Is “The Anniversary” by Chekhov a Comedy or Farce?

In a farce, there is exaggeration both in situation and character for the sake of humourous effect. The difference between a comedy and a farce is that there is a soul of seriousness in the comedy. A comedy, says Schlegel, calls forth the most petulant hilarity by its jocose and deprecatory view of things. In it the perception of the incongruous and the unexpected conduces to our mirth follies, absurdities, odd audients, cross purposes, sallies of nit and humour is it striking features. Chekhov's The Anniversary is, sorry to say ,miss the quality of comedy proper. 

In The Anniversary Chekhov sought to convey the texture of everyday life, moving away from traditional ideas of plot and conventions of dramatic speech. Dialogue in his play is not smooth or continuous: all the four characters interrupt each other, several different conversations often take place at the same time, and lengthy pauses occur when no one speaks at all. The plays depart from the customary practice of focusing the action on one central character. Chekhov included less and less of what earlier playwrights would have called drama. Rather, ludicrous situation and oddities and angularities of the four characters in the play are exhibited for the fun. No serious purpose, no depths, no suggestion or witticism is exhibited in the play farther. It is no doubt a farcical writing.

The Anniversary is a purposeless fun and an unrestrained caprice. It employs wit and raillery without being the author least earnest. It only amuses us, but makes us not to think. There are four characters – two female and two male in the play. The scene is set is the busy Cashier busily drafting the figures to prepare for the annual report for the anniversary of the bank. He is all sort of funny. He is bored of heavy work but he is being promised reward by the chairman for his heavy duty. His chairman Shipuchin is in fact a boring staff for him and the women are the most annoying part for this cashier named Khirin.

Mr. Shiputchin is the chairman or boss to this bank and he is to address the report prepared by Khirin the bank's aged book-keeper in the general meeting to debunk the ordinary share holder with false rhetoric. This report would be a professional display of passion and wit hiding the facts and figures behind his superficial rhetoric. He is thus trumpeting his own achievements for the development of the bank. But there are satirical touches indeed.

If Khirin hates women and finds them disturbing for the bank, Mr. Chairman finds them morally elevating in the work place. Never the less, the situation becomes ironic as Shipuchin’s wife returns from her mothers’ house and meeting her husband begins tales entangled one after another disturbing the procedure of the bank. All this stories whatever thrilling is absolutely farcical and melodramatic.

After Tatiana, wife of Andrey Andreyevitch Shipuchin, the other Madame Merchutkina, an old woman wearing an old-fashioned   cloak, enters in the wrong place pleading the salary of her husband who is now dismissed from his job. What actually happen to that thick headed lady is that she has come to the wrong place. But she is rigid and goes on with her request and appeal disregarding the persuasions, arguments of Shipuchin. The soft and sober Shipuchin orders Khirin to drive out the woman. And Herin drive his wife Tatiana out, only to be taken aback by all of us. Khirin then drives out Merchutkina. Socked, frightened Tatyana and Merchutkina fall on sofa bewildered. In the mean time the share holder of the bank enter reading the drafting addressed to be read by chairman. Shipuchin is bewildered and murmurs deputation, reputation and occupation. All of these three missing in confusion.

Both in situational and character the play display fun, melodrama and belly laughter on the behest of seriousness in true comedy.   

Ardhendu De


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