Let’s start at the very beggining, a very good place to start!
LOPAKHIN. The train’s arrived, thank God. What’s the time?
DUNYASHA. It will soon be two. [Blows out candle] It is light already.
LOPAKHIN. How much was the train late? Two hours at least. [Yawns and stretches himself] I have made a rotten mess of it! I came here on purpose to meet them at the station, and then overslept myself . . . in my chair. It’s a pity. I wish you’d wakened me.
DUNYASHA. I thought you’d gone away. [Listening] I think I hear them coming.
LOPAKHIN. [Listens] No. . . . They’ve got to collect their luggage and so on. . . . [Pause] Lubov Andreyevna has been living abroad for five years; I don’t know what she’ll be like now. . . . She’s a good sort–an easy, simple person. I remember when I was a boy of fifteen, my father, who is dead–he used to keep a shop in the village here–hit me on the face with his fist, and my nose bled. . . . We had gone into the yard together for something or other, and he was a little drunk. Lubov Andreyevna, as I remember her now, was still young, and very thin, and she took me to the washstand here in this very room, the nursery. She said, “Don’t cry, little man, it’ll be all right in time for your wedding.” [Pause] “Little man”. . . . My father was a peasant, it’s true, but here I am in a white waistcoat and yellow shoes . . . a pearl out of an oyster. I’m rich now, with lots of money, but just think about it and examine me, and you’ll find I’m still a peasant down to the marrow of my bones. [Turns over the pages of his book] Here I’ve been reading this book, but I understood nothing. I read and fell asleep. [Pause.]
Here is the first couple lines of the play. It takes place as everybody waits for Lubov to arrive.
Obviously the beggining of any play, book or movie needs to have some exposition so the audience knows what’s going on. Sometimes though this is done more well than other times. I thought at first, that the way this play did it was a bit unnatural and forced. Looking back at it actually, it was done in a way that the characters could talk openly about their history and basically explain what’s going on in a way that, might seemed forced if it wasn’t for the context. Because we’re reading this play on paper, instead of seeing it performed, which is how we are supposed to be seeing the story, it’s easy to forget what’s going on, or to kinda get lost in the monologues.
That’s what happened to me at first. When revisiting it, I realized how natural it flowed when you realize that they’re in the old manor, where they all grew up and are waiting for a childhood friend/relative, and reminiscing about their lives. It also was a bright way to have Lubov’s exposition given, while everyone waited for her and inevitably talked about her.
This first scene also sets the tone for the rest of the play a bit. It’s all about people looking at the past and trying to hold on it, while having difficulty moving forward. It also gives reveals a bit about the characters that might come in handy later, for example, Lubov is simple and easygoing yet a good person, and Lopakhin hasn’t had an easy life, despite being super rich now.