The Seagull

by

Anton Chekhov

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Nina Mikhailovna Zarechnaya Character Analysis

The idealistic, fame-hungry Nina Zarechnaya is one of Chekhov’s best-known characters. A young woman who lives across the lake from Sorin’s estate with her cruel, controlling father and stepmother, Nina’s surname means “across the river” in Russian—her name is symbolic of the physical and emotional distance between her and the other characters in the play. Nina loves and admires artists, actors, and writers, and longs to be a part of Arkadina and Trigorin’s glamorous world. She falls for Treplyov because she believes that he is a serious and talented artist, but after Arkadina shuns his work, Nina follows suit and begins to ignore and avoid the lovestruck Treplyov. Nina is sick of her boring life in the country and wants to move to Moscow to become a famous actress—it is the desire for fame and ego, not to make art for art’s sake, that draws Nina to the stage. She tells Trigorin that she’d give up anything to be famous, and though her idealism (and her flattery of his writing and his lifestyle) draw him to her, he discards her after she has given up everything to follow him to Moscow and bear him a child—a child that dies in infancy. By the end of the play, the confused and sickly Nina is traveling Russia performing in the provinces, unable to accept the cruel twists her life has taken and intent on achieving her long-held dreams of fame and fortune. Nina’s sweetness and vitality mask the darker, hungrier parts of her personality. Even as the play concludes, it remains unclear whether Nina persists in her idealism as a front for her misery or out of a tragic inability to accept her own mediocrity.

Nina Mikhailovna Zarechnaya Quotes in The Seagull

The The Seagull quotes below are all either spoken by Nina Mikhailovna Zarechnaya or refer to Nina Mikhailovna Zarechnaya. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the W. W. Norton & Company edition of The Seagull published in 2010.
Act 1 Quotes

TREPLYOV: Are you excited?

NINA: Yes, very. Your Mama doesn’t count. I’m not afraid of her, but then there’s Trigorin… Acting with him in the audience frights and embarrasses me… A famous writer… Is he young?

TREPLYOV: Yes.

NINA: His stories are so wonderful!

TREPLYOV: (coldly) I wouldn’t know, I haven’t read them.

NINA: It isn’t easy to act in your play. There are no living characters in it.

Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2 Quotes

ARKADINA: Tell me, what’s the matter with my son? How come he’s so tiresome and surly? He spends whole days on the lake, and I almost never see him.

MASHA: He’s sick at heart. (To Nina, shyly.) Please, do recite something from his play!

NINA: (Shrugs.) You want me to? It’s so uninteresting!

Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

NINA: I thought that famous people were proud, inaccessible, that they despised the public and their own fame, their celebrity was a kind of revenge for blue blood and wealth being considered more respectable… But here they are crying, fishing, playing cards, laughing, and losing their tempers like anybody else…

Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

TREPLYOV: (Enters bare-headed, carrying a rifle and a slain gull.) You’re alone here?

NINA: Alone. (TREPLYOV lays the gull at her feet.) What does this mean?

TREPLYOV: I did something nasty, I killed this gull today. I lay it at your feet.

NINA: What’s wrong with you? (Picks up the gull and stares at it.)

TREPLYOV: (After a pause) I’ll soon kill myself the very same way.

Related Characters: Nina Mikhailovna Zarechnaya (speaker), Konstantin Gavrilovich Treplyov (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Gull
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

TREPLYOV: You say you’re too ordinary to understand me. Oh, what’s there to understand? You didn’t like my play, you despise my ideas, you’ve started thinking of me as a mediocrity, a nobody, like all the rest… (Stamping his foot.) That’s something I understand, oh, I understand all right! There’s a kind of spike stuck in my brain, damn it and damn my vanity, which sucks my blood, sucks it like a snake…

Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

TRIGORIN: I know no peace, and I feel that I’m devouring my own life, that to give away honey to somebody out there in space I’m robbing my finest flowers of their pollen, tearing up all these flowers and trampling on their roots.

Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:

NINA: For the joy of being a writer or an actress, I would put up with my family disowning me, poverty, disappointment; I would live in a garret and eat nothing but black bread, suffer dissatisfaction with myself and realize my own imperfection, but in return I would insist on fame… real, resounding fame…

Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:

TRIGORIN: Just jotting down a note… A subject came to mind… (Putting away the notebook.) Subject for a short story: on the shores of a lake a young girl grows up, just like you; loves the lake, like a gull, is happy and free, like a gull. But by chance a man comes along, sees her, and, having nothing better to do, destroys her, just like this gull here.

Related Symbols: The Gull
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 4 Quotes

TREPLYOV: [Nina] made her debut outside Moscow at a summer theater, then toured the provinces. In those days I was keeping track of her and for a while wherever she was, I was there too. She would tackle the big roles, but her acting was crude, tasteless, her voice singsong and her gestures wooden. There were moments when she showed some talent at screaming or dying, but they were only moments.

Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

SHAMRAEV: (To Trigorin.) Hey, Boris Alekseevich, that thing of yours is still here.

TRIGORIN: What thing?

SHAMRAEV: A while back Konstantin Gavrilovich shot a gull, and you asked me to have it stuffed.

TRIGORIN: Don’t remember. (Thinking about it.) Don’t remember!

Related Symbols: The Gull
Page Number: 153-154
Explanation and Analysis:

NINA: And so, now you’re a writer. You’re a writer, I’m an actress… We’ve both fallen into the maelstrom… I used to live joyously, like a child—wake up in the morning and start to sing; I loved you, dreamed of fame, and now? First thing tomorrow morning I go to Yelets, third class… traveling with peasants… […] A sordid kind of life!

Page Number: 157-158
Explanation and Analysis:

NINA: You can’t imagine what that’s like, when you realize your acting is terrible. I’m a gull. No, that’s wrong… Remember when you shot down a gull? By chance a man comes along, sees, and with nothing better to do destroys… Subject for a short story. That’s wrong… (Rubs her forehead.) What was I saying?... I was talking about the stage. I’m not like that now… Now I’m a real actress… […] Now I know, understand, Kostya, that in our work—it doesn’t matter whether we act or we write—the main thing isn’t fame, glamour, the things I dreamed about, it’s knowing how to endure.

Related Symbols: The Gull
Page Number: 159-160
Explanation and Analysis:
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Nina Mikhailovna Zarechnaya Character Timeline in The Seagull

The timeline below shows where the character Nina Mikhailovna Zarechnaya appears in The Seagull. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
...tells Masha that Konstantin Gavrilovich Treplyov, Sorin’s nephew, has written a play for his beloved Nina Zarechnaya to act in—the two young lovebirds are presenting a “joint artistic creation.” Medvedenko laments... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
...the performance to begin exactly as the moon starts to rise—but he is worried that Nina Zarechnaya will be late or unable to escape the watchful eyes of her overbearing father... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
...fear that her own lover, the famous writer Boris Trigorin, might “take a shine” to Nina Zarechnaya. Arkadina doesn’t want to see success on the stage belong to anyone but her—she... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Treplyov is overcome by emotion as he hears Nina approaching—“even the sound of her footsteps,” he says, enchants him. As Nina enters, flustered but... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
...curtain rises, and behind it, the moon’s reflection on the beautiful lake can be seen. Nina, dressed all in white, is seated on the stage on a large boulder. In a... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
Nina’s monologue continues. She describes her existence as a “prisoner, flung into a deep empty pit.”... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
Nina comes out from behind the stage and greets everyone warmly. Sorin and Arkadina congratulate her... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Nina says it’s time for her to go. Arkadina begs her to stay longer, and Sorin... (full context)
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Treplyov asks where Nina went, and Dorn tells him that she left for home. Treplyov despairingly begins muttering about... (full context)
Act 2
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
Sorin, Nina, and Medvedenko come down to the croquet field. Sorin excitedly announces that Nina’s father and... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
...time down at the lake. Masha answers that he is “sick at heart” before asking Nina to recite something from his play. Nina asks why Masha would want her to do... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
...and would rather be in a posh hotel room somewhere learning lines for a play. Nina “rapturously” longs for the glamorous city life Arkadina describes. (full context)
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
Nina chides Polina for refusing to give the “famous actress” Arkadina a horse to take into... (full context)
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Nina walks by picking flowers on the lawn—Dorn asks her how things are going inside. Nina... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
Alone on the lawn, Nina remarks how odd the behavior of these bohemian people is—it’s strange, she thinks, to see... (full context)
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Treplyov approaches Nina, “carrying a rifle and a slain gull.” After confirming that Nina is alone, he sets... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
Treplyov says he believes Nina stopped loving him the night of his “fiasco” of a play—he can’t stand her sudden... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
...mutters aloud to himself—it becomes clear that he is writing a character sketch of Masha. Nina greets Trigorin excitedly. He looks up from his notebook and tells her that he and... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
Trigorin says that no matter how much praise he receives, it’s never enough—but Nina can’t stop waxing poetic about what it must be like to live a “brilliant, meaningful”... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
Nina asks if the moments in which Trigorin experiences inspiration—or even the moments in which he’s... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Nina tells Trigorin that he’s working himself too hard—and that even if he’s disappointed in himself,... (full context)
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
...lawn, he spots the dead gull on the ground and asks what it’s doing there. Nina replies that Treplyov killed it. Trigorin takes out his notebook and jots down an idea... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
...they’re going to stay after all. Trigorin heads into the house to talk to Arkadina. Nina, alone again, cries out: “It’s a dream!” (full context)
Act 3
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
...to “[Masha,] […] who lives in this world for no apparent reason.” She leaves, and Nina enters the room. (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
Nina asks Trigorin if he thinks she’ll become an actress or not—he replies that no one... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
Arkadina and Sorin come into the dining room, and Arkadina asks if Nina has just left—and if she’s “interrupted something.” Trigorin is studying his medallion, which cites specific... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
...anxiety over his art are at the root of Treplyov’s problems—not just his jealousy over Nina and Trigorin. (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
Treplyov begs Arkadina to see how Trigorin has destroyed their own relationship—whilst “cultivating” Nina and basking in her admiration. Arkadina asks Treplyov to stop saying “nasty things” about Trigorin.... (full context)
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
Treplyov confesses to Arkadina that he has “lost everything”—his drive to write, his beloved Nina, and indeed his “hope.” Arkadina reassures Treplyov that once Trigorin leaves, Nina will love Treplyov... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
Trigorin enters the room holding the book whose title Nina inscribed into the medallion—he reads aloud the lines her engraving references. “If ever my life... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
...he’s forgotten his walking stick. As he crosses through the dining room, he bumps into Nina. Nina excitedly tells him that she’s made up her mind—she’s going to try to be... (full context)
Act 4
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
Dorn asks Treplyov where Nina Zarechnaya has gotten to these days—he’s heard she’s living “a rather peculiar life.” Treplyov reluctantly... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
Dorn asks how the stage has treated her, and Treplyov replies that Nina hasn’t had any luck as an actress, either. For a while, he says, he followed... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
Treplyov reveals that Nina is back in town, staying at a hotel near the railway. She has been back... (full context)
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
...He goes out to the veranda, and comes back in a few moments later with Nina Zarechnaya, who lays her head on Treplyov’s chest and begins sobbing. Treplyov welcomes her ecstatically,... (full context)
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
Nina looks around the room, remarking upon how it’s changed. She asks Treplyov if he thinks... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
Nina’s speech grows frenzied, and she urges Treplyov to sit so that they can “talk and... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
Treplyov says that, though he told himself he hated Nina, he has never stopped loving her—he doesn’t have the “power” to do so. He admits... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
Nina tells Treplyov that he shouldn’t love her—she believes she “should be killed.” She begins rambling... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
Nina continues babbling, telling Treplyov that she has realized that in real art, fame doesn’t matter—endurance... (full context)
Art vs. Fame Theme Icon
Unrequited Love Theme Icon
Ego and the Self Theme Icon
Mediocrity and Lost Potential Theme Icon
Nina tells Treplyov she’s going to leave, and asks him to come find her in the... (full context)