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In late 19th-century Russia Arkadina, a famous actress, visits the country estate where her brother Sorin, a retired official, is spending his remaining years. Self-centered and penurious, Arkadina pays only random attention to the needs of her son, Konstantin, and dismisses his playwriting attempts as absurdly experimental and "decadent." Already distressed by the realization that his vain mother does not care to be reminded that she has a son in his twenties, Konstantin is troubled further by the presence of her current lover, Trigorin, a successful novelist whose polished charm has completely captivated the naive and impressionable Nina, a young woman from a neighboring estate whom Konstantin has long loved. One afternoon Konstantin lays a sea gull he has killed at Nina's feet and warns her that someday he too will be dead. Also present during the long weekend is Masha, the bailiff Shamraev's daughter, who, hopelessly in love with Konstantin, wears only black, drinks too much, and openly sniffs snuff. Nina decides to go to Moscow and arranges to meet Trigorin there. Two years pass, and Arkadina and Trigorin return to the estate when Sorin falls ill. During the interim Masha has married the schoolteacher Medvedenko, whom she does not love, and Konstantin has had some of his writings published. Nina became Trigorin's mistress, but he deserted her after she bore him a child, who died. Now an actress in a provincial theater, Nina has refused to see Konstantin. The same group, except for Nina, assembles at the estate, and the self-indulgent Arkadina casually remarks that she has not read any of her son's works. Then, while the others are involved in a card game, Konstantin encounters Nina outside the house. He declares his undying love for her, but she replies that she still loves Trigorin. Despondent, Konstantin goes off and shoots himself.