the short story project

A Play

Roy Chen On:

A Play by Anton Chekhov

Madam Murashkin (murashki being the Russian word for ‘shivers’) is a budding playwright who wishes to read her new play to Pavel Vassilyevitch, a renowned author, seeking his critique. By her name alone it is clear what the listener feels during the reading. The short comic piece “A Play” was first published in 1887 in the periodical “Oskolki” (‘Fragments’), under A. Chekhonte, one of his many pseudonyms (‘Man without a Spleen,’ ‘Prosaic Poet,’ ‘My Brother’s Brother’ and ‘A Doctor without Patients’—Chekhov being a certified physician, of course). This text was written by young Chekhov, a brilliant feuilletonist, the author of the “Vaudevilles” (his short plays), and of short stories that won him great acclaim. Leo Tolstoy loved this story, and even told it countless times and “always laughed wholeheartedly.” The year Chekhov wrote this story he also wrote his first big play, “Ivanov,” establishing himself as a serious playwright. Shakespeare wrote: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” and while that is accurate, some players who appear on the world’s stage are also playwrights. And they are not all as successful or boastful as young Chekhov—just look at Madam Murashkin…