Arkadina is one of the four central protagonists of The Seagull. She is a middle-aged woman who is still beautiful but whose beauty and fame have passed their prime. Arkadina is a member of the aristocracy in Russia though her first marriage was to a man who was from Kiev indicating a lower status than her own. This was her son Treplev's father. In several ways, Arkadina considers herself better than her son. Her views are selfish, hypocritical, and self-serving. For instance, Arkadina thinks less of Treplev because he is born of a father from Kiev, but it is this man from Kiev whom she loved and with whom she bore a child that supposedly taints, Treplev. Arkadina is a successful stage actress and lover of a famous writer, Trigorin. This places her in the other aristocracy of Russia, the intelligentsia and artistic elite.
This elite group of artists and intellectuals forms her social group in Moscow to which her son, Treplev to prove himself. Arkadina does nothing to help her son's confidence or sense of belonging within her circle. She does not want her son taking any of the limelight away from herself. Arkadina expects others to listen to her brag about her achievements constantly, but she will not give an inch to Treplev. She is skeptical, unsympathetic, noisy, and demeaning when it comes to Treplev's play.
Arkadina's hypocracy makes her a likeable, flawed character because her flaws are extreme and contrary. In Act Four when Treplev has become a published author, Arkadina admits to never making the effort to read one of her son's stories. When it comes to her lover Trigorin however, Arkadina is doting, attentive, and loving. At the thought that he might leave her for Nina, Arkadina begs and pleads with him on her knees, spewing compliments and kisses. Arkadina is as needy as her son but seeks her love from admirers, fans and lovers, not her own flesh and blood.
Chekhov describes his play as a comedy, and Arkadina is vital in his description's assessment. She is not a villain or a hero. She proves herself to be excessively vain and miserly. At times, Arkadina shows a glimmer of compassion as when she cares for Treplev's head wound, when she encourages Nina to be an actress and when she screams in fright at the fear of her brother, Sorin's dizzy spell.