snopes.com Post new topic  Post a reply
search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hello snopes.com » Archived Forums » Questionable Quotes Archive » Anton Chekhov's ''gun'' quote: Apocryphal, or is there a cite?

 - UBBFriend: Email this page to someone!    
Author Topic: Anton Chekhov's ''gun'' quote: Apocryphal, or is there a cite?
George Kingfish Stevens
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for George Kingfish Stevens     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
There are various versions of the quote, but generally mean the same thing. One version is "If a gun is on the mantle in the first act, it must go off in the third."

Is there any evidence that Chekhov ever said or wrote that?

Posts: 399 | From: South Carolina | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Etienne
We Three Blings


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Etienne   E-mail Etienne   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I thought it was Hitchcock that said that...
Posts: 1102 | From: Quebec | Registered: Dec 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Morrison's Longhaired Himalayan Cat
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 1 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
It's usually attributed to Chekhov, but I've found no reliable info as to when and where he is supposed to have layed out this "law".

--- G.

IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Garth
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 201 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by George Kingfish Stevens:
There are various versions of the quote, but generally mean the same thing. One version is "If a gun is on the mantle in the first act, it must go off in the third."


I thought it was "BY the third"? [Confused]
IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Silas Sparkhammer
I Saw V-Chips Come Sailing In


Icon 504 posted      Profile for Silas Sparkhammer   Author's Homepage   E-mail Silas Sparkhammer   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Of some note in this regard is the opera "The Abduction of Figaro" by P.D.Q. Bach, in which three separate characters, at various points in the action, wave guns around, but never fire them.

(On the other hand, one of them does toss a hand-grenade...)

Silas

Posts: 16801 | From: San Diego, CA | Registered: Sep 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Kathy B
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Kathy B     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
In the first act of Chekhov's The Sea Gull, Trigorin the playwright is asked by the innocent Nina how to write a play. He replies by saying that if a gun is hanging on the wall at the beginning of a play, it must be fired by the end. `

ETA: dang, hit the wrong key & posted too soon. The quote above is from a usenet posting. The poster could not find the citation in the play and neither can I. The Seagull
Other citations are "If there is a gun hanging on the wall in the first act, it must fire in the last." ( Chekhov--advice to a novice playwright)

--------------------
The plural of "anecdote" is not "data."

Posts: 4255 | From: Sacramento, CA | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
StarlandVocalBand
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 1 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Nope, that isn't in The Sea Gull, and my grad school professor said that he couldn't find it anywhere in Chekhov (since I don't read Russian, I took his word for it).
IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
pinqy
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


Icon 1 posted      Profile for pinqy   E-mail pinqy   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I read somewhere that the quoatation is from a letter...which I can't find.

pinqy

--------------------
Don't Forget!
Winter Solstice Hanukkah Christmas Kwanzaa & Gurnenthar's Ascendance Are Coming!

Posts: 8671 | From: Washington, DC | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Bonnie
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 101 posted      Profile for Bonnie   E-mail Bonnie       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
For what it's worth (and it's certainly circuitous), Robert van Gelder -- writing for The New York Times in 1934 -- noted that Somerset Maugham included a reference to this anecdote in his preface to East and West, his then-new collection of short stories,

quote:
This experience, as [Maugham] now says, taught him to leave out everything that did not serve the dramatic value of his story, to take heart Chekhov's advice to Schoukin: "Everything that has no relation to the story must be ruthlessly thrown away. If in the first chapter you say that a gun hung on the wall, in the second or third chapter it must without fail be discharged." [1]
Now, I don't have a clue where Maugham got that, and I can't say whether Chekhov ever uttered or penned such a thing, but the latter did apparently hang out with one I.I. Schoukin, whoever that was, so it must be true ...

Bonnie "Gogol was his friend" Taylor

[1] "Books of The Times," The New York Times, Pg. 15; 8 August 1934.

--------------------
Se non è vero, è ben trovato.

Posts: -99014 | From: Chapel Hill, North Carolina | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Bonnie
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 104 posted      Profile for Bonnie   E-mail Bonnie       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
William Waterhouse's 1996 post to alt.quotations helpfully confirms pinqy's recollection,

quote:
[t]he entry in the latest Bartlett's gives two forms, one in writing and one recalled:

quote:
"One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it." ---Letter to A. S. Lazarev-Gruzinsky, Nov. 1, 1889.

"If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it must absolutely go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there." --- from the Memoirs of Shchukin (1911)


More detailed information can be found here,

quote:
One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.

A. Chekhov, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem v tridsati tomakh, Pis'ma, vol. 3 (Moscow, 1976), item 707, p. 273, letter to Aleksandr Semenovich Lazarev (pseudonym of A. S. Gruzinsky), 1 November 1889; see p. 464 for the comment that 'This idea had already been expressed by Chekhov in the summer of 1889 at Yalta, in conversation with I. Ya. Gurlyand: "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there." From Gurlyand's "Reminiscences of A. P. Chekhov", in Teatr i iskusstvo 1904, No 28, 11 July, p. 521.' Another version is quoted in S. Shchukin, Memoir (1911): 'If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there.'



--------------------
Se non è vero, è ben trovato.

Posts: -99014 | From: Chapel Hill, North Carolina | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
StarlandVocalBand
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 1 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Bonnie gets 14 billion style points for a) tracking this down, and b) great internym.
IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Bonnie
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 82 posted      Profile for Bonnie   E-mail Bonnie       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Well, thanks, that's very kind, SVB, especially if those are redeemable for negative posts.

I think it's fair to say that everyone added pieces to this puzzle. And it was just a matter of time before one of us would've stumbled upon a more precise citation (or thought to check a new edition of Bartlett's Quotations).

Ob Chekhov "writing anecdote," from Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes (2000):

quote:
One night a writer came to see Chekhov and questioned him about his work. Chekhov told him that he considered his writing merely a diversion from his medical studies. "You want to know how I write my stories?" he asked the young writer. "Here!" And he picked up the first thing he looked at, which was an ashtray. "If you like, it will be a story tomorrow. 'The Ashtray.'" [Recounted in Henri Troyat's Chekhov, 1986.]
Bonnie "boyar beware" Taylor

--------------------
Se non è vero, è ben trovato.

Posts: -99014 | From: Chapel Hill, North Carolina | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
George Kingfish Stevens
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for George Kingfish Stevens     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Many thanks!
Posts: 399 | From: South Carolina | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
pinqy
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


Icon 1 posted      Profile for pinqy   E-mail pinqy   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Ok, I can't let this thread go by withoug mentioning that Gogol (who died before Chekhov was born) was a great writer because he violated this rule. I can't think off-hand of an example in his plays, but the first few paragraphs of "Dead Souls" is spent describing in detail the appearance of a youn man coming out of a tavern, down to the style of pin and type of embroidery in his clothes. This person is never seen again and has nothing to do with the story at all.

And the modern author, Vladimir Voinovich, in tribute to Gogol and thumbing his nose at Chekhov, made sure he pointed out a shotgun, foreshadowed it heavily, only to have it fail to fire at the critical moment in [/i]The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin[/i].

pinqy

--------------------
Don't Forget!
Winter Solstice Hanukkah Christmas Kwanzaa & Gurnenthar's Ascendance Are Coming!

Posts: 8671 | From: Washington, DC | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Floater
Xboxing Day


Icon 82 posted      Profile for Floater   Author's Homepage   E-mail Floater   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by pinqy:
Ok, I can't let this thread go by withoug mentioning that Gogol (who died before Chekhov was born) was a great writer because he violated this rule. I can't think off-hand of an example in his plays, but the first few paragraphs of "Dead Souls" is spent describing in detail the appearance of a youn man coming out of a tavern, down to the style of pin and type of embroidery in his clothes. This person is never seen again and has nothing to do with the story at all.

On the other hand Gogol died before the book was finished, if I remember correctly, so he might have had something planned.

--------------------
Små hönor skall inte lägga stora ägg för då blir de slarviga i ändan

Posts: 1334 | From: Sweden | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is not enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.

Instant Graemlins
   


Post new topic  Post a reply Close topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Urban Legends Reference Pages

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2