Lomov visits Chubukov at Chubukov’s country house. Chubukov asks why Lomov is dressed up. As an aside to the audience Chubukov wonders if Lomov has come to borrow money.
Lomov finally says he has come to ask for Natalya’s hand in marriage. Chubukov says he is overjoyed. He embraces Lomov and says he will call Natalya. Lomov asks if he can count on her consent. Chubukov says of course, she’s like “a love-sick cat.” He exits.
Lomov talks to the audience. He says he is very nervous. He’s not in love, but he is 35 and it’s time to get married. Natalya is a good housekeeper, not bad looking, well educated. He talks more to let the audience know that he is a neurotic type.
Natalya comes in, offers lunch and smokes, talks about cutting hay. She is surprised that Lomov is dressed up.
Lomov begins to talk about their two families and their lands—specifically, the Oxen Meadows Natalya interrupts and says the Oxen Meadows are theirs, not his.
An argument takes place that is comical. Both Natalya and Lomov insist that the land is theirs. They go back and forth with “Ours,” “Mine,” “Ours,” “Mine.”
Chubukov enters and asks about the shouting. Natalya asks who Oxen Meadows belongs to, and he says, “They’re ours.” There are more arguments, and Chubukov calls Lomov “a grabber.” Chubukov and Natalya say Lomov’s family has lunacy and drunkenness in the background. Lomov says Chubukov’s mother was hump-backed and his grandfather was tried for embezzlement.
Lomov leaves, saying he thinks he’s having a heart attack. Chubukov tells Natalya that Lomov came with the intention of proposing to her. Natalya falls back in hysterics, saying, “Bring him back. Fetch him.”
Lomov returns, complaining about his heart, his foot, etc. Natalya says Oxen Meadows are his. She says to change the subject. So they start talking about hunting dogs.
Once again, they argue. It’s the same as arguing about the land. Lomov says his heart is palpitating, and tells Natalya to shut up. Natalya says she shan’t shut up.
Chubukov enters and asks what’s the matter. Natalya asks whose dog is better—their Squeezer or his Guess. Chubukov gets involved in the argument.
Lomov complains about his heart and says his foot has gone to sleep. Natalya insults Lomov, says he’s not a hunter. Chubukov says Lomov should sit at home with his palpitations.
Lomov and Chubukov go back and forth. Lomov says, “Intriguer!” Chubukov says, “Boy! Pup!” Lomov sats, “Old rat! Jesuit!”
Lomov faints, says his heart has burst. Natalya screams, “He’s dead!”
Lomov comes around. Chubukov says, “Hurry up and get married—she’s willing!” Natalya says, “He’s alive—yes, I’m willing.”
Natalya and Lomov say they’re happy. They kiss.
Then they fight about the dogs some more.
They drink champagne.
Analyze the play using gender theory in literary criticism:
It’s hard to analyze a play from more than a century ago using gender theory. The play “The Proposal” is a satire about the upper -lass Russian custom of marrying couples off to bring together neighboring land holdings.
In this case, Lomov asks Chubukov for Natalya’s hand. Chubukov at least says he will ask Natalya, but tells Lomov that he is happy to be asked. When Lomov asks if Natalya will say yes, Chubukov says of course, that she is like “a love-sick cat.” This is not very feminist, to say the least.
But then, when Natalya enters and she and Lomov start their comedy routine, things become more equal. Natalya shows herself more than the equal of Lomov in their funny bickering.
Chubukov is the first one to say, “Hurry up and get married—she’s willing.” But then Natalya is the first one to say yes.
Apply the Elements of Drama to the play:
Audience: The audience would have a common experience at this play, which is so funny and fast-moving.
Dialogue: The dialogue is witty and humorous. It moves quickly. It deals with the business of the play, which is moving the characters toward (or away from) agreement with each other about whether or not to merge their households.
Plot: The plot in this one-act play is minimal. It takes place on a single day in a single place. Only one thing is supposedly happening, which is Lomov going to Chubukov’s country house to ask for Natalya’s hand in marriage. Of course, there is lots of funny dialogue that happens around this theme. There is plenty of irony, when the plan keeps getting derailed by arguments. And there certainly is open conflict.
Convention: This is a realistic drama, in keeping with the late 19th Century.
Genre: This is a comedy
Characterization: I wouldn’t say that any of these characters are protagonists or antagonists—they’re all just kind of silly.
Analysis of Audio Book Version:
For me, the Audio Book version of the play isn’t as funny as the written version. And I’m sure it isn’t as funny as the version performed on the stage.
That’s because it lacks stagecraft, of course, and an audience. But I also think the dialogue does not come across as being as witty as it seems on the page, and as comical as it would be on the stage. This is a farce, which is defined as using buffoonery and horseplay, and it’s hard to convey that in an audio version. But the lines are also read in a way that is sort of flat, and not a comedic as it could be. The characterization could be better. The characters are not played for their comic potential.
Analysis of the play in light of the Atlantic Montly article on contemporary proposals:
Really, when you think about it, contemporary proposals aren’t all that different from the one in the Chekhov play “The Proposal.” Though the article in the Atlantic didn’t mention it, it’s still quite common for a man to ask a woman’s father for permission before proposing to her. And then, just like in “The Proposal,” it’s the man who usually proposes.
Of course, contemporary proposals tend to be more between the two people involved, whatever their gender. But it’s not unusual to have family members hiding and watching, even if they’re not directly involved. And as the article points out, even if the person being proposed to has doubts, it’s can be hard to resist pressure and say anything but “yes.”