Part 3 out of 5
SHIPUCHIN. [Chasing them] Stop! I implore you! Not such a noise?
Have pity on me!
KHIRIN. [Chasing MERCHUTKINA] Out of this! Catch her! Hit her! Cut
her into pieces!
SHIPUCHIN. [Shouts] Stop! I ask you! I implore you!
MERCHUTKINA. Little fathers ... little fathers! [Screams] Little
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA. [Shouts] Help! Help! ... Oh, oh ... I'm sick,
I'm sick! [Jumps on to a chair, then falls on to the sofa and
groans as if in a faint.]
KHIRIN. [Chasing MERCHUTKINA] Hit her! Beat her! Cut her to pieces!
MERCHUTKINA. Oh, oh ... little fathers, it's all dark before me!
Ah! [Falls senseless into SHIPUCHIN'S arms. There is a knock at the
door; a VOICE announces THE DEPUTATION] The deputation ...
reputation ... occupation ...
KHIRIN. [Stamps] Get out of it, devil take me! [Turns up his
sleeves] Give her to me: I may break the law!
[A deputation of five men enters; they all wear frockcoats. One
carries the velvet-covered address, another, the loving-cup.
Employees look in at the door, from the public department. TATIANA
ALEXEYEVNA on the sofa, and MERCHUTKINA in SHIPUCHIN'S arms are
ONE OF THE DEPUTATION. [Reads aloud] "Deeply respected and dear
Andrey Andreyevitch! Throwing a retrospective glance at the past
history of our financial administration, and reviewing in our minds
its gradual development, we receive an extremely satisfactory
impression. It is true that in the first period of its existence,
the inconsiderable amount of its capital, and the absence of
serious operations of any description, and also the indefinite aims
of this bank, made us attach an extreme importance to the question
raised by Hamlet, 'To be or not to be,' and at one time there were
even voices to be heard demanding our liquidation. But at that
moment you become the head of our concern. Your knowledge,
energies, and your native tact were the causes of extraordinary
success and widespread extension. The reputation of the bank ...
[Coughs] reputation of the bank ...
MERCHUTKINA. [Groans] Oh! Oh!
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA. [Groans] Water! Water!
THE MEMBER OF THE DEPUTATION. [Continues] The reputation [Coughs] ...
the reputation of the bank has been raised by you to such a height
that we are now the rivals of the best foreign concerns.
SHIPUCHIN. Deputation ... reputation ... occupation. ... Two
friends that had a walk at night, held converse by the pale
moonlight. ... Oh tell me not, that youth is vain, that jealousy
has turned my brain.
THE MEMBER OF THE DEPUTATION. [Continues in confusion] Then,
throwing an objective glance at the present condition of things,
we, deeply respected and dear Andrey Andreyevitch ... [Lowering his
voice] In that case, we'll do it later on. ... Yes, later on. ..."
[DEPUTATION goes out in confusion.]
THE THREE SISTERS
A DRAMA IN FOUR ACTS
ANDREY SERGEYEVITCH PROSOROV
NATALIA IVANOVA (NATASHA), his fiancee, later his wife (28)
FEODOR ILITCH KULIGIN, high school teacher, married to MASHA (20)
ALEXANDER IGNATEYEVITCH VERSHININ, lieutenant-colonel in charge of
a battery (42)
NICOLAI LVOVITCH TUZENBACH, baron, lieutenant in the army (30)
VASSILI VASSILEVITCH SOLENI, captain
IVAN ROMANOVITCH CHEBUTIKIN, army doctor (60)
ALEXEY PETROVITCH FEDOTIK, sub-lieutenant
VLADIMIR CARLOVITCH RODE, sub-lieutenant
FERAPONT, door-keeper at local council offices, an old man
ANFISA, nurse (80)
The action takes place in a provincial town.
[Ages are stated in brackets.]
THE THREE SISTERS
[In PROSOROV'S house. A sitting-room with pillars; behind is seen a
large dining-room. It is midday, the sun is shining brightly
outside. In the dining-room the table is being laid for lunch.]
[OLGA, in the regulation blue dress of a teacher at a girl's high
school, is walking about correcting exercise books; MASHA, in a
black dress, with a hat on her knees, sits and reads a book; IRINA,
in white, stands about, with a thoughtful expression.]
OLGA. It's just a year since father died last May the fifth, on
your name-day, Irina. It was very cold then, and snowing. I thought
I would never survive it, and you were in a dead faint. And now a
year has gone by and we are already thinking about it without pain,
and you are wearing a white dress and your face is happy. [Clock
strikes twelve] And the clock struck just the same way then.
[Pause] I remember that there was music at the funeral, and they
fired a volley in the cemetery. He was a general in command of a
brigade but there were few people present. Of course, it was
raining then, raining hard, and snowing.
IRINA. Why think about it!
[BARON TUZENBACH, CHEBUTIKIN and SOLENI appear by the table in the
dining-room, behind the pillars.]
OLGA. It's so warm to-day that we can keep the windows open, though
the birches are not yet in flower. Father was put in command of a
brigade, and he rode out of Moscow with us eleven years ago. I
remember perfectly that it was early in May and that everything in
Moscow was flowering then. It was warm too, everything was bathed
in sunshine. Eleven years have gone, and I remember everything as
if we rode out only yesterday. Oh, God! When I awoke this morning
and saw all the light and the spring, joy entered my heart, and I
longed passionately to go home.
CHEBUTIKIN. Will you take a bet on it?
TUZENBACH. Oh, nonsense.
[MASHA, lost in a reverie over her book, whistles softly.]
OLGA. Don't whistle, Masha. How can you! [Pause] I'm always having
headaches from having to go to the High School every day and then
teach till evening. Strange thoughts come to me, as if I were
already an old woman. And really, during these four years that I
have been working here, I have been feeling as if every day my
strength and youth have been squeezed out of me, drop by drop. And
only one desire grows and gains in strength ...
IRINA. To go away to Moscow. To sell the house, drop everything
here, and go to Moscow ...
OLGA. Yes! To Moscow, and as soon as possible.
[CHEBUTIKIN and TUZENBACH laugh.]
IRINA. I expect Andrey will become a professor, but still, he won't
want to live here. Only poor Masha must go on living here.
OLGA. Masha can come to Moscow every year, for the whole summer.
[MASHA is whistling gently.]
IRINA. Everything will be arranged, please God. [Looks out of the
window] It's nice out to-day. I don't know why I'm so happy: I
remembered this morning that it was my name-day, and I suddenly
felt glad and remembered my childhood, when mother was still with
us. What beautiful thoughts I had, what thoughts!
OLGA. You're all radiance to-day, I've never seen you look so
lovely. And Masha is pretty, too. Andrey wouldn't be bad-looking,
if he wasn't so stout; it does spoil his appearance. But I've grown
old and very thin, I suppose it's because I get angry with the
girls at school. To-day I'm free. I'm at home. I haven't got a
headache, and I feel younger than I was yesterday. I'm only
twenty-eight. ... All's well, God is everywhere, but it seems to me
that if only I were married and could stay at home all day, it
would be even better. [Pause] I should love my husband.
TUZENBACH. [To SOLENI] I'm tired of listening to the rot you talk.
[Entering the sitting-room] I forgot to say that Vershinin, our new
lieutenant-colonel of artillery, is coming to see us to-day. [Sits
down to the piano.]
OLGA. That's good. I'm glad.
IRINA. Is he old?
TUZENBACH. Oh, no. Forty or forty-five, at the very outside. [Plays
softly] He seems rather a good sort. He's certainly no fool, only
he likes to hear himself speak.
IRINA. Is he interesting?
TUZENBACH. Oh, he's all right, but there's his wife, his mother-in-law,
and two daughters. This is his second wife. He pays calls and tells
everybody that he's got a wife and two daughters. He'll tell you so
here. The wife isn't all there, she does her hair like a flapper
and gushes extremely. She talks philosophy and tries to commit
suicide every now and again, apparently in order to annoy her
husband. I should have left her long ago, but he bears up
patiently, and just grumbles.
SOLENI. [Enters with CHEBUTIKIN from the dining-room] With one hand
I can only lift fifty-four pounds, but with both hands I can lift
180, or even 200 pounds. From this I conclude that two men are not
twice as strong as one, but three times, perhaps even more. ...
CHEBUTIKIN. [Reads a newspaper as he walks] If your hair is coming
out ... take an ounce of naphthaline and hail a bottle of spirit ...
dissolve and use daily. ... [Makes a note in his pocket diary] When
found make a note of! Not that I want it though. ... [Crosses it
out] It doesn't matter.
IRINA. Ivan Romanovitch, dear Ivan Romanovitch!
CHEBUTIKIN. What does my own little girl want?
IRINA. Ivan Romanovitch, dear Ivan Romanovitch! I feel as if I were
sailing under the broad blue sky with great white birds around me.
Why is that? Why?
CHEBUTIKIN. [Kisses her hands, tenderly] My white bird. ...
IRINA. When I woke up to-day and got up and dressed myself, I
suddenly began to feel as if everything in this life was open to
me, and that I knew how I must live. Dear Ivan Romanovitch, I know
everything. A man must work, toil in the sweat of his brow, whoever
he may be, for that is the meaning and object of his life, his
happiness, his enthusiasm. How fine it is to be a workman who gets
up at daybreak and breaks stones in the street, or a shepherd, or a
schoolmaster, who teaches children, or an engine-driver on the
railway. ... My God, let alone a man, it's better to be an ox, or
just a horse, so long as it can work, than a young woman who wakes
up at twelve o'clock, has her coffee in bed, and then spends two
hours dressing. ... Oh it's awful! Sometimes when it's hot, your
thirst can be just as tiresome as my need for work. And if I don't
get up early in future and work, Ivan Romanovitch, then you may
refuse me your friendship.
CHEBUTIKIN. [Tenderly] I'll refuse, I'll refuse. ...
OLGA. Father used to make us get up at seven. Now Irina wakes at
seven and lies and meditates about something till nine at least.
And she looks so serious! [Laughs.]
IRINA. You're so used to seeing me as a little girl that it seems
queer to you when my face is serious. I'm twenty!
TUZENBACH. How well I can understand that craving for work, oh God!
I've never worked once in my life. I was born in Petersburg, a
chilly, lazy place, in a family which never knew what work or worry
meant. I remember that when I used to come home from my regiment, a
footman used to have to pull off my boots while I fidgeted and my
mother looked on in adoration and wondered why other people didn't
see me in the same light. They shielded me from work; but only just
in time! A new age is dawning, the people are marching on us all, a
powerful, health-giving storm is gathering, it is drawing near,
soon it will be upon us and it will drive away laziness,
indifference, the prejudice against labour, and rotten dullness
from our society. I shall work, and in twenty-five or thirty years,
every man will have to work. Every one!
CHEBUTIKIN. I shan't work.
TUZENBACH. You don't matter.
SOLENI. In twenty-five years' time, we shall all be dead, thank the
Lord. In two or three years' time apoplexy will carry you off, or
else I'll blow your brains out, my pet. [Takes a scent-bottle out
of his pocket and sprinkles his chest and hands.]
CHEBUTIKIN. [Laughs] It's quite true, I never have worked. After I
came down from the university I never stirred a finger or opened a
book, I just read the papers. ... [Takes another newspaper out of
his pocket] Here we are. ... I've learnt from the papers that there
used to be one, Dobrolubov [Note: Dobroluboy (1836-81), in spite
of the shortness of his career, established himself as one of the
classic literary critics of Russia], for instance, but what he
wrote--I don't know ... God only knows. ... [Somebody is heard
tapping on the floor from below] There. ... They're calling me
downstairs, somebody's come to see me. I'll be back in a minute ...
won't be long. ... [Exit hurriedly, scratching his beard.]
IRINA. He's up to something.
TUZENBACH. Yes, he looked so pleased as he went out that I'm pretty
certain he'll bring you a present in a moment.
IRINA. How unpleasant!
OLGA. Yes, it's awful. He's always doing silly things.
MASHA. "There stands a green oak by the sea.
And a chain of bright gold is around it ...
And a chain of bright gold is around it. ..."
[Gets up and sings softly.]
OLGA. You're not very bright to-day, Masha. [MASHA sings, putting
on her hat] Where are you off to?
IRINA. That's odd. ...
TUZENBACH. On a name-day, too!
MASHA. It doesn't matter. I'll come in the evening. Good-bye, dear.
[Kisses MASHA] Many happy returns, though I've said it before. In
the old days when father was alive, every time we had a name-day,
thirty or forty officers used to come, and there was lots of noise
and fun, and to-day there's only a man and a half, and it's as
quiet as a desert ... I'm off ... I've got the hump to-day, and am
not at all cheerful, so don't you mind me. [Laughs through her
tears] We'll have a talk later on, but good-bye for the present, my
dear; I'll go somewhere.
IRINA. [Displeased] You are queer. ...
OLGA. [Crying] I understand you, Masha.
SOLENI. When a man talks philosophy, well, it is philosophy or at
any rate sophistry; but when a woman, or two women, talk
philosophy--it's all my eye.
MASHA. What do you mean by that, you very awful man?
SOLENI. Oh, nothing. You came down on me before I could say ...
MASHA. [Angrily, to OLGA] Don't cry!
[Enter ANFISA and FERAPONT with a cake.]
ANFISA. This way, my dear. Come in, your feet are clean. [To IRINA]
From the District Council, from Mihail Ivanitch Protopopov ... a
IRINA. Thank you. Please thank him. [Takes the cake.]
IRINA. [Louder] Please thank him.
OLGA. Give him a pie, nurse. Ferapont, go, she'll give you a pie.
ANFISA. Come on, gran'fer, Ferapont Spiridonitch. Come on.
MASHA. I don't like this Mihail Potapitch or Ivanitch, Protopopov.
We oughtn't to invite him here.
IRINA. I never asked him.
MASHA. That's all right.
[Enter CHEBUTIKIN followed by a soldier with a silver samovar;
there is a rumble of dissatisfied surprise.]
OLGA. [Covers her face with her hands] A samovar! That's awful!
[Exit into the dining-room, to the table.]
IRINA. My dear Ivan Romanovitch, what are you doing!
TUZENBACH. [Laughs] I told you so!
MASHA. Ivan Romanovitch, you are simply shameless!
CHEBUTIKIN. My dear good girl, you are the only thing, and the
dearest thing I have in the world. I'll soon be sixty. I'm an old
man, a lonely worthless old man. The only good thing in me is my
love for you, and if it hadn't been for that, I would have been
dead long ago. ... [To IRINA] My dear little girl, I've known you
since the day of your birth, I've carried you in my arms ... I
loved your dead mother. ...
MASHA. But your presents are so expensive!
CHEBUTIKIN. [Angrily, through his tears] Expensive presents. ...
You really, are! ... [To the orderly] Take the samovar in there. ...
[Teasing] Expensive presents!
[The orderly goes into the dining-room with the samovar.]
ANFISA. [Enters and crosses stage] My dear, there's a strange
Colonel come! He's taken off his coat already. Children, he's
coming here. Irina darling, you'll be a nice and polite little
girl, won't you. ... Should have lunched a long time ago. ... Oh,
Lord. ... [Exit.]
TUZENBACH. It must be Vershinin. [Enter VERSHININ] Lieutenant-Colonel
VERSHININ. [To MASHA and IRINA] I have the honour to introduce
myself, my name is Vershinin. I am very glad indeed to be able to
come at last. How you've grown! Oh! oh!
IRINA. Please sit down. We're very glad you've come.
VERSHININ. [Gaily] I am glad, very glad! But there are three
sisters, surely. I remember--three little girls. I forget your
faces, but your father, Colonel Prosorov, used to have three little
girls, I remember that perfectly, I saw them with my own eyes. How
time does fly! Oh, dear, how it flies!
TUZENBACH. Alexander Ignateyevitch comes from Moscow.
IRINA. From Moscow? Are you from Moscow?
VERSHININ. Yes, that's so. Your father used to be in charge of a
battery there, and I was an officer in the same brigade. [To MASHA]
I seem to remember your face a little.
MASHA. I don't remember you.
IRINA. Olga! Olga! [Shouts into the dining-room] Olga! Come along!
[OLGA enters from the dining-room] Lieutenant Colonel Vershinin
comes from Moscow, as it happens.
VERSHININ. I take it that you are Olga Sergeyevna, the eldest, and
that you are Maria ... and you are Irina, the youngest. ...
OLGA. So you come from Moscow?
VERSHININ. Yes. I went to school in Moscow and began my service
there; I was there for a long time until at last I got my battery
and moved over here, as you see. I don't really remember you, I
only remember that there used to be three sisters. I remember your
father well; I have only to shut my eyes to see him as he was. I
used to come to your house in Moscow. ...
OLGA. I used to think I remembered everybody, but ...
VERSHININ. My name is Alexander Ignateyevitch.
IRINA. Alexander Ignateyevitch, you've come from Moscow. That is
really quite a surprise!
OLGA. We are going to live there, you see.
IRINA. We think we may be there this autumn. It's our native town,
we were born there. In Old Basmanni Road. ... [They both laugh for
MASHA. We've unexpectedly met a fellow countryman. [Briskly] I
remember: Do you remember, Olga, they used to speak at home of a
"lovelorn Major." You were only a Lieutenant then, and in love with
somebody, but for some reason they always called you a Major for
VERSHININ. [Laughs] That's it ... the lovelorn Major, that's got it!
MASHA. You only wore moustaches then. You have grown older!
[Through her tears] You have grown older!
VERSHININ. Yes, when they used to call me the lovelorn Major, I was
young and in love. I've grown out of both now.
OLGA. But you haven't a single white hair yet. You're older, but
you're not yet old.
VERSHININ. I'm forty-two, anyway. Have you been away from Moscow
IRINA. Eleven years. What are you crying for, Masha, you little
fool. ... [Crying] And I'm crying too.
MASHA. It's all right. And where did you live?
VERSHININ. Old Basmanni Road.
OLGA. Same as we.
VERSHININ. Once I used to live in German Street. That was when the
Red Barracks were my headquarters. There's an ugly bridge in
between, where the water rushes underneath. One gets melancholy
when one is alone there. [Pause] Here the river is so wide and
fine! It's a splendid river!
OLGA. Yes, but it's so cold. It's very cold here, and the midges. ...
VERSHININ. What are you saying! Here you've got such a fine healthy
Russian climate. You've a forest, a river ... and birches. Dear,
modest birches, I like them more than any other tree. It's good to
live here. Only it's odd that the railway station should be
thirteen miles away. ... Nobody knows why.
SOLENI. I know why. [All look at him] Because if it was near it
wouldn't be far off, and if it's far off, it can't be near. [An
TUZENBACH. Funny man.
OLGA. Now I know who you are. I remember.
VERSHININ. I used to know your mother.
CHEBUTIKIN. She was a good woman, rest her soul.
IRINA. Mother is buried in Moscow.
OLGA. At the Novo-Devichi Cemetery.
MASHA. Do you know, I'm beginning to forget her face. We'll be
forgotten in just the same way.
VERSHININ. Yes, they'll forget us. It's our fate, it can't be
helped. A time will come when everything that seems serious,
significant, or very important to us will be forgotten, or
considered trivial. [Pause] And the curious thing is that we can't
possibly find out what will come to be regarded as great and
important, and what will be feeble, or silly. Didn't the
discoveries of Copernicus, or Columbus, say, seem unnecessary and
ludicrous at first, while wasn't it thought that some rubbish
written by a fool, held all the truth? And it may so happen that
our present existence, with which we are so satisfied, will in time
appear strange, inconvenient, stupid, unclean, perhaps even sinful. ...
TUZENBACH. Who knows? But on the other hand, they may call our life
noble and honour its memory. We've abolished torture and capital
punishment, we live in security, but how much suffering there is
SOLENI. [In a feeble voice] There, there. ... The Baron will go
without his dinner if you only let him talk philosophy.
TUZENBACH. Vassili Vassilevitch, kindly leave me alone. [Changes
his chair] You're very dull, you know.
SOLENI. [Feebly] There, there, there.
TUZENBACH. [To VERSHININ] The sufferings we see to-day--there are
so many of them!--still indicate a certain moral improvement in
VERSHININ. Yes, yes, of course.
CHEBUTIKIN. You said just now, Baron, that they may call our life
noble; but we are very petty. ... [Stands up] See how little I am.
[Violin played behind.]
MASHA. That's Andrey playing--our brother.
IRINA. He's the learned member of the family. I expect he will be a
professor some day. Father was a soldier, but his son chose an
academic career for himself.
MASHA. That was father's wish.
OLGA. We ragged him to-day. We think he's a little in love.
IRINA. To a local lady. She will probably come here to-day.
MASHA. You should see the way she dresses! Quite prettily, quite
fashionably too, but so badly! Some queer bright yellow skirt with
a wretched little fringe and a red bodice. And such a complexion!
Andrey isn't in love. After all he has taste, he's simply making
fun of us. I heard yesterday that she was going to marry
Protopopov, the chairman of the Local Council. That would do her
nicely. ... [At the side door] Andrey, come here! Just for a
minute, dear! [Enter ANDREY.]
OLGA. My brother, Andrey Sergeyevitch.
VERSHININ. My name is Vershinin.
ANDREY. Mine is Prosorov. [Wipes his perspiring hands] You've come
to take charge of the battery?
OLGA. Just think, Alexander Ignateyevitch comes from Moscow.
ANDREY. That's all right. Now my little sisters won't give you any
VERSHININ. I've already managed to bore your sisters.
IRINA. Just look what a nice little photograph frame Andrey gave me
to-day. [Shows it] He made it himself.
VERSHININ. [Looks at the frame and does not know what to say] Yes. ...
It's a thing that ...
IRINA. And he made that frame there, on the piano as well. [Andrey
waves his hand and walks away.]
OLGA. He's got a degree, and plays the violin, and cuts all sorts
of things out of wood, and is really a domestic Admirable Crichton.
Don't go away, Andrey! He's got into a habit of always going away.
[MASHA and IRINA take his arms and laughingly lead him back.]
MASHA. Come on, come on!
ANDREY. Please leave me alone.
MASHA. You are funny. Alexander Ignateyevitch used to be called the
lovelorn Major, but he never minded.
VERSHININ. Not the least.
MASHA. I'd like to call you the lovelorn fiddler!
IRINA. Or the lovelorn professor!
OLGA. He's in love! little Andrey is in love!
IRINA. [Applauds] Bravo, Bravo! Encore! Little Andrey is in love.
CHEBUTIKIN. [Goes up behind ANDREY and takes him round the waist
with both arms] Nature only brought us into the world that we
should love! [Roars with laughter, then sits down and reads a
newspaper which he takes out of his pocket.]
ANDREY. That's enough, quite enough. ... [Wipes his face] I
couldn't sleep all night and now I can't quite find my feet, so to
speak. I read until four o'clock, then tried to sleep, but nothing
happened. I thought about one thing and another, and then it dawned
and the sun crawled into my bedroom. This summer, while I'm here, I
want to translate a book from the English. ...
VERSHININ. Do you read English?
ANDREY. Yes father, rest his soul, educated us almost violently. It
may seem funny and silly, but it's nevertheless true, that after
his death I began to fill out and get rounder, as if my body had
had some great pressure taken off it. Thanks to father, my sisters
and I know French, German, and English, and Irina knows Italian as
well. But we paid dearly for it all!
MASHA. A knowledge of three languages is an unnecessary luxury in
this town. It isn't even a luxury but a sort of useless extra, like
a sixth finger. We know a lot too much.
VERSHININ. Well, I say! [Laughs] You know a lot too much! I don't
think there can really be a town so dull and stupid as to have no
place for a clever, cultured person. Let us suppose even that among
the hundred thousand inhabitants of this backward and uneducated
town, there are only three persons like yourself. It stands to
reason that you won't be able to conquer that dark mob around you;
little by little as you grow older you will be bound to give way
and lose yourselves in this crowd of a hundred thousand human
beings; their life will suck you up in itself, but still, you won't
disappear having influenced nobody; later on, others like you will
come, perhaps six of them, then twelve, and so on, until at last
your sort will be in the majority. In two or three hundred years'
time life on this earth will be unimaginably beautiful and
wonderful. Mankind needs such a life, and if it is not ours to-day
then we must look ahead for it, wait, think, prepare for it. We
must see and know more than our fathers and grandfathers saw and
knew. [Laughs] And you complain that you know too much.
MASHA. [Takes off her hat] I'll stay to lunch.
IRINA. [Sighs] Yes, all that ought to be written down.
[ANDREY has gone out quietly.]
TUZENBACH. You say that many years later on, life on this earth
will be beautiful and wonderful. That's true. But to share in it
now, even though at a distance, we must prepare by work. ...
VERSHININ. [Gets up] Yes. What a lot of flowers you have. [Looks
round] It's a beautiful flat. I envy you! I've spent my whole life
in rooms with two chairs, one sofa, and fires which always smoke.
I've never had flowers like these in my life. ... [Rubs his hands]
TUZENBACH. Yes, we must work. You are probably thinking to
yourself: the German lets himself go. But I assure you I'm a
Russian, I can't even speak German. My father belonged to the
Orthodox Church. ... [Pause.]
VERSHININ. [Walks about the stage] I often wonder: suppose we could
begin life over again, knowing what we were doing? Suppose we could
use one life, already ended, as a sort of rough draft for another?
I think that every one of us would try, more than anything else,
not to repeat himself, at the very least he would rearrange his
manner of life, he would make sure of rooms like these, with
flowers and light ... I have a wife and two daughters, my wife's
health is delicate and so on and so on, and if I had to begin life
all over again I would not marry. ... No, no!
[Enter KULIGIN in a regulation jacket.]
KULIGIN. [Going up to IRINA] Dear sister, allow me to congratulate
you on the day sacred to your good angel and to wish you, sincerely
and from the bottom of my heart, good health and all that one can
wish for a girl of your years. And then let me offer you this book
as a present. [Gives it to her] It is the history of our High
School during the last fifty years, written by myself. The book is
worthless, and written because I had nothing to do, but read it all
the same. Good day, gentlemen! [To VERSHININ] My name is Kuligin, I
am a master of the local High School. [Note: He adds that he is a
_Nadvorny Sovetnik_ (almost the same as a German _Hofrat_), an
undistinguished civilian title with no English equivalent.] [To
IRINA] In this book you will find a list of all those who have
taken the full course at our High School during these fifty years.
_Feci quod potui, faciant meliora potentes_. [Kisses MASHA.]
IRINA. But you gave me one of these at Easter.
KULIGIN. [Laughs] I couldn't have, surely! You'd better give it
back to me in that case, or else give it to the Colonel. Take it,
Colonel. You'll read it some day when you're bored.
VERSHININ. Thank you. [Prepares to go] I am extremely happy to have
made the acquaintance of ...
OLGA. Must you go? No, not yet?
IRINA. You'll stop and have lunch with us. Please do.
OLGA. Yes, please!
VERSHININ. [Bows] I seem to have dropped in on your name-day. Forgive
me, I didn't know, and I didn't offer you my congratulations. [Goes
with OLGA into the dining-room.]
KULIGIN. To-day is Sunday, the day of rest, so let us rest and
rejoice, each in a manner compatible with his age and disposition.
The carpets will have to be taken up for the summer and put away
till the winter ... Persian powder or naphthaline. ... The Romans
were healthy because they knew both how to work and how to rest,
they had _mens sana in corpore sano_. Their life ran along certain
recognized patterns. Our director says: "The chief thing about each
life is its pattern. Whoever loses his pattern is lost himself"--
and it's just the same in our daily life. [Takes MASHA by the
waist, laughing] Masha loves me. My wife loves me. And you ought to
put the window curtains away with the carpets. ... I'm feeling
awfully pleased with life to-day. Masha, we've got to be at the
director's at four. They're getting up a walk for the pedagogues
and their families.
MASHA. I shan't go.
KULIGIN. [Hurt] My dear Masha, why not?
MASHA. I'll tell you later. ... [Angrily] All right, I'll go, only
please stand back. ... [Steps away.]
KULIGIN. And then we're to spend the evening at the director's. In
spite of his ill-health that man tries, above everything else, to
be sociable. A splendid, illuminating personality. A wonderful man.
After yesterday's committee he said to me: "I'm tired, Feodor
Ilitch, I'm tired!" [Looks at the clock, then at his watch] Your
clock is seven minutes fast. "Yes," he said, "I'm tired." [Violin
OLGA. Let's go and have lunch! There's to be a masterpiece of
KULIGIN. Oh my dear Olga, my dear. Yesterday I was working till
eleven o'clock at night, and got awfully tired. To-day I'm quite
happy. [Goes into dining-room] My dear ...
CHEBUTIKIN. [Puts his paper into his pocket, and combs his beard] A
MASHA. [Severely to CHEBUTIKIN] Only mind; you're not to drink
anything to-day. Do you hear? It's bad for you.
CHEBUTIKIN. Oh, that's all right. I haven't been drunk for two
years. And it's all the same, anyway!
MASHA. You're not to dare to drink, all the same. [Angrily, but so
that her husband should not hear] Another dull evening at the
Director's, confound it!
TUZENBACH. I shouldn't go if I were you. ... It's quite simple.
CHEBUTIKIN. Don't go.
MASHA. Yes, "don't go. ..." It's a cursed, unbearable life. ...
[Goes into dining-room.]
CHEBUTIKIN. [Follows her] It's not so bad.
SOLENI. [Going into the dining-room] There, there, there. ...
TUZENBACH. Vassili Vassilevitch, that's enough. Be quiet!
SOLENI. There, there, there. ...
KULIGIN. [Gaily] Your health, Colonel! I'm a pedagogue and not
quite at home here. I'm Masha's husband. ... She's a good sort, a
very good sort.
VERSHININ. I'll have some of this black vodka. ... [Drinks] Your
health! [To OLGA] I'm very comfortable here!
[Only IRINA and TUZENBACH are now left in the sitting-room.]
IRINA. Masha's out of sorts to-day. She married when she was
eighteen, when he seemed to her the wisest of men. And now it's
different. He's the kindest man, but not the wisest.
OLGA. [Impatiently] Andrey, when are you coming?
ANDREY. [Off] One minute. [Enters and goes to the table.]
TUZENBACH. What are you thinking about?
IRINA. I don't like this Soleni of yours and I'm afraid of him. He
only says silly things.
TUZENBACH. He's a queer man. I'm sorry for him, though he vexes me.
I think he's shy. When there are just the two of us he's quite all
right and very good company; when other people are about he's rough
and hectoring. Don't let's go in, let them have their meal without
us. Let me stay with you. What are you thinking of? [Pause] You're
twenty. I'm not yet thirty. How many years are there left to us,
with their long, long lines of days, filled with my love for you. ...
IRINA. Nicolai Lvovitch, don't speak to me of love.
TUZENBACH. [Does not hear] I've a great thirst for life, struggle,
and work, and this thirst has united with my love for you, Irina,
and you're so beautiful, and life seems so beautiful to me! What
are you thinking about?
IRINA. You say that life is beautiful. Yes, if only it seems so!
The life of us three hasn't been beautiful yet; it has been
stifling us as if it was weeds ... I'm crying. I oughtn't. ...
[Dries her tears, smiles] We must work, work. That is why we are
unhappy and look at the world so sadly; we don't know what work is.
Our parents despised work. ...
[Enter NATALIA IVANOVA; she wears a pink dress and a green sash.]
NATASHA. They're already at lunch ... I'm late ... [Carefully
examines herself in a mirror, and puts herself straight] I think my
hair's done all right. ... [Sees IRINA] Dear Irina Sergeyevna, I
congratulate you! [Kisses her firmly and at length] You've so many
visitors, I'm really ashamed. ... How do you do, Baron!
OLGA. [Enters from dining-room] Here's Natalia Ivanovna. How are
you, dear! [They kiss.]
NATASHA. Happy returns. I'm awfully shy, you've so many people
OLGA. All our friends. [Frightened, in an undertone] You're wearing
a green sash! My dear, you shouldn't!
NATASHA. Is it a sign of anything?
OLGA. No, it simply doesn't go well ... and it looks so queer.
NATASHA. [In a tearful voice] Yes? But it isn't really green, it's
too dull for that. [Goes into dining-room with OLGA.]
[They have all sat down to lunch in the dining-room, the
sitting-room is empty.]
KULIGIN. I wish you a nice fiancee, Irina. It's quite time you
CHEBUTIKIN. Natalia Ivanovna, I wish you the same.
KULIGIN. Natalia Ivanovna has a fiance already.
MASHA. [Raps with her fork on a plate] Let's all get drunk and make
life purple for once!
KULIGIN. You've lost three good conduct marks.
VERSHININ. This is a nice drink. What's it made of?
IRINA. [Tearfully] Phoo! How disgusting!
OLGA. There is to be a roast turkey and a sweet apple pie for
dinner. Thank goodness I can spend all day and the evening at home.
You'll come in the evening, ladies and gentlemen. ...
VERSHININ. And please may I come in the evening!
IRINA. Please do.
NATASHA. They don't stand on ceremony here.
CHEBUTIKIN. Nature only brought us into the world that we should
ANDREY. [Angrily] Please don't! Aren't you tired of it?
[Enter FEDOTIK and RODE with a large basket of flowers.]
FEDOTIK. They're lunching already.
RODE. [Loudly and thickly] Lunching? Yes, so they are. ...
FEDOTIK. Wait a minute! [Takes a photograph] That's one. No, just a
moment. ... [Takes another] That's two. Now we're ready!
[They take the basket and go into the dining-room, where they have
a noisy reception.]
RODE. [Loudly] Congratulations and best wishes! Lovely weather
to-day, simply perfect. Was out walking with the High School
students all the morning. I take their drills.
FEDOTIK. You may move, Irina Sergeyevna! [Takes a photograph] You
look well to-day. [Takes a humming-top out of his pocket] Here's a
humming-top, by the way. It's got a lovely note!
IRINA. How awfully nice!
MASHA. "There stands a green oak by the sea,
And a chain of bright gold is around it ...
And a chain of bright gold is around it ..."
[Tearfully] What am I saying that for? I've had those words running
in my head all day. ...
KULIGIN. There are thirteen at table!
RODE. [Aloud] Surely you don't believe in that superstition?
KULIGIN. If there are thirteen at table then it means there are
lovers present. It isn't you, Ivan Romanovitch, hang it all. ...
CHEBUTIKIN. I'm a hardened sinner, but I really don't see why
Natalia Ivanovna should blush. ...
[Loud laughter; NATASHA runs out into the sitting-room, followed by
ANDREY. Don't pay any attention to them! Wait ... do stop, please. ...
NATASHA. I'm shy ... I don't know what's the matter with me and
they're all laughing at me. It wasn't nice of me to leave the table
like that, but I can't ... I can't. [Covers her face with her
ANDREY. My dear, I beg you. I implore you not to excite yourself. I
assure you they're only joking, they're kind people. My dear, good
girl, they're all kind and sincere people, and they like both you
and me. Come here to the window, they can't see us here. ... [Looks
NATASHA. I'm so unaccustomed to meeting people!
ANDREY. Oh your youth, your splendid, beautiful youth! My darling,
don't be so excited! Believe me, believe me ... I'm so happy, my
soul is full of love, of ecstasy. ... They don't see us! They
can't! Why, why or when did I fall in love with you--Oh, I can't
understand anything. My dear, my pure darling, be my wife! I love
you, love you ... as never before. ... [They kiss.]
[Two officers come in and, seeing the lovers kiss, stop in
[Scene as before. It is 8 p.m. Somebody is heard playing a
concertina outside in' the street. There is no fire. NATALIA
IVANOVNA enters in indoor dress carrying a candle; she stops by the
door which leads into ANDREY'S room.]
NATASHA. What are you doing, Andrey? Are you reading? It's nothing,
only I. ... [She opens another door, and looks in, then closes it]
Isn't there any fire. ...
ANDREY. [Enters with book in hand] What are you doing, Natasha?
NATASHA. I was looking to see if there wasn't a fire. It's
Shrovetide, and the servant is simply beside herself; I must look
out that something doesn't happen. When I came through the
dining-room yesterday midnight, there was a candle burning. I
couldn't get her to tell me who had lighted it. [Puts down her
candle] What's the time?
ANDREY. [Looks at his watch] A quarter past eight.
NATASHA. And Olga and Irina aren't in yet. The poor things are
still at work. Olga at the teacher's council, Irina at the
telegraph office. ... [Sighs] I said to your sister this morning,
"Irina, darling, you must take care of yourself." But she pays no
attention. Did you say it was a quarter past eight? I am afraid
little Bobby is quite ill. Why is he so cold? He was feverish
yesterday, but to-day he is quite cold ... I am so frightened!
ANDREY. It's all right, Natasha. The boy is well.
NATASHA. Still, I think we ought to put him on a diet. I am so
afraid. And the entertainers were to be here after nine; they had
better not come, Audrey.
ANDREY. I don't know. After all, they were asked.
NATASHA. This morning, when the little boy woke up and saw me he
suddenly smiled; that means he knew me. "Good morning, Bobby!" I
said, "good morning, darling." And he laughed. Children understand,
they understand very well. So I'll tell them, Andrey dear, not to
receive the entertainers.
ANDREY. [Hesitatingly] But what about my sisters. This is their
NATASHA. They'll do as I want them. They are so kind. ... [Going] I
ordered sour milk for supper. The doctor says you must eat sour
milk and nothing else, or you won't get thin. [Stops] Bobby is so
cold. I'm afraid his room is too cold for him. It would be nice to
put him into another room till the warm weather comes. Irina's
room, for instance, is just right for a child: it's dry and has the
sun all day. I must tell her, she can share Olga's room. It isn't
as if she was at home in the daytime, she only sleeps here. ... [A
pause] Andrey, darling, why are you so silent?
ANDREY. I was just thinking. ... There is really nothing to say. ...
NATASHA. Yes ... there was something I wanted to tell you. ... Oh,
yes. Ferapont has come from the Council offices, he wants to see
ANDREY. [Yawns] Call him here.
[NATASHA goes out; ANDREY reads his book, stooping over the candle
she has left behind. FERAPONT enters; he wears a tattered old coat
with the collar up. His ears are muffled.]
ANDREY. Good morning, grandfather. What have you to say?
FERAPONT. The Chairman sends a book and some documents or other.
Here. ... [Hands him a book and a packet.]
ANDREY. Thank you. It's all right. Why couldn't you come earlier?
It's past eight now.
ANDREY. [Louder]. I say you've come late, it's past eight.
FERAPONT. Yes, yes. I came when it was still light, but they
wouldn't let me in. They said you were busy. Well, what was I to
do. If you're busy, you're busy, and I'm in no hurry. [He thinks
that ANDREY is asking him something] What?
ANDREY. Nothing. [Looks through the book] To-morrow's Friday. I'm
not supposed to go to work, but I'll come--all the same ... and do
some work. It's dull at home. [Pause] Oh, my dear old man, how
strangely life changes, and how it deceives! To-day, out of sheer
boredom, I took up this book--old university lectures, and I
couldn't help laughing. My God, I'm secretary of the local district
council, the council which has Protopopov for its chairman, yes,
I'm the secretary, and the summit of my ambitions is--to become a
member of the council! I to be a member of the local district
council, I, who dream every night that I'm a professor of Moscow
University, a famous scholar of whom all Russia is proud!
FERAPONT. I can't tell ... I'm hard of hearing. ...
ANDREY. If you weren't, I don't suppose I should talk to you. I've
got to talk to somebody, and my wife doesn't understand me, and I'm
a bit afraid of my sisters--I don't know why unless it is that they
may make fun of me and make me feel ashamed ... I don't drink, I
don't like public-houses, but how I should like to be sitting just
now in Tyestov's place in Moscow, or at the Great Moscow, old
FERAPONT. Moscow? That's where a contractor was once telling that
some merchants or other were eating pancakes; one ate forty
pancakes and he went and died, he was saying. Either forty or
fifty, I forget which.
ANDREY. In Moscow you can sit in an enormous restaurant where you
don't know anybody and where nobody knows you, and you don't feel
all the same that you're a stranger. And here you know everybody
and everybody knows you, and you're a stranger ... and a lonely
FERAPONT. What? And the same contractor was telling--perhaps he was
lying--that there was a cable stretching right across Moscow.
ANDREY. What for?
FERAPONT. I can't tell. The contractor said so.
ANDREY. Rubbish. [He reads] Were you ever in Moscow?
FERAPONT. [After a pause] No. God did not lead me there. [Pause]
Shall I go?
ANDREY. You may go. Good-bye. [FERAPONT goes] Good-bye. [Reads] You
can come to-morrow and fetch these documents. ... Go along. ...
[Pause] He's gone. [A ring] Yes, yes. ... [Stretches himself and
slowly goes into his own room.]
[Behind the scene the nurse is singing a lullaby to the child.
MASHA and VERSHININ come in. While they talk, a maidservant lights
candles and a lamp.]
MASHA. I don't know. [Pause] I don't know. Of course, habit counts
for a great deal. After father's death, for instance, it took us a
long time to get used to the absence of orderlies. But, apart from
habit, it seems to me in all fairness that, however it may be in
other towns, the best and most-educated people are army men.
VERSHININ. I'm thirsty. I should like some tea.
MASHA. [Glancing at her watch] They'll bring some soon. I was given
in marriage when I was eighteen, and I was afraid of my husband
because he was a teacher and I'd only just left school. He then
seemed to me frightfully wise and learned and important. And now,
unfortunately, that has changed.
VERSHININ. Yes ... yes.
MASHA. I don't speak of my husband, I've grown used to him, but
civilians in general are so often coarse, impolite, uneducated.
Their rudeness offends me, it angers me. I suffer when I see that a
man isn't quite sufficiently refined, or delicate, or polite. I
simply suffer agonies when I happen to be among schoolmasters, my
VERSHININ. Yes. ... It seems to me that civilians and army men are
equally interesting, in this town, at any rate. It's all the same!
If you listen to a member of the local intelligentsia, whether to
civilian or military, he will tell you that he's sick of his wife,
sick of his house, sick of his estate, sick of his horses. ... We
Russians are extremely gifted in the direction of thinking on an
exalted plane, but, tell me, why do we aim so low in real life?
VERSHININ. Why is a Russian sick of his children, sick of his wife?
And why are his wife and children sick of him?
MASHA. You're a little downhearted to-day.
VERSHININ. Perhaps I am. I haven't had any dinner, I've had nothing
since the morning. My daughter is a little unwell, and when my
girls are ill, I get very anxious and my conscience tortures me
because they have such a mother. Oh, if you had seen her to-day!
What a trivial personality! We began quarrelling at seven in the
morning and at nine I slammed the door and went out. [Pause] I
never speak of her, it's strange that I bear my complaints to you
alone. [Kisses her hand] Don't be angry with me. I haven't anybody
but you, nobody at all. ... [Pause.]
MASHA. What a noise in the oven. Just before father's death there
was a noise in the pipe, just like that.
VERSHININ. Are you superstitious?
VERSHININ. That's strange. [Kisses her hand] You are a splendid,
wonderful woman. Splendid, wonderful! It is dark here, but I see
your sparkling eyes.
MASHA. [Sits on another chair] There is more light here.
VERSHININ. I love you, love you, love you ... I love your eyes,
your movements, I dream of them. ... Splendid, wonderful woman!
MASHA. [Laughing] When you talk to me like that, I laugh; I don't
know why, for I'm afraid. Don't repeat it, please. ... [In an
undertone] No, go on, it's all the same to me. ... [Covers her face
with her hands] Somebody's coming, let's talk about something else.
[IRINA and TUZENBACH come in through the dining-room.]
TUZENBACH. My surname is really triple. I am called Baron
Tuzenbach-Krone-Altschauer, but I am Russian and Orthodox, the same
as you. There is very little German left in me, unless perhaps it
is the patience and the obstinacy with which I bore you. I see you
home every night.
IRINA. How tired I am!
TUZENBACH. And I'll come to the telegraph office to see you home
every day for ten or twenty years, until you drive me away. [He
sees MASHA and VERSHININ; joyfully] Is that you? How do you do.
IRINA. Well, I am home at last. [To MASHA] A lady came to-day to
telegraph to her brother in Saratov that her son died to-day, and
she couldn't remember the address anyhow. So she sent the telegram
without an address, just to Saratov. She was crying. And for some
reason or other I was rude to her. "I've no time," I said. It was
so stupid. Are the entertainers coming to-night?
IRINA. [Sitting down in an armchair] I want a rest. I am tired.
TUZENBACH. [Smiling] When you come home from your work you seem so
young, and so unfortunate. ... [Pause.]
IRINA. I am tired. No, I don't like the telegraph office, I don't
MASHA. You've grown thinner. ... [Whistles a little] And you look
younger, and your face has become like a boy's.
TUZENBACH. That's the way she does her hair.
IRINA. I must find another job, this one won't do for me. What I
wanted, what I hoped to get, just that is lacking here. Labour
without poetry, without ideas. ... [A knock on the floor] The
doctor is knocking. [To TUZENBACH] Will you knock, dear. I can't ...
I'm tired. ... [TUZENBACH knocks] He'll come in a minute. Something
ought to be done. Yesterday the doctor and Andrey played cards at
the club and lost money. Andrey seems to have lost 200 roubles.
MASHA. [With indifference] What can we do now?
IRINA. He lost money a fortnight ago, he lost money in December.
Perhaps if he lost everything we should go away from this town. Oh,
my God, I dream of Moscow every night. I'm just like a lunatic.
[Laughs] We go there in June, and before June there's still ...
February, March, April, May ... nearly half a year!
MASHA. Only Natasha mustn't get to know of these losses.
IRINA. I expect it will be all the same to her.
[CHEBUTIKIN, who has only just got out of bed--he was resting after
dinner--comes into the dining-room and combs his beard. He then
sits by the table and takes a newspaper from his pocket.]
MASHA. Here he is. ... Has he paid his rent?
IRINA. [Laughs] No. He's been here eight months and hasn't paid a
copeck. Seems to have forgotten.
MASHA. [Laughs] What dignity in his pose! [They all laugh. A
IRINA. Why are you so silent, Alexander Ignateyevitch?
VERSHININ. I don't know. I want some tea. Half my life for a
tumbler of tea: I haven't had anything since morning.
CHEBUTIKIN. Irina Sergeyevna!
IRINA. What is it?
CHEBUTIKIN. Please come here, Venez ici. [IRINA goes and sits by
the table] I can't do without you. [IRINA begins to play patience.]
VERSHININ. Well, if we can't have any tea, let's philosophize, at
TUZENBACH. Yes, let's. About what?
VERSHININ. About what? Let us meditate ... about life as it will be
after our time; for example, in two or three hundred years.
TUZENBACH. Well? After our time people will fly about in balloons,
the cut of one's coat will change, perhaps they'll discover a sixth
sense and develop it, but life will remain the same, laborious,
mysterious, and happy. And in a thousand years' time, people will
still be sighing: "Life is hard!"--and at the same time they'll be
just as afraid of death, and unwilling to meet it, as we are.
VERSHININ. [Thoughtfully] How can I put it? It seems to me that
everything on earth must change, little by little, and is already
changing under our very eyes. After two or three hundred years,
after a thousand--the actual time doesn't matter--a new and happy
age will begin. We, of course, shall not take part in it, but we
live and work and even suffer to-day that it should come. We create
it--and in that one object is our destiny and, if you like, our
[MASHA laughs softly.]
TUZENBACH. What is it?
MASHA. I don't know. I've been laughing all day, ever since
VERSHININ. I finished my education at the same point as you, I have
not studied at universities; I read a lot, but I cannot choose my
books and perhaps what I read is not at all what I should, but the
longer I love, the more I want to know. My hair is turning white, I
am nearly an old man now, but I know so little, oh, so little! But
I think I know the things that matter most, and that are most real.
I know them well. And I wish I could make you understand that there
is no happiness for us, that there should not and cannot be. ... We
must only work and work, and happiness is only for our distant
posterity. [Pause] If not for me, then for the descendants of my
[FEDOTIK and RODE come into the dining-room; they sit and sing
softly, strumming on a guitar.]
TUZENBACH. According to you, one should not even think about
happiness! But suppose I am happy!
TUZENBACH. [Moves his hands and laughs] We do not seem to
understand each other. How can I convince you? [MASHA laughs
quietly, TUZENBACH continues, pointing at her] Yes, laugh! [To
VERSHININ] Not only after two or three centuries, but in a million
years, life will still be as it was; life does not change, it
remains for ever, following its own laws which do not concern us,
or which, at any rate, you will never find out. Migrant birds,
cranes for example, fly and fly, and whatever thoughts, high or
low, enter their heads, they will still fly and not know why or
where. They fly and will continue to fly, whatever philosophers
come to life among them; they may philosophize as much as they
like, only they will fly. ...
MASHA. Still, is there a meaning?
TUZENBACH. A meaning. ... Now the snow is falling. What meaning?
MASHA. It seems to me that a man must have faith, or must search
for a faith, or his life will be empty, empty. ... To live and not
to know why the cranes fly, why babies are born, why there are
stars in the sky. ... Either you must know why you live, or
everything is trivial, not worth a straw. [A pause.]
VERSHININ. Still, I am sorry that my youth has gone.
MASHA. Gogol says: life in this world is a dull matter, my masters!
TUZENBACH. And I say it's difficult to argue with you, my masters!
Hang it all.
CHEBUTIKIN. [Reading] Balzac was married at Berdichev. [IRINA is
singing softly] That's worth making a note of. [He makes a note]
Balzac was married at Berdichev. [Goes on reading.]
IRINA. [Laying out cards, thoughtfully] Balzac was married at
TUZENBACH. The die is cast. I've handed in my resignation, Maria
MASHA. So I heard. I don't see what good it is; I don't like
TUZENBACH. Never mind. ... [Gets up] I'm not handsome; what use am
I as a soldier? Well, it makes no difference ... I shall work. If
only just once in my life I could work so that I could come home in
the evening, fall exhausted on my bed, and go to sleep at once.
[Going into the dining-room] Workmen, I suppose, do sleep soundly!
FEDOTIK. [To IRINA] I bought some coloured pencils for you at
Pizhikov's in the Moscow Road, just now. And here is a little
IRINA. You have got into the habit of behaving to me as if I am a
little girl, but I am grown up. [Takes the pencils and the knife,
then, with joy] How lovely!
FEDOTIK. And I bought myself a knife ... look at it ... one blade,
another, a third, an ear-scoop, scissors, nail-cleaners.
RODE. [Loudly] Doctor, how old are you?
CHEBUTIKIN. I? Thirty-two. [Laughter]
FEDOTIK. I'll show you another kind of patience. ... [Lays out
[A samovar is brought in; ANFISA attends to it; a little later
NATASHA enters and helps by the table; SOLENI arrives and, after
greetings, sits by the table.]
VERSHININ. What a wind!
MASHA. Yes. I'm tired of winter. I've already forgotten what
IRINA. It's coming out, I see. We're going to Moscow.
FEDOTIK. No, it won't come out. Look, the eight was on the two of
spades. [Laughs] That means you won't go to Moscow.
CHEBUTIKIN. [Reading paper] Tsitsigar. Smallpox is raging here.
ANFISA. [Coming up to MASHA] Masha, have some tea, little mother.
[To VERSHININ] Please have some, sir ... excuse me, but I've
forgotten your name. ...
MASHA. Bring some here, nurse. I shan't go over there.
ANFISA. Coming, coming!
NATASHA. [To SOLENI] Children at the breast understand perfectly. I
said "Good morning, Bobby; good morning, dear!" And he looked at me
in quite an unusual way. You think it's only the mother in me that
is speaking; I assure you that isn't so! He's a wonderful child.
SOLENI. If he was my child I'd roast him on a frying-pan and eat
him. [Takes his tumbler into the drawing-room and sits in a
NATASHA. [Covers her face in her hands] Vulgar, ill-bred man!
MASHA. He's lucky who doesn't notice whether it's winter now, or
summer. I think that if I were in Moscow, I shouldn't mind about
VERSHININ. A few days ago I was reading the prison diary of a
French minister. He had been sentenced on account of the Panama
scandal. With what joy, what delight, he speaks of the birds he saw
through the prison windows, which he had never noticed while he was
a minister. Now, of course, that he is at liberty, he notices birds
no more than he did before. When you go to live in Moscow you'll
not notice it, in just the same way. There can be no happiness for
us, it only exists in our wishes.
TUZENBACH. [Takes cardboard box from the table] Where are the
IRINA. Soleni has eaten them.
TUZENBACH. All of them?
ANFISA. [Serving tea] There's a letter for you.
VERSHININ. For me? [Takes the letter] From my daughter. [Reads]
Yes, of course ... I will go quietly. Excuse me, Maria Sergeyevna.
I shan't have any tea. [Stands up, excited] That eternal story. ...
MASHA. What is it? Is it a secret?
VERSHININ. [Quietly] My wife has poisoned herself again. I must go.
I'll go out quietly. It's all awfully unpleasant. [Kisses MASHA'S
hand] My dear, my splendid, good woman ... I'll go this way,
ANFISA. Where has he gone? And I'd served tea. ... What a man.
MASHA. [Angrily] Be quiet! You bother so one can't have a moment's
peace. ... [Goes to the table with her cup] I'm tired of you, old
ANFISA. My dear! Why are you offended!
ANDREY'S VOICE. Anfisa!
ANFISA. [Mocking] Anfisa! He sits there and ... [Exit.]
MASHA. [In the dining-room, by the table angrily] Let me sit down!
[Disturbs the cards on the table] Here you are, spreading your
cards out. Have some tea!
IRINA. You are cross, Masha.
MASHA. If I am cross, then don't talk to me. Don't touch me!
CHEBUTIKIN. Don't touch her, don't touch her. ...
MASHA. You're sixty, but you're like a boy, always up to some
NATASHA. [Sighs] Dear Masha, why use such expressions? With your
beautiful exterior you would be simply fascinating in good society,
I tell you so directly, if it wasn't for your words. _Je vous prie,
pardonnez moi, Marie, mais vous avez des manieres un peu
TUZENBACH. [Restraining his laughter] Give me ... give me ...
there's some cognac, I think.
NATASHA. _Il parait, que mon Bobick deja ne dort pas_, he has
awakened. He isn't well to-day. I'll go to him, excuse me ...
IRINA. Where has Alexander Ignateyevitch gone?
MASHA. Home. Something extraordinary has happened to his wife
TUZENBACH. [Goes to SOLENI with a cognac-flask in his hands] You go
on sitting by yourself, thinking of something--goodness knows what.
Come and let's make peace. Let's have some cognac. [They drink] I
expect I'll have to play the piano all night, some rubbish most
likely ... well, so be it!
SOLENI. Why make peace? I haven't quarrelled with you.
TUZENBACH. You always make me feel as if something has taken place
between us. You've a strange character, you must admit.
SOLENI. [Declaims] "I am strange, but who is not? Don't be angry,
TUZENBACH. And what has Aleko to do with it? [Pause.]
SOLENI. When I'm with one other man I behave just like everybody
else, but in company I'm dull and shy and ... talk all manner of
rubbish. But I'm more honest and more honourable than very, very
many people. And I can prove it.
TUZENBACH. I often get angry with you, you always fasten on to me
in company, but I like you all the same. I'm going to drink my fill
to-night, whatever happens. Drink, now!
SOLENI. Let's drink. [They drink] I never had anything against you,
Baron. But my character is like Lermontov's [In a low voice] I even
rather resemble Lermontov, they say. ... [Takes a scent-bottle from
his pocket, and scents his hands.]
TUZENBACH. I've sent in my resignation. Basta! I've been thinking
about it for five years, and at last made up my mind. I shall work.
SOLENI. [Declaims] "Do not be angry, Aleko ... forget, forget, thy
dreams of yore. ..."
[While he is speaking ANDREY enters quietly with a book, and sits
by the table.]
TUZENBACH. I shall work.
CHEBUTIKIN. [Going with IRINA into the dining-room] And the food
was also real Caucasian onion soup, and, for a roast, some
SOLENI. Cheremsha [Note: A variety of garlic.] isn't meat at all,
but a plant something like an onion.
CHEBUTIKIN. No, my angel. Chehartma isn't onion, but roast mutton.
SOLENI. And I tell you, chehartma--is a sort of onion.
CHEBUTIKIN. And I tell you, chehartma--is mutton.
SOLENI. And I tell you, cheremsha--is a sort of onion.
CHEBUTIKIN. What's the use of arguing! You've never been in the
Caucasus, and never ate any chehartma.
SOLENI. I never ate it, because I hate it. It smells like garlic.
ANDREY. [Imploring] Please, please! I ask you!
TUZENBACH. When are the entertainers coming?
IRINA. They promised for about nine; that is, quite soon.
TUZENBACH. [Embraces ANDREY]
"Oh my house, my house, my new-built house."
ANDREY. [Dances and sings]
"Newly-built of maple-wood."
"Its walls are like a sieve!" [Laughter.]
TUZENBACH. [Kisses ANDREY] Hang it all, let's drink. Andrey, old
boy, let's drink with you. And I'll go with you, Andrey, to the
University of Moscow.
SOLENI. Which one? There are two universities in Moscow.
ANDREY. There's one university in Moscow.
SOLENI. Two, I tell you.
ANDREY. Don't care if there are three. So much the better.
SOLENI. There are two universities in Moscow! [There are murmurs
and "hushes"] There are two universities in Moscow, the old one and
the new one. And if you don't like to listen, if my words annoy
you, then I need not speak. I can even go into another room. ...
TUZENBACH. Bravo, bravo! [Laughs] Come on, now. I'm going to play.
Funny man, Soleni. ... [Goes to the piano and plays a waltz.]
MASHA. [Dancing solo] The Baron's drunk, the Baron's drunk, the
[NATASHA comes in.]
NATASHA. [To CHEBUTIKIN] Ivan Romanovitch!
[Says something to CHEBUTIKIN, then goes out quietly; CHEBUTIKIN
touches TUZENBACH on the shoulder and whispers something to him.]
IRINA. What is it?
CHEBUTIKIN. Time for us to go. Good-bye.
TUZENBACH. Good-night. It's time we went.
IRINA. But, really, the entertainers?
ANDREY. [In confusion] There won't be any entertainers. You see,
dear, Natasha says that Bobby isn't quite well, and so. ... In a
word, I don't care, and it's absolutely all one to me.
IRINA. [Shrugging her shoulders] Bobby ill!
MASHA. What is she thinking of! Well, if they are sent home, I
suppose they must go. [To IRINA] Bobby's all right, it's she
herself. ... Here! [Taps her forehead] Little bourgeoise!
[ANDREY goes to his room through the right-hand door, CHEBUTIKIN
follows him. In the dining-room they are saying good-bye.]
FEDOTIK. What a shame! I was expecting to spend the evening here,
but of course, if the little baby is ill ... I'll bring him some
RODE. [Loudly] I slept late after dinner to-day because I thought I
was going to dance all night. It's only nine o'clock now!
MASHA. Let's go into the street, we can talk there. Then we can
(Good-byes and good nights are heard. TUZENBACH'S merry laughter is
heard. [All go out] ANFISA and the maid clear the table, and put
out the lights. [The nurse sings] ANDREY, wearing an overcoat and a
hat, and CHEBUTIKIN enter silently.)
CHEBUTIKIN. I never managed to get married because my life flashed
by like lightning, and because I was madly in love with your
mother, who was married.
ANDREY. One shouldn't marry. One shouldn't, because it's dull.
CHEBUTIKIN. So there I am, in my loneliness. Say what you will,
loneliness is a terrible thing, old fellow. ... Though really ...
of course, it absolutely doesn't matter!
ANDREY. Let's be quicker.
CHEBUTIKIN. What are you in such a hurry for? We shall be in time.
ANDREY. I'm afraid my wife may stop me.
ANDREY. I shan't play to-night, I shall only sit and look on. I
don't feel very well. ... What am I to do for my asthma, Ivan
CHEBUTIKIN. Don't ask me! I don't remember, old fellow, I don't
ANDREY. Let's go through the kitchen. [They go out.]
[A bell rings, then a second time; voices and laughter are heard.]
IRINA. [Enters] What's that?
ANFISA. [Whispers] The entertainers! [Bell.]
IRINA. Tell them there's nobody at home, nurse. They must excuse
[ANFISA goes out. IRINA walks about the room deep in thought; she
is excited. SOLENI enters.]
SOLENI. [In surprise] There's nobody here. ... Where are they all?
IRINA. They've gone home.
SOLENI. How strange. Are you here alone?
IRINA. Yes, alone. [A pause] Good-bye.
SOLENI. Just now I behaved tactlessly, with insufficient reserve.
But you are not like all the others, you are noble and pure, you
can see the truth. ... You alone can understand me. I love you,
deeply, beyond measure, I love you.
IRINA. Good-bye! Go away.
SOLENI. I cannot live without you. [Follows her] Oh, my happiness!
[Through his tears] Oh, joy! Wonderful, marvellous, glorious eyes,
such as I have never seen before. ...
IRINA. [Coldly] Stop it, Vassili Vassilevitch!
SOLENI. This is the first time I speak to you of love, and it is as
if I am no longer on the earth, but on another planet. [Wipes his
forehead] Well, never mind. I can't make you love me by force, of
course ... but I don't intend to have any more-favoured rivals. ...
No ... I swear to you by all the saints, I shall kill my rival. ...
Oh, beautiful one!
[NATASHA enters with a candle; she looks in through one door, then
through another, and goes past the door leading to her husband's
NATASHA. Here's Andrey. Let him go on reading. Excuse me, Vassili
Vassilevitch, I did not know you were here; I am engaged in
SOLENI. It's all the same to me. Good-bye! [Exit.]
NATASHA. You're so tired, my poor dear girl! [Kisses IRINA] If you
only went to bed earlier.
IRINA. Is Bobby asleep?
NATASHA. Yes, but restlessly. By the way, dear, I wanted to tell
you, but either you weren't at home, or I was busy ... I think
Bobby's present nursery is cold and damp. And your room would be so
nice for the child. My dear, darling girl, do change over to Olga's
for a bit!
IRINA. [Not understanding] Where?
[The bells of a troika are heard as it drives up to the house.]
NATASHA. You and Olga can share a room, for the time being, and
Bobby can have yours. He's such a darling; to-day I said to him,
"Bobby, you're mine! Mine!" And he looked at me with his dear
little eyes. [A bell rings] It must be Olga. How late she is! [The
maid enters and whispers to NATASHA] Protopopov? What a queer man
to do such a thing. Protopopov's come and wants me to go for a
drive with him in his troika. [Laughs] How funny these men are. ...
[A bell rings] Somebody has come. Suppose I did go and have half an
hour's drive. ... [To the maid] Say I shan't be long. [Bell rings]
Somebody's ringing, it must be Olga. [Exit.]
[The maid runs out; IRINA sits deep in thought; KULIGIN and OLGA
enter, followed by VERSHININ.]
KULIGIN. Well, there you are. And you said there was going to be a
VERSHININ. It's queer; I went away not long ago, half an hour ago,
and they were expecting entertainers.
IRINA. They've all gone.
KULIGIN. Has Masha gone too? Where has she gone? And what's
Protopopov waiting for downstairs in his troika? Whom is he
IRINA. Don't ask questions ... I'm tired.
KULIGIN. Oh, you're all whimsies. ...
OLGA. My committee meeting is only just over. I'm tired out. Our
chairwoman is ill, so I had to take her place. My head, my head is
aching. ... [Sits] Andrey lost 200 roubles at cards yesterday ...
the whole town is talking about it. ...
KULIGIN. Yes, my meeting tired me too. [Sits.]
VERSHININ. My wife took it into her head to frighten me just now by
nearly poisoning herself. It's all right now, and I'm glad; I can
rest now. ... But perhaps we ought to go away? Well, my best
wishes, Feodor Ilitch, let's go somewhere together! I can't, I
absolutely can't stop at home. ... Come on!
KULIGIN. I'm tired. I won't go. [Gets up] I'm tired. Has my wife
IRINA. I suppose so.
KULIGIN. [Kisses IRINA'S hand] Good-bye, I'm going to rest all day
to-morrow and the day after. Best wishes! [Going] I should like
some tea. I was looking forward to spending the whole evening in
pleasant company and--o, fallacem hominum spem! ... Accusative case
after an interjection. ...
VERSHININ. Then I'll go somewhere by myself. [Exit with KULIGIN,
OLGA. I've such a headache ... Andrey has been losing money. ...
The whole town is talking. ... I'll go and lie down. [Going] I'm
free to-morrow. ... Oh, my God, what a mercy! I'm free to-morrow,
I'm free the day after. ... Oh my head, my head. ... [Exit.]
IRINA. [alone] They've all gone. Nobody's left.
[A concertina is being played in the street. The nurse sings.]
NATASHA. [in fur coat and cap, steps across the dining-room,
followed by the maid] I'll be back in half an hour. I'm only going
for a little drive. [Exit.]
IRINA. [Alone in her misery] To Moscow! Moscow! Moscow!
[The room shared by OLGA and IRINA. Beds, screened off, on the
right and left. It is past 2 a.m. Behind the stage a fire-alarm is
ringing; it has apparently been going for some time. Nobody in the
house has gone to bed yet. MASHA is lying on a sofa dressed, as
usual, in black. Enter OLGA and ANFISA.]
ANFISA. Now they are downstairs, sitting under the stairs. I said
to them, "Won't you come up," I said, "You can't go on like this,"
and they simply cried, "We don't know where father is." They said,
"He may be burnt up by now." What an idea! And in the yard there
are some people ... also undressed.
OLGA. [Takes a dress out of the cupboard] Take this grey dress. ...
And this ... and the blouse as well. ... Take the skirt, too,
nurse. ... My God! How awful it is! The whole of the Kirsanovsky
Road seems to have burned down. Take this ... and this. ... [Throws
clothes into her hands] The poor Vershinins are so frightened. ...
Their house was nearly burnt. They ought to come here for the
night. ... They shouldn't be allowed to go home. ... Poor Fedotik
is completely burnt out, there's nothing left. ...
ANFISA. Couldn't you call Ferapont, Olga dear. I can hardly manage. ...
OLGA. [Rings] They'll never answer. ... [At the door] Come here,
whoever there is! [Through the open door can be seen a window, red
with flame: afire-engine is heard passing the house] How awful this
is. And how I'm sick of it! [FERAPONT enters] Take these things
down. ... The Kolotilin girls are down below ... and let them have
them. This, too.
FERAPONT. Yes'm. In the year twelve Moscow was burning too. Oh, my
God! The Frenchmen were surprised.
OLGA. Go on, go on. ...
FERAPONT. Yes'm. [Exit.]
OLGA. Nurse, dear, let them have everything. We don't want
anything. Give it all to them, nurse. ... I'm tired, I can hardly
keep on my legs. ... The Vershinins mustn't be allowed to go home. ...
The girls can sleep in the drawing-room, and Alexander Ignateyevitch
can go downstairs to the Baron's flat ... Fedotik can go there, too,
or else into our dining-room. ... The doctor is drunk, beastly drunk,
as if on purpose, so nobody can go to him. Vershinin's wife, too,
may go into the drawing-room.
ANFISA. [Tired] Olga, dear girl, don't dismiss me! Don't dismiss
OLGA. You're talking nonsense, nurse. Nobody is dismissing you.
ANFISA. [Puts OLGA'S head against her bosom] My dear, precious
girl, I'm working, I'm toiling away ... I'm growing weak, and
they'll all say go away! And where shall I go? Where? I'm eighty.
Eighty-one years old. ...
OLGA. You sit down, nurse dear. ... You're tired, poor dear. ...
[Makes her sit down] Rest, dear. You're so pale!
[NATASHA comes in.]
NATASHA. They are saying that a committee to assist the sufferers
from the fire must be formed at once. What do you think of that?
It's a beautiful idea. Of course the poor ought to be helped, it's
the duty of the rich. Bobby and little Sophy are sleeping, sleeping
as if nothing at all was the matter. There's such a lot of people
here, the place is full of them, wherever you go. There's influenza
in the town now. I'm afraid the children may catch it.
OLGA. [Not attending] In this room we can't see the fire, it's
NATASHA. Yes ... I suppose I'm all untidy. [Before the looking-glass]
They say I'm growing stout ... it isn't true! Certainly it isn't!
Masha's asleep; the poor thing is tired out. ... [Coldly, to
ANFISA] Don't dare to be seated in my presence! Get up! Out of
this! [Exit ANFISA; a pause] I don't understand what makes you keep
on that old woman!
OLGA. [Confusedly] Excuse me, I don't understand either ...
NATASHA. She's no good here. She comes from the country, she ought
to live there. ... Spoiling her, I call it! I like order in the
house! We don't want any unnecessary people here. [Strokes her
cheek] You're tired, poor thing! Our head mistress is tired! And
when my little Sophie grows up and goes to school I shall be so
afraid of you.
OLGA. I shan't be head mistress.
NATASHA. They'll appoint you, Olga. It's settled.
OLGA. I'll refuse the post. I can't ... I'm not strong enough. ...
[Drinks water] You were so rude to nurse just now ... I'm sorry. I
can't stand it ... everything seems dark in front of me. ...
NATASHA. [Excited] Forgive me, Olga, forgive me ... I didn't want
to annoy you.
[MASHA gets up, takes a pillow and goes out angrily.]
OLGA. Remember, dear ... we have been brought up, in an unusual
way, perhaps, but I can't bear this. Such behaviour has a bad
effect on me, I get ill ... I simply lose heart!
NATASHA. Forgive me, forgive me. ... [Kisses her.]
OLGA. Even the least bit of rudeness, the slightest impoliteness,
NATASHA. I often say too much, it's true, but you must agree, dear,
that she could just as well live in the country.
OLGA. She has been with us for thirty years.
NATASHA. But she can't do any work now. Either I don't understand,
or you don't want to understand me. She's no good for work, she can
only sleep or sit about.
OLGA. And let her sit about.
NATASHA. [Surprised] What do you mean? She's only a servant.
[Crying] I don't understand you, Olga. I've got a nurse, a
wet-nurse, we've a cook, a housemaid ... what do we want that old
woman for as well? What good is she? [Fire-alarm behind the stage.]
OLGA. I've grown ten years older to-night.
NATASHA. We must come to an agreement, Olga. Your place is the
school, mine--the home. You devote yourself to teaching, I, to the
household. And if I talk about servants, then I do know what I am
talking about; I do know what I am talking about ... And to-morrow
there's to be no more of that old thief, that old hag ...
[Stamping] that witch! And don't you dare to annoy me! Don't you
dare! [Stopping short] Really, if you don't move downstairs, we
shall always be quarrelling. This is awful.
KULIGIN. Where's Masha? It's time we went home. The fire seems to
be going down. [Stretches himself] Only one block has burnt down,
but there was such a wind that it seemed at first the whole town
was going to burn. [Sits] I'm tired out. My dear Olga ... I often
think that if it hadn't been for Masha, I should have married you.
You are awfully nice. ... I am absolutely tired out. [Listens.]
OLGA. What is it?
KULIGIN. The doctor, of course, has been drinking hard; he's
terribly drunk. He might have done it on purpose! [Gets up] He
seems to be coming here. ... Do you hear him? Yes, here. ...
[Laughs] What a man ... really ... I'll hide myself. [Goes to the
cupboard and stands in the corner] What a rogue.
OLGA. He hadn't touched a drop for two years, and now he suddenly
goes and gets drunk. ...
[Retires with NATASHA to the back of the room. CHEBUTIKIN enters;
apparently sober, he stops, looks round, then goes to the
wash-stand and begins to wash his hands.]
CHEBUTIKIN. [Angrily] Devil take them all ... take them all. ...
They think I'm a doctor and can cure everything, and I know
absolutely nothing, I've forgotten all I ever knew, I remember
nothing, absolutely nothing. [OLGA and NATASHA go out, unnoticed by
him] Devil take it. Last Wednesday I attended a woman in Zasip--and
she died, and it's my fault that she died. Yes ... I used to know a
certain amount five-and-twenty years ago, but I don't remember
anything now. Nothing. Perhaps I'm not really a man, and am only
pretending that I've got arms and legs and a head; perhaps I don't
exist at all, and only imagine that I walk, and eat, and sleep.
[Cries] Oh, if only I didn't exist! [Stops crying; angrily] The
devil only knows. ... Day before yesterday they were talking in the
club; they said, Shakespeare, Voltaire ... I'd never read, never
read at all, and I put on an expression as if I had read. And so
did the others. Oh, how beastly! How petty! And then I remembered
the woman I killed on Wednesday ... and I couldn't get her out of
my mind, and everything in my mind became crooked, nasty, wretched. ...
So I went and drank. ...
[IRINA, VERSHININ and TUZENBACH enter; TUZENBACH is wearing new and
fashionable civilian clothes.]
IRINA. Let's sit down here. Nobody will come in here.
VERSHININ. The whole town would have been destroyed if it hadn't
been for the soldiers. Good men! [Rubs his hands appreciatively]
Splendid people! Oh, what a fine lot!
KULIGIN. [Coming up to him] What's the time?
TUZENBACH. It's past three now. It's dawning.
IRINA. They are all sitting in the dining-room, nobody is going.
And that Soleni of yours is sitting there. [To CHEBUTIKIN] Hadn't
you better be going to sleep, doctor?
CHEBUTIKIN. It's all right ... thank you. ... [Combs his beard.]
KULIGIN. [Laughs] Speaking's a bit difficult, eh, Ivan Romanovitch!
[Pats him on the shoulder] Good man! _In vino veritas_, the
ancients used to say.