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3 Sisters

Act I Act III | Act IV and Notes Chekhov-Analysis

Act II -- No Party



The same scene as in the First Act. Eight o'clock in the evening. Behind the scenes in the street there is the faintly audible sound of an accordion. There is no light. NATASHA enters in a dressing-gown, carrying a candle. The house is transparent, all three pairs (Andrey and Natasha, Baron and Irina, Vershinin and Masha) speak at the same time, as if it is one...

The same scene as in the First Act. Eight o'clock in the evening. Behind the scenes in the street there is the faintly audible sound of an accordion. There is no light. NATASHA enters in a dressing-gown, carrying a candle; she stops at the door to ANDREY'S room.

NATASHA. Andrey! What are you doing? Reading? Never mind, I only just asked... [goes and opens another door and peeping into it, shuts it again]. Is there a light?

MASHA. I don't know [a pause]. I don't know. Perhaps it's not so in other places, but in our town the most decent, honourable, and well-bred people are all in the army.

BARON. Look, I've got a three-barrelled name. Listen to it, my name is Baron Tusenbach-Krone-Altschauer, but I belong to the Orthodox Church and am just as Russian as you. There is very little of the German left in me -- nothing, perhaps, but the patience and obstinacy with which I bore you. I walk you home every evening.

ANDREY [with a book in his hand]. What is it, Natasha?

VERSHININ. I'm thirsty. I'd like some tea.

IRINA. How tired I am!

NATASHA. I was looking to see whether there was a light... It's Carnival, you've always got to be on the lookout in case something goes wrong. Last night at twelve o'clock I passed through the dining-room, and there was a candle left burning. I couldn't find out who had lighted it [puts down the candle]. What's the time?

ANDREY [looking at his watch]. A quarter past eight.

MASHA. You know, I was married when I was eighteen, and I was afraid of my husband because he was a teacher, and I had only just left school. In those days I thought him an awfully scholarly, clever, and important person. And now it's not the same, unfortunately....

BARON. And every day I'll come to your office and walk you home. I'll do it for ten years, for twenty years, till you drive me away...

NATASHA. And Olga and Irina aren't in yet. They haven't come in. Still at work, poor dears! Olga is at the faculty meeting and Irina at the post office... [sighs]. I was saying to your sister this morning, "Take care of yourself, Irina darling," said I. But she won't listen. A quarter past eight, you say? I am afraid our Bobik is not at all well. Why is he so cold? Yesterday he was feverish and today he is cold all over,... I am so anxious!

MASHA. I'm not speaking of my husband -- I'm used to him; but among civilians generally there are so many rude, ill-mannered, badly-brought-up people. Rudeness upsets and distresses me: I'm unhappy when I see that a man is not refined, not gentle, not polite enough. When I have to be among the teachers, my husband's colleagues, it makes me quite miserable.

IRINA. Well, I'm home at last.

ANDREY. It's all right, Natasha. The boy is quite well.

VERSHININ. Yes... But, to my mind, it makes no difference whether they are civilians or military men -- they are equally uninteresting, in this town anyway. It's all the same! If one listens to a man of the educated class here, civilian or military, he's worried to death by his wife, worried to death by his house, worried to death by his job... A Russian is peculiarly given to exalted ideas, but why is it he always falls so short in life? Why?


IRINA. A lady came just now to mail a letter to her brother in Saratov that her son died today, and she couldn't think of the address. So she sent it without an address -- simply to Saratov. She was crying. And I was rude to her for no reason. Told her I had no time to waste. It was so stupid. I must rest. I'm tired.

NATASHA. We'd better be careful about his food, anyway. I'm anxious. And I'm told that the guests are going to be here for the Carnival at nine o'clock this evening. It would be better for them not to come, baby.

ANDREY. I really don't know. They've been invited, you know.

VERSHININ. Why is he worried to death by his children and by his wife? And why are his wife and children worried to death by him?

BARON [with a smile]. When you come from the office you seem so young...

NATASHA. Baby woke up this morning, looked at me, and all at once he gave a smile; so he knew me. "Good morning, Bobik!" said I. "Good morning, darling!" And he laughed. Children understand; they understand very well. So I'll tell them, baby, not to let the Carnival party come in.

ANDREY [irresolutely]. That's for my sisters to say. It's for them to give orders, since it's their house.

NATASHA. Yes, for them too; I'll speak to them. They are so kind...

MASHA. You are rather depressed this evening.

VERSHININ. I've had no dinner today, and had nothing to eat since the morning.

IRINA. I'm tired. No, I don't like work, I don't like it.

NATASHA. I've got yogurt for supper. The doctor says you must eat nothing but yogurt, or you will never get thinner [stops]. Bobik is cold. I'm afraid his room is chilly, perhaps. We ought to put him in a different room till the warm weather comes, anyway. Irina's room, for instance, is just right for a nursery: it's dry and the sun shines there all day. I must tell her; she might share Olga's room for the time... She's never at home, anyway, except for the night... Baby, why don't you speak?

ANDREY. Nothing. I was... Besides, I have nothing to say.

VERSHININ. My daughter is not quite well, and when my little girls are ill I am consumed by anxiety; my conscience reproaches me for having given them such a mother. Oh, if you had seen her today! What a fool she is! We began quarrelling at seven in the morning, and at nine I slammed the door.

NATASHA. Yes... what was it I meant to tell you?..

VERSHININ never talk about it. Strange, it's only to you I complain [kisses her hand]. Don't be angry with me... Except for you I have no one -- no one... [a pause] That's strange [kisses her hand]. You're a splendid, wonderful woman. Splendid! Wonderful! It's dark, but I see the light in your eyes. [MASHA moves to another chair] I love you -- love you, love you,... I love your eyes, your movements, I see them in my dreams...

MASHA [laughing softly]. When you talk to me like that, for some reason I laugh, though I am frightened... Please don't do it again... [In an undertone] You may say it, though; I don't mind... [covers her face with her hands] I don't mind... Someone is coming. Talk of something else.

ANDREY. Good evening, my good man. [louder]. I say, you have come late.... Dear old man, how strangely life changes and deceives you! Today I was so bored and had nothing to do, so I picked up this book -- old university lectures -- and I laughed... Good heavens! I'm the secretary of the District Council, I am the secretary, and the most I can hope for is to become a member of the Board! Me, a member of the local District Council, while I dream every night I'm professor at the University of Moscow -- a distinguished man, of whom all world is proud! [to the mirror] Perhaps I shouldn't talk to you. I must talk to somebody, and, my wife, she doesn't understand me. My sisters I'm somehow afraid of -- I'm afraid they will laugh at me... Look, I don't drink, I do not like restaurants, but how I'd enjoy sitting at some small bar at this moment! You sit in a huge room at a restaurant; you know no one and no one knows you, and at the same time you don't feel a stranger... But here you know everyone and everyone knows you, and yet you are a stranger -- a stranger... A stranger, and lonely... [ANDREY to himself in the mirror]. You can go. Take care of yourself. Go... [a pause]. Gone [a ring]. Yes, it's work... [leaves]

MASHA. You've grown thinner... [whistles]. And you look younger, rather like a boy in the face.

BARON. That's the way she does her hair.

IRINA. I must find some other job, this does not suit me. What I so longed for, what I dreamed of is the very thing that it's lacking in,.. It is work without poetry, without meaning... [a knock on the floor]. There's the doctor knocking... [To BARON] Knock back, dear... I can't... I am tired.

[BARON knocks on the floor.]

IRINA. We ought to do something about it. The doctor and our Andrey were at the Club yesterday and they lost again. Andrey lost two hundred or more.

MASHA. [indifferently]. Well, it can't be helped now.

IRINA. Two weeks ago he lost money, in December he lost money. I wish he'd hurry up and lose everything, then perhaps we'd go away from this town. My God, every night I dream of Moscow, it's perfect madness [laughs].

MASHA. Natasha must not hear of his losses.

IRINA. I don't suppose she cares.

[DOCTOR, who has only just got off his bed -- he has been resting after dinner -- comes into the dining-room combing his beard, then sits down to the table and takes a newspaper out of his pocket.]

MASHA. Here he is... has he paid his rent?

IRINA [laughs]. No. Not for eight months. Evidently he's forgotten.

VERSHININ. Well, if there is no tea, let's discuss something.

BARON. By all means. What?

VERSHININ. What? Let us dream... for instance of the life that will come after us, in two or three hundred years.

BARON. When we are dead, men will fly in space, change the fashion, will discover a sixth sense, perhaps, and develop it, but life will remain just the same, difficult, full of mysteries and unhappiness. In a thousand years man will sigh just the same, "Ah, how hard life is," and yet just as now he will be afraid of death.

VERSHININ [after a moment's thought]. No, it seems to me that everything on earth is bound to change by degrees and is already changing before our eyes. In two or three hundred, perhaps in a thousand years -- the time does not matter -- a new, happy life will come. We shall have no share in that life, of course, but we're living for it, we're working, well, yes, and suffering for it, we're creating it -- and that alone is the purpose of our existence, and is our happiness, if you like.

[MASHA laughs softly.]

BARON. What is it?

MASHA. I don't know. I've been laughing all day.

VERSHININ. I was at the same school as you were, I didn't go to the Military Academy; I read a great deal, but I don't know how to choose my books, and very likely I read quite the wrong things, and yet the longer I live the more I want to know. My hair is turning grey, I'm almost an old man, but I know so little, oh so little! But all the same I think that I do know and thoroughly grasp what is essential and matters most. And how I should like to make you see that there is no happiness for us, that there ought not to be and will not be... We must work and work, and happiness is the portion of our remote descendants [a pause]. If it's not for me, but at least it's for the descendants of my descendants.

BARON. You think it's no use even dreaming of happiness! But what if I'm happy?

VERSHININ. No, you're not.

BARON [flinging up his hands and laughing]. It's clear we don't understand each other. Well, how am I to convince you?

[MASHA laughs softly.]

BARON [holds up a finger to her]. Laugh! [To VERSHININ] Not only in two or three hundred years but in a million years life will be just the same; it doesn't change, it remains stationary, following its own laws which we have nothing to do with or which, anyway, we'll never find out. Birds, gees for instance, they fly backwards and forwards, and whatever ideas, great or small, stray through their minds, they'll still go on flying just the same without knowing where or why. They fly and will continue to fly, however philosophic they may become; and it doesn't matter how philosophical they are so long as they go on flying....

MASHA. But still, isn't there a meaning?

BARON. Meaning... Here it's snowing. What meaning is there in that? [A pause.]

MASHA. I think man ought to have faith or ought to seek a faith, or else his life is empty, empty.... To live and not to understand why cranes fly; why children are born; why there are stars in the sky.... You've got to know what you're living for or else it's all nonsense and waste [a pause].

VERSHININ. And yet you're sorry when your youth is over...

MASHA. Gogol says: it's dull living in this world, friends!

BARON. And I say: it is difficult to argue with you, friends, Oh, well, I give up...

DOCTOR [reading the newspaper]. (news of the day).

[IRINA hums softly.]

DOCTOR. I really must put that down in my book [writes]. [reads the paper].

IRINA [lays out the cards for patience, dreamily]. (repeats after Doctor)

BARON. The die is cast. (to Masha) You know, I've resigned my commission.

MASHA. And I see nothing good in that. I don't like civilians.

BARON [gets up]. I'm not good-looking enough for a soldier. But that doesn't matter, though... [going into the dining-room].

[NATASHA comes in and is also busy at the table; SOLYONY comes in, and sits down at the table.]

VERSHININ. What a cold there is!

MASHA. Yes. I'm sick of the winter. I've already forgotten what summer is like.

IRINA. The game is working out right... We shall go to Moscow.

NATASHA [to SOLYONY] Babies understand everything. "Good morning, Bobik, good morning, darling," I said and he looked at me in quite a special way. You think I say that because I'm a mother, but no, I assure you! He's an extraordinary child.

SOLYONY. If that child were mine, I'd fry him in a frying pan and eat him. [Takes his glass, comes into the drawing-room and sits down in a corner.]

NATASHA [covers her face with her hands]. Rude, ill-bred man! [goes away from him, all look at them]

MASHA. Happy people don't notice whether it is winter or summer. I think if I lived in Moscow, I wouldn't mind what the weather was like....

VERSHININ. The other day I was reading the diary of a French minister written in prison. The minister was condemned for the Panama affair. With what enthusiasm and delight he describes the birds he sees from the prison window, which he never noticed before when he was a minister. Now that he's released, of course he notices birds no more than he did before. In the same way, you won't notice Moscow when you live in it. We have no happiness and never do have, we only long for it.

BARON [takes a box from the table]. What has become of the sweets?

IRINA. Solyony has eaten them.


[A phone call]

VERSHININ. For me? [Takes the phone.] Yes, of course... [hangs] Excuse me, I'll slip away. I won't have tea.

MASHA. What is it?

VERSHININ [in a low voice]. My wife has taken poison again. I must go. [Kisses MASHA'S hand] My fine, dear woman... [goes out].

MASHA [by the table in the dining-room, angrily]. Let me sit down! [Mixes the cards on the table.] You take up all the table with your cards. Drink your tea!

IRINA. How mean you are, Masha!

MASHA. If I'm mean, don't talk to me. Don't interfere with me.

DOCTOR [laughing]. Don't interfere, don't interfere!

MASHA. You're sixty years old, but you talk rot like a schoolboy!

NATASHA [sighs]. Dear Masha, why make use of such expressions in conversation? With your attractive appearance I tell you straight out, you would be simply fascinating in a well-bred social circle if it were not for the things you say. Je vous prie, pardonnez-moi, Marie, mais vous avez des manières un peu grossières.

BARON [suppressing a laugh]. Give me... give me something... I think there is some brandy there.

NATASHA. Il paraît que mon Bobik déjà ne dort pas, he's awake. He isn't well today. I must go to him, excuse me. [goes out]

IRINA. Where has Vershinin gone?

MASHA. Home. Something going on with his wife again.

BARON [goes up to SOLYONY with a decanter of brandy in his hand]. You always sit alone, and there's no making out what you think about. Come, let's make peace. Let's have a drink. [They drink.] I'll have to play the piano all night, I suppose, play all sorts of trash... Here goes!

SOLYONY. Peace? I haven't quarrelled with you.

BARON. You always make me feel as though something had gone wrong between us. You are a strange character...

SOLYONY. [declaims]. I am strange, who is not strange! [a pause]. When I'm tête-à-tête with somebody, I'm all right, just like anyone else, but in company I'm depressed, ill at ease and... say all sorts of idiotic things, but at the same time I'm more conscientious and straightforward than many. And I can prove it...

BARON. I often feel angry with you, you're always attacking me when we're in company, and yet I somehow like you. What the hell, I'm going to drink a lot today. Let's drink!

SOLYONY [drinks]. I've never had anything against you, but I have the temperament of Lermontov. [In a low voice] In fact I'm rather like Lermontov to look at... so I'm told [takes out scent-bottle and sprinkles scent on his hands].

BARON. I have sent in my resignation. I've had enough of it! I have been thinking of it for five years and at last I have come to a decision.

SOLYONY [declaims]. "Forget, forget thy dreams..."

[While they are talking ANDREY comes in quietly with a book and sits down.]

BARON [kisses ANDREY]. Let's have a drink. Andrey, let's drink to our everlasting friendship. I'll go to the University in Moscow when you do.

SOLYONY. Which? There are two universities in Moscow.

ANDREY. There is only one university in Moscow.

SOLYONY. I tell you there are two.

ANDREY. There may be three for anything I care. So much the better.

SOLYONY. There are two universities in Moscow! [A murmur and hisses.] There are two universities in Moscow: the old one and the new one. And if you don't care to hear, if what I say irritates you, I can keep quiet... [goes out at one of the doors].

BARON. Bravo, bravo! [laughs] Ladies and gentlemen, I'll sit down and play! Funny fellow that Solyony.... [Sits down to the piano and plays a waltz.]

MASHA [dances a waltz alone]. The baron is drunk, he is drunk, the baron is drunk...

DOCTOR (to Baron). It's time we were going. Good night.

BARON. Good night. It's time to be going.

IRINA. Excuse me... what about the party?

ANDREY [with embarrassment]. They won't be coming. You see, dear, Natasha says Bobik is not well, and so... In fact I know nothing about it, and I don't care either.

IRINA [shrugs her shoulders]. Bobik isn't well!

MASHA. Well, it's not the first time we've had to lump it! If we're kicked out, we must go. [To IRINA] It's not Bobik that's ill, but she's a bit... [taps her forehead with her finger]. Petty, vulgar creature!

[ANDREY goes by door on right to his own room, DOCTOR following him; they are saying good-bye in the dining-room.]

MASHA. Let's go outside; there we can talk. We'll decide what to do.

[Sounds of "Good-bye! Good night!" The good-humoured laugh of BARON is heard. All go out. There is the sound of singing. ANDREY in his hat and coat, and DOCTOR come in quietly.]

DOCTOR. I never had time to get married, because life has flashed by like lightning and because I was passionately in love with your mother, who was married.

ANDREY. A person shouldn't get married. You shouldn't, because it's boring.

DOCTOR. That's all very well, but what about loneliness? Say what you like, it's a dreadful thing to be lonely, my dear boy.... But no matter, though!

ANDREY. Come on, let's go.

DOCTOR. What's the hurry?

ANDREY. I am afraid my wife may stop me. I'm not going to play today, I'll just sit and look on. I don't feel well. . . . What can you do, doctor, for shortness of breath?

DOCTOR. It's no use asking me! I don't remember, dear boy... I don't know...

ANDREY. Let's go through the kitchen. [They go out.]

[A ring, then another ring; there is a sound of voices and laughter.]

IRINA [enters]. What is it? Tell them there's no one at home. They must excuse us.

[Enter SOLYONY.]

SOLYONY [in perplexity]. No one here... Where are they all?

IRINA. They've gone home.

SOLYONY. How strange. Are you alone here?

IRINA. Yes [a pause]. Good night.

SOLYONY. I behaved tactlessly, without sufficient restraint just now. But you're not like other people, you're pure and noble, you see the truth. You alone can understand me. I love you, I love you deeply, infinitely...

IRINA. Good night! You must go.

SOLYONY. I can't live without you [following her]. Oh, my joy! [Through his tears] Oh, happiness! Those glorious, exquisite, marvellous eyes such as I have never seen in any other woman...

IRINA [coldly]. Don't....

SOLYONY. For the first time I am speaking of love to you, and I feel as though I were not on earth but on another planet [rubs his forehead]. Well, it doesn't matter. There is no forcing kindness, of course... But there must be no successful rivals... There must not... I swear by all that is sacred I will kill any rival... O exquisite being!

[NATASHA crosses the room with a candle.]

NATASHA [peeps in at one door, then at another and passes by the door that leads to her husband's room]. Andrey is there. Let him read. Excuse me, I didn't know you were here, and I'm in my dressing-gown....

SOLYONY. I don't care. Good-bye! [Goes out.]

NATASHA. You are tired, my poor, dear little girl! [kisses IRINA]. You ought to go to bed earlier...

IRINA. Is Bobik asleep?

NATASHA. He's asleep, but not sleeping quietly. By the way, dear, I keep meaning to speak to you, but either you are out or else I haven't the time... I think Bobik's nursery is cold and damp. And your room is so nice for a baby. My sweet, my dear, you might move for a time into Olga's room!

IRINA [not understanding]... Where?

[The sound of kids and bells on the street]

NATASHA. You would be in the same room with Olga, and Bobik in your room. He is such a darling. I said to him today, "Bobik, you are mine, you are mine!" and he looked at me with his funny little eyes. [A ring] That must be Olga. How late she is! [NATASHA leaves]

[IRINA sits lost in thought; KULYGIN, OLGA and VERSHININ come in.]

KULYGIN. Well, this is a surprise! They said hey were going to have an evening party.

VERSHININ. Strange! And when I went away half an hour ago they were expecting the Carnival people.

IRINA. They've all gone.

KULYGIN. Has Masha gone too? Where has she gone? And why is Protopopov waiting below with his car? Whom is he waiting for?

IRINA. Don't ask questions... I am tired.

KULYGIN. Oh, isn't she a bad little girl...

OLGA. The meeting is only just over. I'm tired out. Our headmistress is ill and I have to take her place. Oh, my head, my head does ache; oh, my head! [Sits down.] Andrey lost two hundred roubles yesterday at cards.... The whole town is talking about it...

KULYGIN. Yes, I'm tired out by the meeting too [sits down].

VERSHININ. My wife took it into her head to give me a fright, she nearly poisoned herself. It's all right now, and I'm glad, it's a relief. So we are to go away? Very well, then, I'll say good night. (to KULYGIN) let's go somewhere together! I can't stay at home, I absolutely can't... Come!

KULYGIN. I am tired. I'm not coming [gets up]. I'm tired. Has my wife gone home?

IRINA. I expect so.

KULYGIN [kisses IRINA'S hand]. Good-bye! I have all day tomorrow and next day to rest. Good night! [Going] I do want some tea. I was counting on spending the evening in pleasant company... O fallacem hominum spem!... Accusative of exclamation.

VERSHININ. Well, then, I must go alone [goes out with KULYGIN, whistling].

OLGA. My head aches, oh, how my head aches.... Andrey has lost at cards... The whole town is talking about it... I'll go and lie down [is going]. Tomorrow I'll be free.... Oh, God, how nice that is! Tomorrow I'm free, and the day after I'm free... My head does ache, oh, my head... [goes out].

IRINA [alone]. They've all gone away. There's no one left.

[Music plays in the street, somebody sings.]

IRINA [left alone, in dejection]. Oh, to go to Moscow, to Moscow!

[Silent Scene between Olga and Vershinin. The clock stikes twelve.]

End of Act II


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