3 Sisters Theatre UAF cut

Act II | Act III | Act IV and Notes

TOPICS: drama + comedy + postmodern + american age + self + future + death + past + present + time + space + love + family + generations + god * 2007

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Chekhov - Love Letters

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Based on the copy-text Plays by Anton Tchekov, translated from the Russian by Constance Garnett, New York, Macmillan, 1916, also available in early Modern Library editions. Scanned by A. S. Man. Translation revised and notes added 1998 by James Rusk and A. S. Man. Some obsolete spelling and idioms have been changed. Any stage production or adaptation, amateur or professional, is hereby licensed free without special permission.

Please see the original text in Russian at the excellent pages of C. S. Kuhn. First published as "Tri sestry" in Russkaia mys' no. 2, 1901, pp 124-178, and first performed at the Moscow Art Theatre, January, 1901.

All changed and modifications are for Theatre UAF 1999 production by Anatoly Antohin.

The Three Sisters

Chekhov - Script Analysis

By Anton Chekhov




List of Characters

The action takes place in a provincial town.

Act I

In the house of the PROZOROVS. A drawing-room with columns beyond which a large room is visible. Mid-day; it is bright and sunny. The table in the farther room is being laid for lunch.

OLGA, in the dark blue uniform of a high-school teacher, is correcting exercise books, at times standing still and then walking up and down; MASHA, in a black dress, with her hat on her knee, is reading a book; IRINA, in a white dress, is standing plunged in thought.

OLGA. Father died just a year ago, on this very day -- the fifth of May, your name-day, Irina. It was very cold, snow was falling. I felt as though I should not live through it; you lay fainting as though you were dead. But now a year has passed and we can think of it calmly; you are already in a white dress, your face is radiant. [The clock strikes twelve.] The clock was striking then too [a pause]. I remember the band playing and the firing at the cemetery as they carried the coffin. Though he was a general in command of a brigade, yet there weren't many people there. It was raining, though. Heavy rain and snow.

IRINA. Why recall it!

[BARON TUZENBAKH, CHEBUTYKIN and SOLYONY appear near the table in the dining-room, beyond the columns.]

OLGA. It is warm today, we can have the windows open, but the birches are not in leaf yet. Father was given his brigade and came here with us from Moscow eleven years ago and I remember distinctly that in Moscow at this time, at the beginning of May, everything was already in flower; it was warm, and everything was bathed in sunshine. It's eleven years ago, and yet I remember it all as though we had left it yesterday. Oh, dear! I woke up this morning, I saw a blaze of sunshine. I saw the spring, and joy stirred in my heart. I had a passionate longing to be back at home again!

CHEBUTYKIN. The devil it is!

TUZENBAKH. Of course, it's nonsense.

[MASHA, brooding over a book, softly whistles a song.]

OLGA. Don't whistle, Masha. How can you! [a pause] Being all day in school and then at my lessons till the evening gives me a perpetual headache and thoughts as gloomy as though I were old. And really these four years that I have been at the high-school I have felt my strength and my youth oozing away from me every day. And only one yearning grows stronger and stronger. . . .

IRINA. To go back to Moscow. To sell the house, to make an end of everything here, and off to Moscow. . . .

OLGA. Yes! To Moscow, and quickly.


IRINA. Andrey will probably be a professor, he will not live here anyhow. The only difficulty is poor Masha.

OLGA. Masha will come and spend the whole summer in Moscow every year.

[MASHA softly whistles a tune.]

IRINA. Please God it will all be managed. [Looking out of window] How fine it is today. I don't know why I feel so light-hearted! I remembered this morning that it was my name-day and at once I felt joyful and thought of my childhood when mother was living. And I was thrilled by such wonderful thoughts, such thoughts!

OLGA. You are radiant today and looking lovelier than usual. And Masha is lovely too. Andrey would be nice-looking, but he has grown too fat and that does not suit him. And I've grown older and ever so much thinner. I suppose it's because I get so cross with the girls at school. Today now I am free, I'm at home, and my head doesn't ache, and I feel younger than yesterday. I'm only twenty-eight. . . . It's all quite right, it's all from God, but it seems to me that if I were married and sitting at home all day, it would be better [a pause]. I would love my husband.

TUZENBAKH [to SOLYONY]. You talk such nonsense, I'm tired of listening to you. [Coming into the drawing-room] I forgot to tell you, you will receive a visit today from Vershinin, the new commander of our battery [sits down to the piano].

OLGA. Well, I'll be delighted.

IRINA. Is he old?

TUZENBAKH. No, not particularly. . . . Forty or forty-five at the most [softly plays the piano]. He seems to be a nice fellow. He's not stupid, that's certain. Only he talks a lot.

IRINA. Is he interesting?

TUZENBAKH. Yes, he's all right, only he has a wife, a mother-in-law and two little girls. And it's his second wife too. He is paying calls and telling everyone that he has a wife and two little girls. He'll tell you so too. His wife seems a bit crazy, with her hair in a long braid like a girl's, always talks in a high-flown style, makes philosophical reflections and frequently attempts to commit suicide, evidently to annoy her husband. I should have left a woman like that years ago, but he puts up with her and merely complains.

SOLYONY [coming into the drawing-room with CHEBUTYKIN]. With one hand I can only lift up half a hundredweight, but with both hands I can lift up two or even two-and-a-half hundredweight. From that I conclude that two men are not only twice but three times as strong as one man, or even more. . . .

CHEBUTYKIN [reading the newspaper as he comes in]. For hair falling out. . . two ounces of naphthaline in half a bottle of alcohol. ., to be dissolved and used daily. . . [puts it down in his note-book]. Let's make a note of it! No, I don't want it. . . [scratches it out]. It doesn't matter.

IRINA. Ivan Romanitch, dear Ivan Romanitch!

CHEBUTYKIN. What is it, my child, my joy?

IRINA. Tell me, why is it I am so happy today? As though I were sailing with the great blue sky above me and big white birds flying over it. Why is it? Why?

CHEBUTYKIN [kissing both her hands, tenderly]. My white bird. . . .

IRINA. When I woke up this morning, got up and washed, it suddenly seemed to me as though everything in the world was clear to me and that I knew how one ought to live. Dear Ivan Romanitch, I know all about it. A man ought to work, to toil in the sweat of his brow, whoever he may be, and all the purpose and meaning of his life, his happiness, his ecstasies lie in that alone. How delightful to be a workman who gets up before dawn and breaks stones on the road, or a shepherd, or a schoolmaster teaching children, or an engine-driver. . . . Oh, dear! to say nothing of human beings, it would be better to be an ox, better to be a humble horse as long as you can work, than a young woman who wakes at twelve o'clock, then has coffee in bed, then spends two hours dressing. . . . Oh, how awful that is! Just as one has a craving for water in hot weather I have a craving for work. And if I don't get up early and work, give me up as a friend, Ivan Romanitch.

CHEBUTYKIN [tenderly]. I'll give you up, I'll give you up. . . .

OLGA. Father trained us to get up at seven o'clock. Now Irina wakes at seven and lies in bed at least till nine thinking about things. And she looks so serious! [Laughs]

IRINA. You are used to thinking of me as a child and are surprised when I look serious. I'm twenty!

TUZENBAKH. The yearning for work, oh dear, how well I understand it! I've never worked in my life. I was born in cold, idle Petersburg, in a family that had known nothing of work or cares of any kind. I remember, when I came home from the military school, a valet used to pull off my boots. I used to be troublesome, but my mother looked at me with reverential awe, and was surprised when other people didn't do the same. I was shielded from work. But I doubt if they have succeeded in shielding me completely, I doubt it! The time is at hand, an avalanche is moving down upon us, a mighty clearing storm which is coming, is already near and will soon blow the laziness, the indifference, the distaste for work, the rotten boredom out of our society. I'll work, and in another twenty-five or thirty years every one will have to work. Every one!

CHEBUTYKIN. I'm not going to work.

TUZENBAKH. You don't count.

SOLYONY. In another twenty-five years you won't be here, thank God. In two or three years you will kick the bucket, or I shall lose my temper and put a bullet through your head, my angel. [Pulls a scent-bottle out of his pocket and sprinkles his chest and hands.]

CHEBUTYKIN [laughs]. And I really have never done anything at all. I haven't done a stroke of work since I left the University, I have never read a book, I read nothing but newspapers . . . [takes another newspaper out of his pocket]. Here. . . I know, for instance, from the newspapers that there was such a person as Dobrolyubov, but what he wrote, I can't say. . . . Goodness only knows. . . . [A knock is heard on the floor from the floor below.] There. . . they are calling me downstairs, someone has come for me. I'll be back directly. . . . Wait a minute. . . [goes out hurriedly, combing his beard].

IRINA. He's got something up his sleeve.

TUZENBAKH. Yes, he went out with a solemn face, evidently he's just going to bring you a present.

IRINA. What a nuisance!

OLGA. Yes, it's awful. He's always doing something silly.

MASHA. By the sea-strand an oak-tree green. ., upon that oak a chain of gold. . . upon that oak a chain of gold. . . [gets up, humming softly].

OLGA. You are not very cheerful today, Masha.

[MASHA, humming, puts on her hat.]

OLGA. Where are you going?

MASHA. Home.

IRINA. That's odd! . . .

TUZENBAKH. To walk out on a name-day party!

MASHA. Never mind. . . . I'll come in the evening. Good-bye, my darling. . . [kisses IRINA]. Once again I wish you, be well and happy. In old days, when Father was alive, we always had thirty or forty officers here on name-days; it was noisy, but today there's only a man and a half, and it's as still as the desert. . . . I'll go. . . . I've got the blues today, I'm feeling glum, so don't you mind what I say [laughing through her tears]. We'll talk some other time, and so for now good-bye, darling, I'm going. . . .

IRINA [discontentedly]. Oh, how tiresome you are. . . .

OLGA [with tears]. I understand you, Masha.

SOLYONY. If a man philosophises, there will be philosophy or sophistry, anyway, but if a woman philosophises, or two do it, then it will be so much twiddle-twaddle!

MASHA. What do you mean to say by that, you terrible person?

SOLYONY. Nothing. He had not time to say "alack,"; before the bear was on his back [a pause].

MASHA [to OLGA, angrily]. Don't blubber!

[Enter ANFISA and FERAPONT carrying a cake.]

ANFISA. This way, my good man. Come in, your boots are clean. [To IRINA] From the District Council, from Mihail Ivanitch Protopopov. . . . A cake.

IRINA. Thanks. Thank him [takes the cake].


IRINA [more loudly]. Thank him from me!

OLGA. Nanny dear, give him something to eat. Ferapont, go along, they will give you something to eat.


ANFISA. Come along, Ferapont Spiridonitch, my good soul, come along. . . [goes out with FERAPONT].

MASHA. I don't like that Protopopov, that Mihail Potapitch or Ivanitch. He ought not to be invited.

IRINA. I didn't invite him.

MASHA. That's a good thing.

[Enter CHEBUTYKIN, followed by an orderly with a silver samovar; a hum of surprise and displeasure.]

OLGA [putting her hands over her face]. A samovar! How awful! [Goes out to the table in the dining-room.]

IRINA. My dear Ivan Romanitch, what are you thinking about!

TUZENBAKH [laughs]. I warned you!

MASHA. Ivan Romanitch, you really have no conscience!

CHEBUTYKIN. My dear girls, my darlings, you are all that I have, you are the most precious treasures I have on earth. I shall soon be sixty, I am an old man, alone in the world, a useless old man. . . . There is nothing good in me, except my love for you, and if it were not for you, I should have been dead long ago. . . . [To IRINA] My dear, my little girl, I've known you from a baby. . . I've carried you in my arms. . . . I loved your dear mother. . . .

IRINA. But why such expensive presents?

CHEBUTYKIN [angry and tearful]. Expensive presents. . . . Get along with you! [To the orderly] Take the samovar in there. . . [Mimicking] Expensive presents . . . [The orderly carries the samovar into the dining-room.]

ANFISA [crossing the room]. My dears, a colonel is here, a stranger. . . . He has taken off his overcoat, children, he is coming in here. Irinushka, you must be nice and polite, dear. . . [As she goes out] And it's time for lunch already. . . mercy on us. .

TUZENBAKH. Vershinin, I suppose.


TUZENBAKH. Lieutenant Colonel Vershinin.

VERSHININ [to MASHA and IRINA]. I've the honour to introduce myself, my name is Vershinin. I'm very, very glad to be in your house at last. How you've grown up! Oh! Oh!

IRINA. Please sit down. We are delighted to see you.

VERSHININ [with animation]. How glad I am, how glad I am! But there are three of you sisters. I remember three little girls. I don't remember your faces, but that your father, Colonel Prozorov, had three little girls I remember perfectly, and saw them with my own eyes. How time passes! Hey-ho, how it passes!

TUZENBAKH. Alexandr Ignatyevitch has come from Moscow.

IRINA. From Moscow? You have come from Moscow?

VERSHININ. Yes. Your father was in command of a battery there, and I was an officer in the same brigade. [To MASHA] Your face, now, I seem to remember.

MASHA. I don't remember you.

IRINA. Olya! Olya! [Calls into the dining-room] Olya, come!

[OLGA comes out of the dining-room into the drawing-room.]

IRINA. Lieutenant Colonel Vershinin is from Moscow, it appears.

VERSHININ. So you are Olga Sergeyevna, the eldest. . . . And you are Marya. . . . And you are Irina, the youngest. . . .

OLGA. You come from Moscow?

VERSHININ. Yes. I studied in Moscow. I began my service there, I served there for years, and at last I've been given a battery here -- I have moved here as you see. I don't remember you exactly, I only remember you were three sisters. I remember your father. If I shut my eyes, I can see him as though he were living. I used to visit you in Moscow. . . .

OLGA. I thought I remembered everyone, and now all at once. . .

VERSHININ. My name is Alexandr Ignatyevitch.

IRINA. Alexandr Ignatyevitch, you've come from Moscow. . . . What a surprise!

OLGA. We're going to move there, you know.

IRINA. We're hoping to be there by the autumn. It's our native town, we were born there. . . . In Old Basmannaya Street . . . [both laugh with delight].

MASHA. To see some one from our own town unexpectedly! [Eagerly] Now I remember! Do you remember, Olya, they used to talk of the "love-sick major"? You were a lieutenant at that time and were in love, and for some reason everyone called you major to tease you. . . .

VERSHININ [laughs]. Yes, yes. . . . The love-sick major, that was it.

MASHA. You only had a moustache then. . . . Oh, how much older you look! [through tears] how much older!

VERSHININ. Yes, when I was called the love-sick major I was young, I was in love. Now it's very different.

OLGA. But you haven't a single grey hair. You've grown older but you're not old.

VERSHININ. I'm in my forty-third year, though. Is it long since you left Moscow?

IRINA. Eleven years. But why are you crying, Masha, you foolish girl?. . . [through her tears] I shall cry too. . . .

MASHA. I'm all right. And in which street did you live?

VERSHININ. In Old Basmannaya.

OLGA. And that's where we lived too. . . .

VERSHININ. At one time I lived in Nyemetsky Street. I used to go from there to the Red Barracks. There is a gloomy-looking bridge on the way, where the water makes a noise. It makes a lonely man feel melancholy [a pause]. And here what a broad, splendid river! A marvellous river!

OLGA. Yes, but it is cold. It's cold here and there are mosquitoes. . . .

VERSHININ. How can you! You've such a splendid healthy Russian climate here. Forest, river. . . and birches here too. Charming, modest birches, I love them better than any other trees. It's nice to live here. The only strange thing is that the railway station is fifteen miles away. . . . And no one knows why it's so.

SOLYONY. I know why it is. [They all look at him.] Because if the station had been near it would not have been so far, and if it is far, it's because it's not near.

[An awkward silence.]

TUZENBAKH. He's fond of his joke, Vassily Vassilyevitch.

OLGA. Now I recall you, too. I remember.

VERSHININ. I knew your mother.

CHEBUTYKIN. She was a fine woman, the Kingdom of Heaven be hers.

IRINA. Mother is buried in Moscow.

OLGA. In the Novo-Dyevitchy. . . .

MASHA. Would you believe it, I'm already beginning to forget her face. So people won't remember us either; they'll forget us.

VERSHININ. Yes. They'll forget us. Such is our fate, there is no help for it. What seems to us serious, significant, very important, will one day be forgotten or will seem unimportant [a pause]. And it's curious that we can't possibly tell what exactly will be considered great and important, and what will seem petty and ridiculous. Didn't the discoveries of Copernicus or Columbus, let's say, seem useless and ridiculous at first, while the nonsensical writings of some fool seemed true? And it may be that our present life, which we accept so readily, will in time seem strange, inconvenient, stupid, not clean enough, perhaps even sinful. . . .

TUZENBAKH. Who knows? Perhaps our age will be called a great one and remembered with respect. Now we have no torture-chamber, no executions, no invasions, but at the same time how much suffering there is!

SOLYONY [in a high-pitched voice]. Chook, chook, chook. . . . It's bread and meat to the baron to talk about ideas.

TUZENBAKH. Vassily Vassilyevitch, I ask you to let me alone . . . [moves to another seat]. It gets boring, at last.

SOLYONY [in a high-pitched voice]. Chook, chook, chook. . . . . .

TUZENBAKH [to VERSHININ]. The suffering which one observes now -- there is so much of it -- does indicate, however, that society has reached a certain moral level. . . .

VERSHININ. Yes, yes, of course.

CHEBUTYKIN. You said just now, Baron, that our age will be called great; but people are small all the same. . . [gets up]. Look how small I am. [A violin is played behind the scenes.]

MASHA. That's Andrey playing, our brother.

IRINA. He's the scholar of the family. We expect him to become a professor. Father was a military man, but his son has gone in for a scholarly career.

MASHA. It was father's wish.

OLGA. We've been teasing him today. We think he's a little in love.

IRINA. With a young lady living here. She'll come in today most likely.

MASHA. Oh, how she dresses! It's not that her clothes are merely ugly or out of fashion, they're simply pitiful. A weird gaudy yellowish skirt with some sort of vulgar fringe and a red blouse. And her cheeks scrubbed till they shine! Andrey is not in love with her -- I won't admit that, he has some taste after all -- it's simply for fun, he is teasing us, playing the fool. I heard yesterday that she is going to be married to Protopopov, the chairman of our District Council. And a very good thing too. . . . [At the side door] Andrey, come here, dear, for a minute!

[Enter ANDREY.]

OLGA. This is my brother, Andrey Sergeyevitch.

VERSHININ. My name is Vershinin.

ANDREY. And mine is Prozorov [mops his perspiring face]. You're our new battery commander?

OLGA. Can you believe, Alexandr Ignatyevitch comes from Moscow.

ANDREY. Really? Well, then, I congratulate you. My sisters will let you have no peace.

VERSHININ. I've had time to bore your sisters already.

IRINA. See what a pretty picture-frame Andrey has given me today! [Shows the frame] He made it himself.

VERSHININ [looking at the frame and not knowing what to say]. Yes. ., it is a thing. . . .

IRINA. And that frame above the piano, he made that too!

[ANDREY waves his hand in despair and moves away.]

OLGA. He's a scholar, and he plays the violin, and he makes all sorts of things with the fretsaw. In fact he's good all round. Andrey, don't go! That's a way he has -- he always tries to make off! Come here!

[MASHA and IRINA take him by the arms and, laughing, lead him back.]

MASHA. Come, come!

ANDREY. Leave me alone, please!

MASHA. How funny he is! Alexandr Ignatyevitch used to be called the love-sick major at one time, and he wasn't a bit offended.

VERSHININ. Not in the least!

MASHA. And I'd like to call you the love-sick violinist!

IRINA. Or the love-sick professor!

OLGA. He's in love! Andryusha is in love!

IRINA [claps her hands]. Bravo, bravo! Encore! Andryusha is in love!

CHEBUTYKIN [comes up behind ANDREY and puts both arms round his waist]. Nature our hearts for love created! [Laughs, then sits down and reads the newspaper which he takes out of his pocket.]

ANDREY. Come, that's enough, that's enough. . . [mops his face]. I haven't slept all night and this morning I don't feel quite myself, as they say. I read till four o'clock and then went to bed, but it was no use. I thought of one thing and another, and then it gets light so early; the sun simply pours into my bedroom. I want while I'm here during the summer to translate a book from the English. . . .

VERSHININ. You read English then?

ANDREY. Yes. Our father, the Kingdom of Heaven be his, oppressed us with education. It's funny and silly, but it must be confessed I began to get fatter after his death, and I've grown too fat in one year, as though a weight had been taken off my body. Thanks to our father we all know English, French and German, and Irina knows Italian too. But what it cost us!

MASHA. In this town to know three languages is an unnecessary luxury! Not even a luxury, but an unnecessary encumbrance, like a sixth finger. We know a great deal that's unnecessary.

VERSHININ. What next! [laughs] You know a great deal that's unnecessary! I don't think there can be a town so dull and dismal that intelligent and educated people are unnecessary in it. Let's suppose that of the hundred thousand people living in this town, which is, of course, uncultured and behind the times, there are only three of your sort. It goes without saying that you cannot conquer the mass of darkness round you; little by little, as you go on living, you'll be lost in the crowd. You'll have to give in to it. Life will get the better of you, but still you'll not disappear without a trace. After you there may appear perhaps six like you, then twelve and so on until such as you form a majority. In two or three hundred years, life on earth will be unimaginably beautiful, marvellous. Man needs such a life and, though he hasn't got it yet, he must have a presentiment of it, expect it, dream of it, prepare for it; for that he must see and know more than his father and grandfather [laughs]. And you complain of knowing a great deal that's unnecessary.

MASHA [takes off her hat]. I'll stay to lunch.

IRINA [with a sigh]. All that really ought to be written down. . . .

[ANDREY has slipped away unobserved.]

TUZENBAKH. You say that after many years life on earth will be beautiful and marvellous. That's true. But in order to have any share, however far off, in it now we must be preparing for it, we must be working. . . .

VERSHININ [gets up]. Yes. What a lot of flowers you have! [Looking round] And delightful rooms. I envy you! I've been knocking about all my life from one wretched lodging to another, always with two chairs and a sofa and stoves which smoke. What I've been lacking all my life is just such flowers . . . [rubs his hands]. But there, it's no use thinking about it!

TUZENBAKH. Yes, we must work. No doubt you think the German is getting sentimental. But on my honour I am Russian and I can't even speak German. My father belonged to the Orthodox Church. . . [a pause].

VERSHININ [walks about the stage]. I often think, what if you were to begin life over again, knowing what you're doing! If one life, which has been already lived, were only a rough sketch so to speak, and the second were the final copy! Then, I think, every one of us would try before anything else not to repeat himself, anyway he would create a different setting for his life; would have a house like this with plenty of light and masses of flowers. . . . I have a wife and two little girls, my wife is in delicate health and so on and so on, but if I were to begin life over again I would not marry. . . . No, no!

[Enter KULYGIN in the uniform of a teacher.]

KULYGIN [goes up to IRINA]. Dear sister, allow me to congratulate you on your name-day and with all my heart to wish you good health and everything else that one can desire for a girl of your age. And to offer you as a gift this little book [gives her a book]. The history of our high-school for fifty years, written by myself. An insignificant little book, written because I had nothing better to do, but still you can read it. Good day, friends. [To VERSHININ] My name is Kuligin, teacher in the high-school here, court councilor. [To IRINA] In that book you'll find a list of all who have finished their studies in our high-school during the last fifty years. Feci, quod potui, faciant meliora potentes [kisses MASHA]. IRINA. Why, but you gave me a copy of this book at Easter.

KULYGIN [laughs]. Impossible! If that's so, give it me back, or better still, give it to the Colonel. Please accept it, Colonel. Some day when you're bored you can read it.

VERSHININ. Thank you [is about to take leave]. I'm extremely glad to have made your acquaintance. . . .

OLGA. You are going? No, no!

IRINA. You must stay for lunch with us. Please do.

OLGA. Pray do!

VERSHININ [bows]. I believe I have intruded on a name-day party. Forgive me, I didn't know and haven't congratulated you. . . [Walks away with OLGA into the dining-room.]

KULYGIN. Today, ladies and gentlemen, is Sunday, a day of rest. Let's all rest and enjoy ourselves each in accordance with our age and our position. The carpets should be taken up for the summer and put away till the winter. . . . Persian powder or naphthaline. . . . The Romans were healthy because they knew how to work and they knew how to rest, they had mens sana in corpore sano. Their life was moulded into a certain framework. Our headmaster says that the most important thing in every life is its framework. . . . What loses its framework, comes to an end -- and it's the same in our everyday life. [Puts his arm round MASHA'S waist, laughing.] Masha loves me. My wife loves me. And the window curtains, too, ought to be put away together with the carpets. . . . Today I feel cheerful and in the best of spirits. Masha, at four o'clock this afternoon we have to be at the headmaster's house. An excursion has been arranged for the teachers and their families.

MASHA. I'm not going.

KULYGIN [grieved]. Dear Masha, why not?

MASHA. We'll talk about it afterwards. . . [Angrily] Very well, I'll go, only let me alone, please. . . [walks away].

KULYGIN. And then we shall spend the evening at the head-master's house. In spite of the delicate state of his health that man tries before all things to be sociable. He's an excellent, noble personality. A splendid man. Yesterday, after the meeting, he said to me, "I'm tired, Fyodor Ilyitch, I'm tired." [Looks at the clock, then at his watch] Your clock is seven minutes fast. "Yes," he said, "I'm tired."

[Sounds of a violin behind the scenes.]

OLGA. Come to lunch, please. There's a pie!

KULYGIN. Ah, Olga, my dear Olga! Yesterday I was working from early morning till eleven o'clock at night and was tired out, and today I feel happy [goes up to the table in the dining-room]. My dear. . . .

CHEBUTYKIN [puts the newspaper in his pocket and combs his beard]. Pie? Splendid!

MASHA [to CHEBUTYKIN, sternly]. Only mind you don't drink today! Do you hear? It's bad for you to drink.

CHEBUTYKIN. Oh, come, that's a thing of the past. It's two years since I got drunk. [Impatiently] But there, my good girl, what does it matter!

MASHA. Anyway, don't you dare to drink. Don't dare. [Angrily, but so as not to be heard by her husband] Oh, to hell with it, I'm going to be bored a whole evening at the headmaster's!

TUZENBAKH. I wouldn't go if I were you. . . . It's very simple.

CHEBUTYKIN. Don't go, my love.

MASHA. Oh, yes, don't go! . . . It's a damnable life, insufferable. . . [goes to the dining-room].

CHEBUTYKIN [following her]. Come, come. . . .

SOLYONY [going to the dining-room]. Chook, chook, . . . . . . . . .

TUZENBAKH. Enough, Vassily Vassilyevitch! Stop it!

SOLYONY. Chook, chook, . . . . . . . . .

KULYGIN [gaily]. Your health, Colonel! I am a teacher and one of the family here, Masha's husband. . . . She's very kind, really, very kind. . . .

VERSHININ. I'll have some of this dark-coloured vodka. . . [drinks]. To your health! [To OLGA] I feel so happy with all of you!

[No one is left in the drawing-room but IRINA and TUZENBAKH.]

IRINA. Masha is in low spirits today. She was married at eighteen, when she thought him the cleverest of men. But now it's not the same now. He's the kindest of men, but he's not the cleverest.

OLGA [impatiently]. Andrey, come on!

ANDREY [behind the scenes]. I'm coming [comes in and goes to the table].

TUZENBAKH. What are you thinking about?

IRINA. Nothing. I don't like that Solyony of yours, I'm afraid of him. He keeps on saying such stupid things. . . .

TUZENBAKH. He's a strange man. I'm sorry for him and annoyed by him, but more sorry. I think he's shy. . . . When there's just the two of us he is very intelligent and friendly, but in company he's rude, a bully. Don't go yet, let them sit down to the table. Let me be by you. What are you thinking of? [a pause] You're twenty, I'm not yet thirty. How many years have we got before us, a long, long chain of days full of my love for you. . . .

IRINA. Nikolay Lvovitch, don't talk to me about love.

TUZENBAKH [not listening]. I have a passionate craving for life, for struggle, for work, and that craving is mingled in my soul with my love for you, Irina, and just because you're beautiful it seems to me that life too is beautiful! What are you thinking of?

IRINA. You say life is beautiful. . . . Yes, but what if it only seems so! Life for us three sisters hasn't been beautiful yet, we've been stifled by it as plants are choked by weeds. . . . I'm starting to cry. . . . I mustn't do that [hurriedly wipes her eyes and smiles]. I must work, I must work. The reason we are depressed and take such a gloomy view of life is that we know nothing of work. We come of people who despised work. . . .

[Enter NATALYA IVANOVNA; she is wearing a pink dress with a green sash.]

NATASHA. They're sitting down to lunch already. . . . I'm late. . . [Steals a glance at herself in the mirror and puts herself straight] I think my hair is all right. [Seeing IRINA] Dear Irina Sergeyevna, I congratulate you! [Gives her a vigorous and prolonged kiss.] You have a lot of visitors, I really feel embarrassed. . . . Good day, Baron!

OLGA [coming into the drawing-room]. Well, here's Natalya Ivanovna! How are you, my dear? [Kisses her.]

NATASHA. Congratulations on the name-day. You have such a big party and I feel awfully embarrassed. . . .

OLGA. Nonsense, we have only our own people. [In an undertone, in alarm] You've got on a green sash! My dear, that's not done!

NATASHA. Why, is that a bad omen?

OLGA. No, it's only that it doesn't go with your dress. . . and it looks odd. . . .

NATASHA [in a tearful voice]. Really? But you know it's not green exactly, it's more a dull colour [follows OLGA into the dining-room].

[In the dining-room they are all sitting down to lunch; there is no one in the drawing-room.]

KULYGIN. I wish you a good fiancé, Irina. It's time for you to think of getting married.

CHEBUTYKIN. Natalya Ivanovna, I hope we may hear of your engagement, too.

KULYGIN. Natalya Ivanovna has got a suitor already.

MASHA. I'll have another little glass of wine! You only live once -- what the hell.

KULYGIN. You deserve three bad marks for conduct.

VERSHININ. How nice this cordial is! What is it made of?

SOLYONY. Cockroaches.

IRINA [in a tearful voice]. Ugh, ugh! How disgusting.

OLGA. We're going to have roast turkey and apple pie for supper. Thank God I'm at home all day and will be at home in the evening. . . . Friends, won't you come again this evening?

VERSHININ. Allow me to come too.

IRINA. Please do.

NATASHA. They don't stand on ceremony here.

CHEBUTYKIN. Nature our hearts for love created! [Laughs]

ANDREY [angrily]. Stop it, gentlemen! Aren't you tired of it yet?

[FEDOTIK and RODE come in with a big basket of flowers.]

FEDOTIK. Why, they're at lunch already.

RODE [speaking loudly, with a lisp]. At lunch? Yes, they are at lunch already. . . .

FEDOTIK. Wait a minute [takes a snapshot]. One! Wait another minute. . . [takes another snapshot]. Two! Now it's ready. [They take the basket and walk into the dining-room, where they are greeted noisily.]

RODE [loudly]. My congratulations! I wish you everything, everything! The weather is delightful, perfectly magnificent. I've been out all the morning for a walk with the high-school boys. I teach them gymnastics.

FEDOTIK. You may move, Irina Sergeyevna, you may move [taking a photograph]. You look charming today [taking a top out of his pocket]. Here is a top, by the way. . . . It has a wonderful sound. . . .

IRINA. How lovely!

MASHA. By the sea-shore an oak-tree green. . . . Upon that oak a chain of gold. . . [Tearfully] Why do I keep saying that? That phrase has been haunting me all day. . . .

KULYGIN. Thirteen at table!

RODE [loudly]. Surely you don't attach importance to such superstitions? [Laughter]

KULYGIN. If there are thirteen at table, it means that someone present is in love. It's not you, Ivan Romanovitch, by any chance? [Laughter]

CHEBUTYKIN. I'm an old sinner, but why Natalya Ivanovna is blushing, I can't imagine. . .

[Loud laughter; NATASHA runs out from the dining-room into the drawing-room followed by ANDREY.]

ANDREY. Come, don't take any notice! Wait a minute. . . stop, please. . . .

NATASHA. I feel ashamed. . . . I don't know what's the matter with me and they make fun of me. I know it's improper for me to leave the table like this, but I can't help it. . . . I can't. . . [covers her face with her hands].

ANDREY. My dear girl, please, I implore you, don't be upset. I assure you they're only joking, they do it in all kindness. My dear, my sweet, they're all kind, warm-hearted people and they're fond of me and of you. Come here to the window, here they can't see us. . . [looks round].

NATASHA. I'm so unaccustomed to society! . . .

ANDREY. Oh youth, lovely, marvellous youth! My dear, my sweet, don't be so distressed! Believe me, believe me. . I feel so happy, my soul is full of love and ecstasy. . . . Oh, they can't see us, they can't see us! Why, why, I love you, when I first loved you -- oh, I don't know. My dear, my sweet, pure one, be my wife! I love you, I love you. . . as I have never loved anyone. . . [a kiss].

[Two officers come in and, seeing the pair kissing, stop in amazement.]


Act II
Theatre w/Anatoly
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