The Meaning and Function of the Pause in Chekhov's “The Seagull”



This article examines the phenomenon of the pause in A. P. Chekhov’s play “The Seagull.” What does the instruction “pause” mean, and why did Chekhov think it was so important that he wrote the word into the text of the play? In exploration of these questions, this article analyzes the text of “The Seagull,” as well as three stage productions. Such analysis reveals three functions of the pause: 1. Dramatic Function. The pause highlights the characters’ words or attracts the attention of the audience. In other words, the pause gives the characters’ speech additional dramatic significance. 2. Musical Function. The pause controls the dynamic unfolding of the play, thereby controlling the audience’s reaction and, ultimately, the success of the play. 3. Negative Function. The pause acts in a fashion similar to Iuriy Lotman’s “minus-device.” That is, by making a lacuna in the scene the pause adds some meaning that cannot be expressed in words. In this way, the pause serves to highlight the limits of communication, and draw attention to those moments which cannot be captured by language.

General Information

Keywords: A. P. Chekhov, “The Seagull,” pause, play, drama, lacuna, dramatic function, musical function, monologue, communication, information.

Journal rubric: General and Comparative Historical Linguistics

Article type: scientific article


For citation: Costello J.B. The Meaning and Function of the Pause in Chekhov's “The Seagull” [Elektronnyi resurs]. Âzyk i tekst = Language and Text, 2017. Vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 3–11. DOI: 10.17759/langt.2017040301. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

J B. Costello, Graduate student, Slavic Literature Department, Literature Department, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA, Stanford, USA, e-mail:



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