The Meaning of Names
The play begins on Irina's name day, which is said to be May 5th. A lot of European countries have allocated days for their traditional names which makes us raise the question "What is it they are celebrating?" The associations between the days and the names have arisen for many reasons but primarily because the church held a festival for a saint of that name on that day. For instance, the church feast of Saint Michael was held on September 29th, and as a result the name day for Michael is on September 29th. In some countries a name day is more important than a birthday and sometimes gifts are given.
In the Russian church when people are christened they take the name of a saint. Often the parents choose the name from whichever saint's day their child was born, but this is not always the case. Parents may also choose any name from the list of saints. Therefore Irina may be celebrating her birthday also. However, the context is more about her coming of age, as it is her 20th name day. She must start looking for a husband and consider the greater value her life will take.
Another important thing to consider when looking at the names in the play is the way characters play with the names. Olga is not always referred to as Olga. She is often called Olya or Olenka throughout. In Russia there are three forms of names.
The main name: For official documents and formal introduction.
The Nickname: The name used by work colleagues, friends, acquaintances and family of roughly equal age or older.
The Cute name: Used by close family, close friends & colleagues.
There is a strong belief that Chekhov believed in choosing the name of his characters for a reason. Therefore the meaning of his characters names are often looked at in order to derive their meanings. Have a look at the names of his characters with the characters synopsis above to derive your own meaning of the names.
Aleksey Petrovich FYEDOTIK - Helper and Defender
Alexandr Ignatyevich VERSHININ - Protector of mankind
Andrey Serghyevich PROZOROV - Courageous, valiant man
Anfisa - Flower
Bobik - Little father
Ferapont Spiridonych - Servant or Worshipper
Fiodor Ilyich KULYGHIN - Gift from God
Irina Serghyeevna - Peace
Ivan Romanych CHEBUTYKIN - God is gracious
Masha Serghyeevna - Beloved
Natasha/Natalia Ivanova - Christmas Day
Nikolai Lvovich TUZENBACH - Victory of the people
Olga Serghyeevna - Holy and Blessed
Sofia - Wisdom
Vasilly Vassilich SOLYONY - King
Vladimir Karlovic RODÉ - To rule with greatness or to rule with peace
What's in a Name?
Put a number of names and their meanings in a hat. Get your students to pick one each. Put them into small groups and get them to create a short improvisation basing their characteristics on the meaning of their name. See how the characters interact and see if the audience can pinpoint the meaning.
To check out the names in more detail check out the following site http://www.kabalarians.com
http://www.babynameaddicts.com/ and http://www.behindthename.com/