Vanya runs the estate and gives most of the income to Serebryakov. He has toiled for 25 years on the estate his father purchased for his now-deceased daughter when she married Serebryakov. Disillusioned with what Serebryakov accomplished with his life, he becomes angry with Serebryakov and depressed at how he has spent his life.
Serebryakov is a self-centered intellectual who disdains living in the country and expects others to cater to his needs, which they have done for 25 years. He is married to a much younger woman, who attracts the attention of other men. A chronic complainer with several health issues, he is dissatisfied with living in the country and misses his life as an academic.
Astrov is a workaholic who becomes burned out after a patient dies during surgery. Fed up with his life, he is spending more time than usual at the Serebryakov estate. He engages in mapmaking there and feeds his fantasy attraction to Yelena, who has recently come to stay there with her husband.
Sonya works on the estate and gives most of its income to her father. She is in love with Astrov and regularly seeks out opportunities to be with him. She has had a strained relationship with her father's more beautiful second wife, Yelena, but grows closer to her when she and her father come to live on the estate.
Yelena is enamored by men of ideals and intellect, but she spends her own life idly. Although she is unhappy with her husband and her life, she refuses the temptation to leave him for another man. She is a peacemaker and wants to bring warring people together to resolve their differences.