

Courtesy: Prof Pius Ozhakal

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