Uncle Vanya

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Title: Uncle Vanya
Original title: Дядя Ваня
Genus: tragicomedy
Original language: Russian
Author: Anton Chekhov
Literary source: Anton Chekhov: The Waldschrat
Publishing year: 1896
Premiere: October 26, 1899
Place of premiere: Moscow Art Theater
Place and time of the action: Well Serebrjakóws

1st and 2nd act: at the time of haymaking (around June)

3rd and 4th act: in September

  • Alexander Wladímirowitsch Serebrjaków , retired professor
  • Jeléna Andréjewna , his young second wife
  • Iwán Petrówitsch Wojnízkij , called “Uncle Vanya”, manager of the estate of Professor Serebrjaków and his brother-in-law from his first marriage
  • Sofja Alexándrowna (Sonja) , the daughter of the professor's first marriage, and niece of Uncle Vanya
  • Michaíl Lwówitsch Ástrow , idealistic doctor
  • María Wassíljewna Wojnízkaja , widow of a privy councilor, mother of uncle Vanya and the first wife of the professor
  • Iljá Iljítsch Telégin , impoverished landowner
  • Marína , the old nanny (Njánjá)
  • a servant

Uncle Vanya ( Russian Дядя Ваня , Djadja Vanja ) is a drama in four acts by Anton Chekhov .

Origin and first performances

Anton Chekhov wrote his play Uncle Vanya around 1896 . To this end , he has reworked his comedy Der Waldschrat , which premiered in 1889, but which was not well received by the audience. The main characters have remained the same, although the Waldschrat , at that time not a doctor, but “landowner with medical training”, the model of the later Dr. Ástrow was. In the original comedy, Vanya shoots himself in the third act out of desperation over his life that has become meaningless, but at the end the love of the angelic Sonja for the Waldschrat is happily returned to the cheers and the bravo calls of the other players.

After Chekhov's uncle Vanya had been played in various provincial theaters from 1897, the actual premiere took place in Moscow on October 26, 1899 in the Moscow Art Theater. Stanislawski led Directed and played even the Astrow following the instructions Chekhov: ". He is elegant and sensitive occur, but without real passion" Olga Knipper , Chekhov's later wife, Jelena played.

As early as March 1900, Rainer Maria Rilke asked for the text to be translated, after he had already translated Die Möwe into German . However, these translations are lost. In 1902 two further translations were made independently of each other, and in 1903 the first, albeit largely unsuccessful, German-language performances took place in Munich and in 1904 others in Berlin . It was not until 1926 that the play was able to inspire critics in Berlin.


Paul Bildt as Prof. Serebrjakow (left) and Walter Richter as Iwán Petrówitsch Wojnízkij (right), Deutsches Theater Berlin 1945

Iwán Petrówitsch Wojnízkij has been diligently managing the estate of his now deceased sister. He uses it to finance the career and city life of his brother-in-law, the art professor Serebrjaków , whom he adored for years and, together with his mother, María Wassíljewna , also supported him scientifically with translations and corrections. His niece Sonja , the daughter of the professor and legal owner of the property, grew up on the property with her uncle Vanya (and her nurse Marina ). The now grown-up, not too pretty girl, who is involved in the management of the estate, has long raved about the district doctor Astrow , who - friends of Vanya - occasionally comes to visit. But Ástrow, a committed conservationist and vegetarian , who has become hopelessly overworked and, embittered by the dull country life, has become a drinker, hardly notices Sonja and has also finished with love.

The monotonous and hard-working country life only got moving when the retired professor Serebrjaków , accompanied by his second wife, the young and beautiful Jeléna , withdrew to the estate - “involuntarily, of course; life in the city is just too expensive ”. Wojnízkij is fascinated by the desirable Jeléna, who only sees him as a friend and rudely rejects his advances and declarations of love. On the other hand, Wojnízkij also has to recognize that his admiration for the professor was completely exaggerated: the hypochondriac emeritus did not achieve scientific world fame (as expected from Wojnízkij), but an illustrious life and the best women (Wanja's sister and the beautiful Jeléna, in addition, the continued admiration on the part of his mother-in-law María Wassíljewna) secured.

Since Serebrjaków has been on the estate, a general indolence has spread here. "For one summer everything only cared about your husband's gout and you," Astrow said in the final act to Jeléna, who first slowly and finally completely casts a spell over him - and in the end even begins to be faithful to her husband because of him rethink.

When Serebrjaków announced that he wanted to sell the estate and invest the money in shares in order to finance a life in the city again, the situation escalated completely unexpectedly. Wojnízkij, who in the previous scene discovered his adored Jeléna and his friend Astrow in a compromising pose and is already emotionally devastated as a result, also feels that the sale of his material basis and his own, albeit involuntary, life's work (the financing and debt-free preservation of the property). In a short-circuit act, Wojnízkij takes up a gun and shoots the professor twice - but without hitting. “A life wasted!” Exclaims the esthete beforehand, “my talent, my intelligence, my daring! If I had lived normally, I would have become a Schopenhauer , I would have become a Dostoevsky ! ”.

Wojnízkij struggles with himself and his situation. Alternately he thinks of suicide or looks for a new impulse: “The past - gone. Start all over. ”But his friend Astrow, whom he forgives like Jeléna, brings him back down to earth with the bitter realization:“ We are both finished ”. One cannot hope for visions (anymore), there is only a dull existence. When Serebrjaków leaves with his wife, Wojnízkij confirms: “Everything will be exactly as it was before”. Together with Sonja, he will continue to manage the estate and send the produce to Serebrjaków. Nothing has changed, everything stays the same.

But - how can one endure the leisurely course of the same days, the gradually returning routine, after life seemed to have had a meaning for a short time and has now finally lost it? Sonja tries to comfort Vanya and herself with the prospect of a fulfilling afterlife : “We will come to rest!” Only the old nurse Marina maintains a glimmer of hope that is based on human warmth and compassion: God is gracious. Linden blossom tea helps against grief.


  1. This is how Astrow says it to Mariana in the opening dialogue: "Don't want to need anything, don't want anything, love nobody"
  2. This is how Wojnízkij characterizes the situation in his introductory monologue in the first act
  3. ↑ The fact that Serebrjaków is an academic charlatan who, as Wojnízkij says, "has no clue about art" is Wojnízkij's perspective and insight. The piece allows this interpretation; It is just as clear, however, that the professor does a respectable scientific work, but Wojnízkij no longer approves of it. Wojnízkij considered Serebrjaków to be a scientific god (perhaps a certain Nobel Prize winner nowadays ). He is certainly not such an exceptional researcher, but then, as now, there are very many well-behaved research professors who are good scientists and yet never achieve fame. Serebrjaków can well belong to this group. Wojnízkij is disappointed because he worked for Serebrjaków and did not try to gain fame himself.
  4. The text also allows a broad spectrum of interpretation for the relationship between Astrow and Jeléna. From mutual love or sexual desire to mere erotic gimmicks, numerous interpretations and staging options are absolutely open.
  5. "The estate is debt-free and still together - and that is all thanks to me," Wojnízkij formulates in a confrontation with the professor
  6. The professor, who does not know the previous scene, rightly does not understand why Wojnízkij is overreacting.
  7. This outcry does not only testify to the despair of a single personality: Rather, it expresses the attitude towards life at the end of a great epoch that seems to be followed by nothing.
  8. Everyone (including Chekhov and the readers) knows that this attempt will not succeed.

All translations of this section are from the translation by Alexander Nitzberg (2005), represented by Drei Masken Verlag Munich.

Interpretation pattern

As for all Chekhov pieces, there is no clearly binding interpretation for “Uncle Vanya” either . The following keywords are therefore to be understood as meaningful information.


“Uncle Vanya” takes place at the end of an era - the near end can already be felt, but nothing new is emerging yet. A lethargic mood dominates. The first two acts take place at the time of the hay harvest - the June mood is over the country, one is waiting for the ripening and the summer. The thunderstorm that approaches in the second act does not discharge properly; it is only enough to rain the hay harvest and thus prevent the necessary work. The two final acts take place in autumn . Vanya brings red autumn roses to Jeléna. But nothing has grown, nothing is harvested. Farewell in autumn does not bring any relief. The final scene rather suggests winter rigor: cold, hard-working, long evenings.

The fact

Doing or doing nothing is a basic theme of the piece. In the course of the action, all those involved (except for Marina) stopped their activities (research, healing, managing the property). A key phrase is in the fourth act of Serebrjaków You have to do something! .

Suffering and unhappiness

The characters complain at a high level. As aristocrats and intellectuals , they are at the forefront of a society in which many sleep in the dirt and fight for every bite. Chekhov addresses this on various occasions in the play, thus exposing the characters' misfortune as a phenomenon of decadence . At the same time, he also calls on the affluent social class to recognize and use their possibilities, instead of sinking into useless self-pity .

main character

Uncle Vanya is the title hero of the story, but not necessarily its main character. Astrow (who is still the title hero in the underlying drama of the Waldschrat ), the professor, Jeléna or Sonja can also be staged as the main heroes (or better anti-heroes). The title already suggests this openness: " Uncle " Wanja is not a self-designation, but Sonja's perspective. With regard to speaking and stage proportions, Wanja, Astrow, Jeléna and Sonja are roughly equally weighted.

benevolent character drawings

Chekhov draws all of his characters in a way that you can like them. There is no (or not necessarily) an evil character in the piece. Rather, all of them (except Telegin and Marina) failed because of their own claims and expectations; not or no longer able to fulfill their potential. But even if they may despise themselves for it - Chekhov does not despise them, rather he suffers and lets the reader suffer too (so that at best he learns from it for himself).

funny owls

The doctor Astrow, often referred to as alter ego of the doctor Chekhov is read, describes at the beginning of the play against Marina: Eh you know it, you're even such a funny fellow (others translate here nerd ). Like Astrow, all characters appear as weird owls, each in their own way and with their own weird quirks .

Dramaturgy, effect

“The conflict did not necessarily have to emerge as an act of the character in a colliding manner, but can also be recognized as an inner conflict in actions without dramatic consequences. With the unambiguousness of their dramatic action gone, the most contradicting characters can carry the conflict within them. Anton Chekhov's plays with their fables, which were de-dramatized in favor of psychological character portraits, had a significant influence on the psychologically oriented American playwrights Eugene O'Neill , Thornton Wilder , Tennessee Williams , Arthur Miller (..). "

Productions (selection)

Film adaptations

There are numerous film versions of the material. Worth mentioning are:


  • Anton Chekhov: Uncle Vanya , scenes from rural life in four acts. (Original title: Дядя Ваня (Djadja Vanja) , translated by Hans Walter Poll). In: Reclams Universal Library RUB 8738 Reclam , Stuttgart 1986, ISBN 978-3-15-008738-1 .
  • Anton Pavlovič Čechov: Uncle Vanja , Scenes from Country Life in Four Acts. (Original title: Дядя Ваня (Djadja Vanja) , translated by Peter Urban). In: detebe No. 20093, 8th edition, Diogenes , Zurich 2004, ISBN 978-3-257-20093-5 .
  • Anton Chekhov: Three Sisters and Other Dramas: The Seagull / Uncle Vanya / The Cherry Orchard (translated by Andrea Clemen). 5th edition, Fischer- Taschenbuch 12925, Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 978-3-596-12925-6 .
  • Anton Chekhov: The Great Dramas [contains: Platonov or The Anarchist as a Lover ; Ivanov ; The seagull ; Uncle Vanya ; The three sisters ; Der Kirschgarten ] (translated by Thomas Brasch), 2nd edition, Insel Taschenbuch 2989, Frankfurt am Main / Leipzig 2003, ISBN 978-3-458-34689-0 .
  • Bodo Zelinsky: Chekhov's dramas [ The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, The Cherry Orchard ]. In: Reclams Universal Library No. 17523, Interpretations . Reclam, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 978-3-15-017523-1 .
Wikisource: Дядя Ваня  - Sources and full texts (Russian)

Web links

Commons : Uncle Vanya (Chekhov)  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Rabenalt, Peter: Film dramaturgy. Berlin, 2011, page 136
  2. A hundred years of solitude . In: The time . No. 44/1998 ( online ).
  3. Uncle Vanya, review in: Variety, May 1, 2000, accessed June 21, 2018
  4. http://www.berlinerfestspiele.de/chronicle/archiv/production/onkel-wanja-2004
  5. http://www.leipzig-almanach.de/buehne_onkel_wanja_tschechow-premiere_im_schauspielhaus_ian_sober.html
  6. Christine Wahl: Deutsches Theater Berlin: Uncle Wanja's search for meaning. In: Spiegel Online . January 13, 2008, accessed June 9, 2018 .
  7. http://archiv2.berlinerfestspiele.de/de/archiv/festivals2008/03_theatertreffen08/tt_08_programm/tt_08_programm_gastspiele/tt_08_ProgrammlisteDetailSeite_gast_9631.php
  8. http://www.tagesspiegel.de/das-stueck-onkel-wanja-von-juergen-gosch-gewann-den-titel-inszenierung-des-jahres-2008-/1313296.html
  9. http://www.nachtkritik.de/index.php?option=com_content&id=7415:onkel-wanja-matthias-hartmann-inszeniert-am-burgtheater-wien-einen-gefuehlswallenden-tschechow-&Itemid=40
  10. Review of October 9, 2012 in “Die Welt”, accessed on November 10, 2012
  11. Uncle Vanya . Stuttgart theater . Archived from the original on February 28, 2014. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
  12. Andrea Heinz: Chekhov. Fast and Furious - The young performance collective Superamas asks and celebrates the possibilities of theater at the Wiener Festwochen. Retrieved June 18, 2018 (German).
  13. CHEKHOV Fast & Furious - Wiener Festwochen. Retrieved June 18, 2018 .