Treplev recounts how Nina played starring roles in summer theater plays outside of Moscow that moved to the provinces but that she played her parts badly. He used to visit her on the road and see her perform, but Nina refused to see him. Treplev eventually gave up on following her around. Nina would send Treplev troubled letters and sign them, "The Seagull." Treplev compares Nina's signature to a character in a Pushkin play who signs his name, "The Raven." Treplev reveals the information that Nina is staying nearby in town at a hotel. Masha went to see her, but Nina refused to talk to her and Medvedenko swears that he saw her walking through a nearby field. Nina's parents have hired armed guards to keep her away from their house next door to Sorin's estate.
Many major events of the play occurred between the action of Act Three and Act Four. But, the audience will only learn of these events through the exposition of Act Four, not bearing witness to them. Instead, Chekhov will reveal through his characters how each reacted to these events and the way the events changed the characters desires, opinions, and lives.
Several details in Act Four inform us that time has passed. Chekhov's exposition artfully gives us the sense that two years has passed when in real time on stage, only several minutes or an intermission might separate Act Three from Act Four. One is the fact that at the end of Act Three, Arkadina, Nina, and Trigorin were heading to Moscow and at the beginning of Act Four, Trigorin and Arkadina are arriving together from the train station. At the close of Act Three, we learned Trigorin planned to begin a relationship with Nina and is on his way to Moscow. At the beginning of Act Four, we hear that Trigorin is back together with Arkadina and on his way to the estate. Another detail that clues the audience into the passing of time is the rearrangement of the furniture in the parlor to accommodate a study for Treplev. This provides evidence of the change in time not because we have seen the parlor in a previous act, but because the characters in the play react to the changes in the room. Finally, Paulina's comments to Treplev regarding his success as a published writer reveals the passing of time. It is clear Treplev could not become a successful, published writer overnight.
In this section of Act Four, we also see the continuation of the love triangle's ill-fated destinies and the repetition of unrequited love from generation to generation. Masha's marriage to Medvedenko deeply effects Paulina because she sees her own unhappy life repeated in Masha's decision to marry without love. Paulina attempts to change the sad pattern for her daughter by asking Treplev to pay attention to Masha. Treplev rejects this idea without acknowledging Masha's feelings for him because he is too self-involved in his own feelings of unrequited love to notice Masha. Masha's silent pursuit of Treplev appears hopeless. Paulina's life disappoints her because she dislikes her husband, Shamrayev, and lost the affection of the doctor, Dorn, who never had loyalty to her or love for her in the first place. Paulina witnesses the same disappointment in Masha. For Paulina, joy has come in the form of the occasional affection she has received from Dorn and therefore, she believes that if Treplev could occasionally care for Masha, if not love her, she too could find some moments of relief in the arms of a man whom she truly loves.