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Your final grade in the course will be determined on the basis of the assignments listed below:

Scene analysis—10% of total mark (1000 words)

Essay 1—25% of the total mark (2000 words)

Essay 2—25% of the total mark (2000 words)

Examination—40% of the total mark (3 hours)

Scene Analysis

At the end of “Act I,” submit a scene analysis of 1000 words to your tutor. You should submit this first assignment near the end of the first month of your enrolment in the course to receive early feedback on your work.

You may choose one of the following excerpts for analysis:

A Doll House, pp. 566–568, lines 283–495.

Major Barbara, pp. 694–696, ll. 534–692.

The Cherry Orchard, pp. 649–650, ll. 227–359.

In your scene analysis consider the following, where relevant:

  1. Defining the Action
    • list of events (development and climax)
    • significance of events in terms of the tragic or comic situation
    • consequences
    • rhythm (movement and stillness)
    • emotional development (tension and relaxation)
  2. Setting
    • place and time
    • significance
  3. Characterization
    • presentation (how the characters define themselves, how they are defined by others)
    • degree of self-awareness
    • credibility
    • main argument or point of view—relationship to main action—function in the scene
    • interaction with other characters (conflict)
    • significance of names
  4. Dialogue
    • as an expression of character
    • style of language (prosaic or poetic, direct or indirect)
    • use of allusion
    • tone
    • rhythm (recurring patterns)
    • monologue or soliloquy
    • debate or discussion
  5. Structure
    • introduction, development, conclusion
    • climax
    • dramatic foreshadowing—irony
    • dramatic interest (expectation, gratification, unpredictability)
  6. Imagery
    • verbal
    • spatial (in the set or properties)
  7. Conclusion
    • total effect of the scene

For further information on scene or script analysis, consult your tutor. Texts on scene analysis are available at the Athabasca University library, including:

David Grote. Script Analysis: Reading and Understanding the Playscript for Production. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1985.

James Thomas. Script Analysis for Actors, Directors, and Designers. Boston: Focal Press, 1995.

Scene Analysis: Sample

The Cherry Orchard, Act Four, pp. 663–666

In this final act of The Cherry Orchard, the family members of Russian landowner, Lyubov Andreevna Ranevskaya, finally leave the home they have loved and begin new lives, for better or for worse. All of the prevarication and indecision has resulted in the sale of the cherry orchard, ironically to the son of a former serf on the estate. Although they have different destinations, and there is a sense of fragmentation, there is also a sense of reconciliation and acceptance. The play ends with hint of the major social and political changes to come and with a sense of the inevitability of changes which will bring both positive and negative consequences.

The setting is in the nursery of a manor house in Russia in the late nineteenth century. It replicates that of the first Act, except that it is now being dismantled and deserted. Traveling bags are piled up ready to leave with their owners. A sense of uncertainty and instability pervades the scene. The off-stage voices of the peasants and of their former master, Gaev, are heard as they say their farewells. This is the room in which the mistress of the house, Lyubov, and her children have been raised, and it holds many happy and unhappy memories for her. It is the heart of the home.

All of the characters pass across the stage for the final time; no one has changed very much in this last encounter. They continue to muddle through their lives, as their fragmented, discontinuous dialogue suggests. Lopakhin, the new owner of the cherry orchard, is the most conspicuously present; like the host of a farewell party he offers champagne and wishes them all well. Even at this point, he remains unsentimental and pragmatic. He urges them not to miss their train, and comments that the weather is good for construction, frustrated that he is wasting time in which he could be working. He remains incapable of expressing personal feelings, and fails to ask Varya to marry him, even when prompted by Lyubov, whom he admires much more than her daughter. His focus remains his work.

Yasha, Lyubov’s manservant, cannot wait to return to Paris, and leave behind what he considers an ignorant, uncultured society; ironically, he demonstrates his own ignorance, arrogance, and selfishness. He drinks the champagne, purchased by Lopakhin, that he disdains, and that no one else wants. He abandons the love-smitten servant, Dunyasha, without any qualms. In every respect, he functions as the opposite of Lyubov, his sentimental and generous mistress.

Trofimov, the idealistic student, is still searching for his galoshes—again displaying his practical incompetence, and suggesting his dependence on Anya for survival once they go to Moscow. Once more Lopakhin, the man of business, can’t help but point out his uselessness, but Trofimov refuses to continue their ongoing acrimonious debate. Surprisingly he points out that Lopakhin has “a delicate, sensitive soul” (663.63), underscoring his paradoxical nature: Lopakhin does care for this family, and has tried to act in their best interests, despite their resistance to his ideas and their snobbery about his inferior social status. Lopakhin even attempts to give Trofimov money, which he characteristically refuses, scorning any materialistic gesture.

Anya typically voices her concern for others—inquiring whether the old servant, Firs, has been sent to the hospital and comforting her mother. She is the most optimistic of the family—embodying hope for the future. Her happy voice is heard off-stage as she and Trofimov set out for Moscow. In contrast, her diligent sister, Varya, who has worked hard to keep the family home intact, remains lonely and rejected, forced to work for another family to support herself.

Lyubov’s final expression of love for her home sounds once again a note of regret for lost beauty, youth, and happiness, but she has become almost reconciled to her fate: she will return to her lover, even though she knows he is a parasite. Her fecklessness has been her downfall.

Her brother, Gaev, remains optimistic, having found work, although Lopakhin presages that his incompetence will guarantee failure. Gaev represents the futility and uselessness of an upper class that is disappearing with the rise of a more productive and ambitious middle class. He continues to see life as a billiard game—which in his imagination he can play very well.

Charlotta’s final brief vignette as an “entertainer” is an expression of her ironic detachment from life: she discards her imaginary baby to indicate her desire to free herself from the family and to find another job. Her final comment, “It doesn’t matter” (664.190), echoes the muted nihilistic tone and resignation of the play.

The jovial parasite, Pishchik, also reappears in this farewell scene with a surprise announcement: he has sold the rights to his land and now can repay his “loans” to the others. His sudden, unexpected change of fortune underscores one of the themes in the play—the unanticipated surprises that change brings for better or worse, the ironic reversals of fortune. His experience provides a foil to the declining fortunes of the family. Even the undeserving can prosper.

The dialogue moves quickly along in brief contrapuntal exchanges. Chekhov’s style is dialectical, balancing one point of view with the other. The longer debates between Lopakhin and Trofimov recapitulate their very different philosophies of life, each with its merits and shortcomings. Even the apparently trivial asides contribute to the varied approaches to living in the play. They reveal a wide range of human response to change, as well as individual preoccupations, hopes, and fears. They may also balance or undercut the more sententious speeches.

The ambivalent image of the cherry orchard haunts the last act, invoked by the nostalgic speeches of Lyubov and by the actions of Lopakhin. It suggests both beauty and social exploitation, youth and death. The sound of the falling axe most poignantly conveys the finality of the demise of a way of life. Similarly, the final sound of the breaking string suggests impending discord for privileged individuals in a “civilized” society.

Act Four, like the rest of the play, is loosely structured, with multiple entrances and exits suggesting continual movement and change until the play ends with an almost empty stage. The characters all appear in final vignettes, echoing pervasive sentiments or philosophies. Relationships are finally resolved one way or the other: Yasha leaves Dunyasha: Lopakhin fails to propose to Varya; Trofimov and Anya leave together for Moscow. Firs, the family servant, is left alone on the stage at the end, inadvertently locked in the house in which he has worked all his life. His abandonment comments again on the ineffectuality and thoughtlessness of the others, and on the passing of a way of life. His final disjointed ruminations also comment on the ephemeral nature of life.

The tone of Act Four is mixed, balanced between joy and grief, hope and despair. There is, however, a definite note of finality—the ending of an era, of a way of life. There is no resolution. Chekhov leaves interpretation up to the audience.

Work Cited

Chekhov, Anton. “The Cherry Orchard.” The Wadsworth Anthology of Drama. 5th ed. Ed. W. B. Worthen. Boston: Thomson Wadsworth, 2007.

Essays

You are required to submit two 2000-word essays, each worth 25 per cent of the final grade. Essay 1 should focus on works in “Act I” and “Act II.” Essay 2 should focus on works in “Act III,” although for the purposes of comparison, you may choose plays from any part of the course. However, you should write on different plays in each essay.

Your tutor may encourage you to rewrite an essay. If you choose a new topic, the new mark will be credited; if you rewrite the essay on the same topic, the mark will be the average of the first and second attempt.

Examination

Once you have completed the scene analysis and the two essays, you should contact the Office of the Registrar and arrange to write the final examination. Please consult the current edition of the Athabasca University Calendar or the next section of this manual for procedures to be followed in requesting the final examination.

The final examination for this course will be written in an online format. Please consult the Online Exams section of the Procedures for Applying for and Writing Examinations in your online Student Manual, and visit http://registrar.athabascau.ca/exams/online/student/ for more information.

You have three hours in which to write the final examination. It is a “closed book” examination. You will not be permitted use any texts or instructional aids. The examination is worth 40% of the final grade. You must write the examination to receive credit for English 304. You have the option of writing a supplemental exam should you fail on the first attempt, or if you wish to improve your mark. The higher mark for the original or for the supplemental exam will be used in calculating the final mark for the course.

The format of the examination is as follows:

Part A: The first part of the examination resembles the self-test review sections of the Study Guide and the scene analysis. You will be asked to identify the play, the author, the character speaking, and to analyse the excerpt in terms of action, character, imagery, and style of dialogue.

A sample excerpt and analysis are provided below.

Excerpt

So good-bye, my friend. Time to go. Here we are, looking down our noses at one another, and all the while, life goes on, in spite of any of us. When I work, for days on end, without any rest, that’s when my thoughts come most clearly, that’s when I know why I am on this earth, why I exist. And how many of us are there in Russia, my friend, who still don’t know why they exist. Ah well, what does it matter, that’s not the point is it.

Analysis

This passage is from The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov. It is spoken by Lopakhin to the idealistic student Trofimov near the end of the play, as the family members who have owned the cherry orchard prepare to leave their ancestral home. Lopakhin has in fact bought the cherry orchard from them, and will cut it down to develop country retreats for city dwellers. He is the consummate pragmatist—a businessman who has worked hard all his life, and achieved a degree of material wealth, and he is particularly proud of his achievements because his father was a serf on the estate he has just bought.

Lopakhin and Trofimov are in fundamental disagreement about the “meaning” of life, and the way it should be lived: Trofimov is a dreamer who believes that individuals should work towards an improved society, but with no clear idea how this should be achieved; Lopakhin, who is not a philosopher or an intellectual, but a man of action, believes that only through hard work can any social changes be effected. However, his values tend to be materialistic ones. He cannot understand the strong feelings Lyubov Andreevna and her daughters have for their home, and in particular for the cherry orchard, redolent as it is with happy memories, recurring springs and beauty. For Lopakhin, the implacable fact that life passes necessitates immediate action, while there is still time, whereas most of the other characters in The Cherry Orchard are incapable of decisive action.

Part B: Short-answer questions, based on the study questions in the Study Guide. You should write a paragraph of about ten sentences, supporting your answer with textual references.

Part C: An essay of 500 words, comparing two plays in terms of a topic.