It is after sunset and a make-shift, homemade stage stands in the outdoor setting of Sorin's provincial, Russian estate and farm. A lake serves as natural scenery behind the stage. Medvedenko, a poor schoolteacher, believes he would be a happier man and a more attractive suitor to Masha if he had more money. Masha, the daughter of the estate manager, Shamrayev, fixates on her love for Treplev and does not agree. Snorting snuff, Masha openly acknowledges that she knows Medvedenko loves her but explains that she cannot love him back.
Treplev is nervous and busy as he gets things ready for the first performance of his play. Treplev tells Sorin that Arkadina is jealous of his play and hates it before she has seen it. Treplev picks a flower and pulls off its feathers saying, "She loves me, she loves me not," etc. He concludes that Arkadina does not love him.
He longs to be accepted by her peers, the writers, actors and other artists who comprise the Russian intelligentsia and artistic elite based on his own work, not because he is the son of famous actors.
Nina arrives. She tells Treplev that her parents are afraid she will want to become an actress if she spends time with the bohemians at Sorin's estate. She says that it is the lake that attracts her to the estate, "as if I were a seagull." Nina and Treplev kiss. Treplev tells her he loves her, but Nina does not return his affectionate talk. Workers and guests interrupt their intimate moment.
We learn that Paulina loves Dorn and that they are involved in a romantic relationship but he is mostly apathetic about her affection. Arkadina shows off to the group by reciting lines of Gertrude in Shakespeare's play, Hamlet. Treplev responds by reciting...