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 Van Gogh. Cornfield

ANTON CHEKHOV    The Cherry Orchard






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G. R. Ledger, Jan 2015. 


A comedy in four acts.



Open country. An old ruined chapel, long since abandoned, beside it a well, some large stones which evidently once were gravestones, and an old bench. The road leading to Gayevís estate is visible. On one side tall poplars mark the boundary of the cherry orchard. In the distance a row of telegraph poles and very far away on the horizon the outlines of a large town are dimly seen, outlines which are only visible on very fine clear days. It will soon be sunset. Charlotte, Yasha and Dunyasha are sitting on the bench. Epihodov is standing nearby playing something melancholy on his guitar. Everyone is sitting thoughtfully. Charlotte is wearing an old peaked cap; she has taken a rifle from her shoulder and is adjusting a buckle on the strap.

CHARLOTTE  (Pensively.) I donít have a proper passport, I donít know how old I am, although it always seems to me that Iím young. When I was a young girl my parents used to travel to fairs and put on shows, very good ones. I used do the salto mortale jump and various tricks. When Papa and Mama died a German lady took me in and started to teach me. It was fine. I grew up and became a governess. But where Iím from or who I am I donít know... Who my parents were, perhaps they werenít even married... I donít know. (Takes a cucumber from her pocket and starts to eat it.) I donít know anything. (Pause.) I long to talk to someone, but there is no one... Iím not close to anyone.

EPIHODOV  (Plays on a guitar and sings.) ďWhat do I care for the noisy world, What to me are friends or foes?Ē... How enjoyable it is playing the mandolin.

DUNYASHA  Itís a guitar, not a mandolin. (She looks in her mirror and powders herself.)

EPIHODOV  For one whoís crazy, whoís madly in love, itís a mandolin... (He sings.) ďOh would that my heart was warmed, by a heart that glowed for me...Ē

Yasha hums the tune.

CHARLOTTE  These people donít know how to sing. Faugh! Theyíre like jackals.

DUNYASHA  All the same how wonderful to be abroad.

YASHA  Yes, of course. I cannot disagree with you. (He yawns, then lights a cigar.)

EPIHODOV  It goes without saying. Abroad everything has long since reached its full state of development.  

YASHA  Goes without saying.

EPIHODOV  Iím an intelligent man, I read several remarkable books, but I cannot in any way understand in what direction personally I should move, whether to live or shoot myself, personally speaking, so none the less I always carry a revolver with me. Here it is... (He shows the revolver.)

CHARLOTTE  Finished. Iím going now. (Puts the rifle over her shoulder.) Epihodov, you are a very clever and a very terrible man; women must love you madly. Brrr! (She walks away.) These clever people are nevertheless stupid, I have no one I can talk to... Iím always alone, always alone, I have nobody... And who I am, why I am, is unknown... (She leaves unhurriedly.)

EPIHODOV  Personally speaking, not touching on other matters, I must express about myself, meanwhile, that fate treats me without mercy, like a storm with a little ship. If, supposing, I am mistaken, then why this morning when I woke up, to take an example, why did  I look  and see a spider of enormous size sitting on my chest... As big as this (He indicates with both hands). And then if I should pick up some kvass, to have a drink, I look in the glass and there is something disgusting in the highest degree there, like a cockroach. (Pause.) Have you read Buckle[i]? (Pause.) Dunyasha, Avdotya Fyodorovna, could I trouble you for just a couple of words? 

DUNYASHA  Please speak.

EPIHODOV  Iíd like to speak to you alone... (He sighs.)

DUNYASHA  (Embarassed.)  Very well... But first go and bring me my shawl... Itís near the cupboard... Here itís a bit damp...

EPIHODOV  Yes maíam... Iíll bring it maíam... Now I know what to do with my revolver... (Picks up his guitar and goes off strumming it.)

YASHA  Twenty two misfortunes! A stupid man, between ourselves. (He yawns.)

DUYASHA  God forbid he should shoot himself. (Pause.) Iíve become a worry guts, Iím always on edge. From when I was a little girl Iíve always been with the gentry, Iíve forgotten how to live simply, and look how my hands are white as white, like a ladyís. Iíve become tender and dreadfully delicate, Iíve fine tastes, Iím scared of everything... Itís terrible like that. And if you deceive me Yasha I donít know what will happen to my nerves.

YASHA  (Kisses her.) Peach! Of course, every girl must look after herself, and I especially disapprove if a girl behaves badly.

DUNYASHA  I love you passionately, youíre so educated you can talk about anything. (Pause.)

YASHA  (Yawns.) Yes, maíam... To my mind, this is how it is: if a girl loves somebody she must, obviously, be immoral. (Pause.) How pleasant to smoke a cigar in the open air... (He listens.) Somebodyís coming... Itís the master and mistress...

Dunyasha embraces him impetuously.

YASHA  You go towards home, as if you were going to the river to bathe, go that way, otherwise theyíll meet you and think that Iíve come here for a rendezvous. I couldnít bear that.

DUNYASHA  (Coughs quietly.) My head is aching from the cigar smoke... (She leaves.)

Yasha remains alone. He sits down near the chapel. Lyubov Andreyevna, Gayev and Lopakhin enter.

LOPAKHIN  You must make a definite decision. Time will not wait. After all itís a very simple question. Are you willing to sell the land for dachas or not? Reply with just one word: yes or no? Just one word.

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  Who is it here whoís smoking a disgusting cigar?... (She sits down.)

GAYEV  They built a railway here and itís been useful. (He sits down.) We went to town for lunch... Red in the middle pocket... Iíd like to go home first, play one game...

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  Thereís time. ..

LOPAKHIN  Just one word. (Imploringly.) Just give me a reply!

GAYEV  (Yawning.) Whatís that?

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  (She looks inside her purse.) Yesterday I had lots of money, but today hardly any. My poor Varya for economy feeds everyone on porridge to save money, in the kitchen the old folk are given dried peas, and I spend money without thinking... (She drops the purse and coins are scattered around.) Now itís all scattered... (She is annoyed.)

YASHA  Allow me. Iíll pick it up. (He picks up the scattered coins.)

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  If youíd be so kind, Yasha. And why did I go off to have lunch... A wretched little restaurant of yours, Gayev, with music and tablecloths smelling of the laundry... Why do you drink so much, Leonid? Why eat so much? Why talk so much? Today in the restaurant once again you gabbled on and none of it to the point. About the seventies, and the Decadents. And who were you talking to? To talk to the waiters about the Decadents!


GAYEV  (Makes a gesture of helplessness.) Iím beyond cure, thatís evident... (Irritatedly, to Yasha.) What is this? Why are you perpetually hanging round in front of me?

YASHA  (Laughing.) I canít hear your voice without wanting to laugh.

GAYEV  (To his sister.) Itís either him or me...

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  Go away, Yasha, off you go..

YASHA  (Gives Lyubov Andreyevna her purse.) Iím off now. (He can scarcely prevent himself from laughing. In French.) Immediatement.  (He leaves.)

LOPAKHIN  The magnate Deriganov is planning to buy your estate. They say that heís coming personally to the sale.

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  Where did you hear that?

LOPAKHIN  Theyíre saying it in town.

GAYEV  The Yaroslav aunt promised to send something, but when and how much sheíll send we donít know...

LOPAKHIN  How much will she send? A hundred thousand? Two hundred?

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  Well... Ten thousand, fifteen, and weíd be grateful even for that.

LOPAKHIN  Forgive me, such heedless persons as you are, so impractical and other-worldly I have never met. I tell you in plain language that your estate is going to be sold and you seem not to understand.

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  But what are we to do? Tell us, what?

LOPAKHIN  I tell you every day. Every day I say one and the same thing... The cherry orchard and the estate must be divided up into dacha size plots for rent. And it must be done now, as soon as possible, the auction is under your very nose! Just understand that. As soon as you decide positively that there are to be dachas then they will lend you money, as much as you wish, and you will be saved.

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  Dachas, and dacha dwellers, pardon me, itís all so vulgar.

GAYEV  Totally in agreement.

LOPAKHIN  You make me want to scream, or cry, or fall into a faint! I canít bear it! Youíve worn me out! (To Gayev.) Youíre an old woman!

GAYEV  Whatís that?

LOPAKHIN  An old woman. (Starts to leave.)  

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  (Worried.) No, donít go, stay here, dear fellow. I do beg you. We might think of something!

LOPAKHIN  What is there to think about!

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  But please donít go away. Itís somehow more cheerful with you here... (Pause.) Iím all the time expecting something to happen, as if the house were going to fall down on top of us.

GAYEV (Lost in thought.) A cannon off the corner... The spot in the centre pocket... 

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  It seems we are great sinners...

LOPAKHIN  What on earth could your sins be...

GAYEV  (Puts a sweet in his mouth.) They say I have used up all my inheritance eating boiled sweets... (He laughs.)

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  Oh, my sins... I always squandered money recklessly, like a mad thing, I married a man who could only run up debts. My husband died of champagne ó he drank appallingly ó and unfortunately I fell in love with another man, went to live with him, and it was just at that time, ó this was my first punishment ó a blow straight to the heart ó here, in this river... my little boy drowned, and I went away abroad, I left entirely, never to return, never to see this river again... I shut my eyes, I ran away, out of my mind, and he followed me... mercilessly, brutishly. I bought a villa near Menton, because he had fallen ill there, and for three years I had no rest either day or night; the invalid tormented me, my soul dried up. Then last year, when the villa was sold to pay the debts, I moved to Paris, and there he robbed me, threw me over, went off with another woman, and I tried to poison myself... So stupid, so shameful... Then suddenly I felt drawn back to Russia, to the country of my birth, to my dear little daughter... (She wipes her eyes.) Dear God, dear God, be merciful, forgive me my sins. Do not punish me any more. (She takes a telegram from her pocket.) This came yesterday from Paris... He asks for forgiveness. He begs me to return... (She tears up the telegram.) I think I hear music. (She listens.)

GAYEV  Thatís our well known Jewish orchestra. Donít you remember, four violins, a flute and a double base.

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  Does it still exist? We should invite it somehow or other, arrange an evening.

LOPAKHIN  (He listens.) I canít hear it... (He sings quietly.) ďAnd for money a German, will make a Frenchman Russian.Ē I saw a wonderful play in the theatre yesterday, it was so funny.

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  Probably there was nothing at all funny. You shouldnít be going to plays anyway, you should take a look at your own life more often. What grey lives you lead. What a lot of unnecessary talk you spout.

LOPAKHIN  Thatís true. We must speak out directly, our lives are pretty foolish... (Pause.) My father was a peasant, an idiot, he understood nothing, taught me nothing, just beat me when he was drunk, and always with a stick. In reality I am just such a blockhead and an idiot. I learnt nothing, my handwriting is a disgrace, when I write something I feel ashamed in front of people, like a pig.

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  You should get married, my friend.

LOPAKHIN  Yes... Thatís true.

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  Why not to our Varya. Sheís a fine girl.


LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  Sheís not complicated, she works the whole day, and most important, she loves you. And youíve liked her for a long time anyway.

LOPAKHIN  Okay. Iím not against it... Sheís a fine girl. (Pause.)

GAYEV  Theyíve offered me a post in the bank. Six thousand a year... Did you hear about it?

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  What on earth for! Stay as you are...

Feers enter carrying an overcoat.

FEERS  (To Gayev.) Please put this on, Sir, itís getting damp.

GAYEV  (He puts it on.) Youíre a nuisance old boy.

FEERS  Say what you like... You went out this morning without telling me. (He inspects him thoroughly.)  

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  Youíve grown so old Feers.

FEERS  What can I do for you?

LOPAKHIN  She says youíve grown very old!

FEERS  Iíve lived a long time. They tried to marry me, it was before your father was born... (He laughs.) Then liberation of the serfs came along, I was already the senior manservant. I did not agree with the liberation, so I remained with the masters... (Pause.) I remember, everyone was so happy, but why they were happy they didnít know.

LOPAKHIN  Everything was fine in the old days. At least they could thrash you.

FEERS  (Not having heard him.) Of course. Everyone, the masters, the peasants, they all knew their place. Now all is at sixes and sevens.

GAYEV  Keep quiet Feers. Tomorrow I must go into town. Theyíve promised to introduce me to a general who might lend us something on a promissory note.

LOPAKHIN  Nothing will come of it. And you wonít pay off the interest, you can rest assured. 

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  Heís just rambling on. There is no general.

Enter Trofimov. Anya and Varya.

GAYEV  Here we all are then.

ANYA  Motherís sitting down.

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  (Tenderly.) Come here, come here... My darlings... (She embraces Anya and Varya.) If only you both knew how much I love you. Sit beside me, just here, thatís right. (They all sit.)

LOPAKHIN  Our eternal student is always with the ladies, I see.

TROFIMOV  Itís none of your business.

LOPAKHIN  Heíll soon be fifty, but heís still a student.

TROFIMOV  Oh do drop your asinine jokes!

LOPAKHIN  Why are you getting so worked up you loony?

TROFIMOV  Just stop pestering me.

LOPAKHIN  (Laughs.) Well permit me to ask you, what opinion do you have of me.

TROFIMOV  This is my opinion of you Ermolay Alekseyich: youíre a rich man, youíll soon be a millionaire. And just as in the case of natural metabolism, wild beasts are necessary which eat everything that comes their way, so you are necessary as well. (All laugh.)

VARYA  It would be better, Petya, if you spoke about the planets.

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  No, letís rather carry on with yesterdayís conversation.

TROFIMOV  What was it about?

GAYEV  About the proud man.

TROFIMOV  We talked for a long time yesterday but reached no conclusion. In the proud man, in your sense of the term, there is something mystical. Perhaps you are correct in your interpretation, but if we consider the matter simply, without distractions, what is the sense of being proud if we, as imperfectly made humans, are for the most part gross, stupid and deeply unhappy. We need to stop admiring ourselves. We need to work, itís as simple as that.

GAYEV  All the same we will die.

TROFIMOV  Who knows. And what does it mean ó to die? Perhaps men have a hundred senses, and with death only those five that are known to us perish, but the remaining ninety five stay alive.

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  How clever you are Petya! ...

LOPAKHIN  (Ironically.) Incredibly!

TROFIMOV  Humanity is marching forward, perfecting its strengths. Everything which is at present unattainable for it at present will in the future become reachable, understandable, only we have to work, to strive with all our power to assist those who are seeking the truth. With us, in Russia, meanwhile, very few people are working to that end. The vast majority of the intelligentsia that I know are not seeking for anything, they do nothing and are completely incapable of work. They call themselves intelligentsia but they speak rudely to their servants, they treat the peasants like cattle, they study superficially, read nothing serious, do absolutely nothing, only talk about science and have very little understanding of art. They are all so serious, they all have stern faces, they all talk about solemn things, they philosophise, and meanwhile in front of their noses the workers eat appallingly, sleep without pillows, thirty or forty to a room, and everywhere there are bugs, filth dampness, moral uncleanliness... And itís clear that all our fine talk is for one purpose only, to distract ourselves and others from the reality. Tell me, where are the nurseries about which we talk so fulsomely and frequently, where are the libraries? They only exist in novels, in reality there arenít any of them. There is only dirt, beastliness and Asiatic conditions... I dread and I dislike those awfully serious faces, I dread those serious conversations. It would be better if we remained silent!

LOPAKHIN  You know, I get up at five in the morning, I work from morning till night, Iím always handling my own and other peopleís money, and I see what people are like. You only need to start doing something to find out how few decent and honest ones there are. Sometimes when I canít sleep I think ďLord, you have given us vast forests, boundless pastures, limitless horizons, and living here we should really be like giants...

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  You want to have giants... But theyíre only good in fairy tales, and even there they terrify you.

Epihodov walks across the back of the stage and plays sadly on his guitar.

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  (Pensively.) There goes Epihodov.

ANYA  (Pensively.) There goes Epihodov.

GAYEV  The sun has set, ladies and gents.


GAYEV (Not too loud, yet as if making a speech .) Wonderful Nature, you shine forth with eternal radiance, beautiful and impartial, you to whom we give the name of mother, you contain within yourself both life and death, you create and you destroy...

VARYA  (Pleading.) Uncle!

ANYA  Uncle, youíre starting up again!

TROFIMOV  Youíd do better to pot the red into the centre.

GAYEV  Iíll be quiet, Iíll be quiet.

They all sit down wrapped in thought. It is quiet. The only sound is that of Feers mumbling. Suddenly a report is heard in the distance, as if from the sky, the sound of a cable breaking, dying away and mournful.


LOPAKHIN  I donít know. Perhaps a bucket or something has broken away in a mine, somewhere far off.  But very far away.

GAYEV  Or perhaps a bird of some sort... Maybe a heron.

TROFIMOV  Or an owl.

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  (She shudders.) All the same, rather unpleasant. (Pause.)

FEERS  Before the disaster it was the same. The owl screeched and the samovar hummed all the time.

GAYEV  Before what disaster.

FEERS  Giving freedom to the serfs. (Pause.)

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  You know, friends, we ought to be going, itís already evening. (To Anya.) There are tears in your eyes... Whatís the matter darling? (Embraces her.)

ANYA  Itís nothing Mama, really, nothing.

TROFIMOV  Somebodyís coming.

A tramp appears dressed in a battered white peaked cap and an overcoat. He is slightly drunk.

TRAMP  Pardon me, could you tell me, is it possible to get from here directly to the station?

GAYEV  You may. Take this road here.

TRAMP  I am very grateful to you. (He coughs.) Splendid weather... (He speaks as if addressing an audience.) Brother of mine, my suffering brother... Come thou to the Volga, you whose groans... (To Varya.) Madamoiselle, be so good as to give a starving Russian thirty kopeks...

Varya is terrified and screams.

LOPAKHIN  (Angrily.) There are limits to everything!

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  (In a panic.) Take this... Here you are... (Looks in her purse.) Thereís no silver... Never mind, have this gold piece...

TRAMP  I am eternally grateful to you. (He leaves.)


VARYA  (Horrified,) Iím going... Iím going... Ah, dear Mama, thereís no food to give the staff at home, and you gave him gold.

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  What is to be done with me? Iím an idiot. At home Iíll hand it all over to you. Ermolay Alexeyich, give me another loan would you.

LOPAKHIN  At your service.

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  Come on folks, itís time. And Varya, weíve made all the arrangements for you just now, I congratulate you.

VARYA  (Tearfully.) Please donít joke about such things Mama.

LOPAKHIN  Ochmelia, get thee to a nunnery[ii]...

GAYEV  My hands are shaking. Itís a long time since I had a game of billiards.

LOPAKHIN  Ochmelia, oh nymph in thy orisons remember me!

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA  Come on folks. Time soon for supper.

VARYA  He terrified me. My heart is thumping.

LOPAKHIN  I remind you good folks, the cherry orchard will be sold on the twenty-second of August... Think about it!... Think about it!...

All leave except Trofimov and Anya.

ANYA  (Laughing.) Thank you, tramp, you terrified Varya, now we are alone.

TROFIMOV  Varya is afraid that we might suddenly fall in love, and for the whole day she wonít leave us alone. With her narrow mind she is incapable of understanding that we are superior to love. To avoid all those petty and illusory things which prevent us from being free and happy, that is the aim and the meaning of our lives. Forward! We are marching irresistibly to that bright star which flames in the distance. Forward! Do not falter, friends!

ANYA  (Clapping her hands.) How splendidly you speak! (Pause.) Itís wonderful here today.

TROFIMOV  Yes, the weatherís marvellous.

ANYA  What have you done to me Petya, why do I no longer love the cherry orchard as I used to? I loved it so tenderly that it seemed to me that there was no place on the earth better than our orchard.

TROFIMOV  All Russia is our orchard. The land is vast and beautiful, there are many marvellous places in it. (Pause.) Think, Anya, your grandfather, great grandfather and all your ancestors were serf masters, they owned living souls, and do not human beings look out at you from every cherry in the orchard, from every leaf, from every branch, do you not hear their voices?... To own living souls, it has corrupted you all, those living in the past and now, so that your mother, you yourself,  your uncle do not recognise that you are living in debt, at somebody elseís expense, at the expense of those people who you would not even allow over your doorstep... We have fallen behind at least two hundred years, we have nothing, no intelligible relationship with our past, we only philosophize, complain about boredom or drink vodka. Itís so obvious that to begin to live in the present we must first redeem the past, and we can redeem it only by suffering, only by exceptional and unremitting labour. Remember that, Anya.

ANYA  The house where we live has not been ours for a long time, and I shall leave it, I give you my word.

TROFIMOV  If you have a bunch of housekeeping keys, throw them into the well and just walk away. Be free, like the wind.

ANYA  (In ecstasy.) How wonderfully you talk!

TROFIMOV  Believe me Anya, believe me. Iím not yet thirty, Iím still young, still a student, but I have already suffered so much! When itís winter I am hungry, ill, anxious, poor as a beggar, and ó where has fate not driven me, what places have I been! But despite that my soul has always been full, every instant of the day or night, full of inexpressible expectation. I sense the future happiness, Anya, I already see it...

ANYA  (Thoughtfully.) The moon is rising.

Epihodov is heard playing the same melancholy tune on his guitar. The moon is rising. Somewhere near the poplars Varya is looking for Anya and is heard calling  ďAnya! Where are you?Ē

TROFIMOV  Yes. The moon is rising. There it is, happiness, I see it, it is coming closer and closer, I can already hear its footsteps. And if we do not see it, do not recognise it, what does it matter. Others after us will see it. 

VOICE OF VARYA  Anya! Where are you?

TROFIMOV  Thatís Varya again. (Angrily.) Itís unbearable!

ANYA What does it matter. Letís go down to the river. Itís beautiful there.

TROFIMOV  Letís go. (They leave.)



[i] Henry Thomas Buckle. 1821 Ė 1862. English liberal historian.

[ii] He is misquoting Hamletís words to Ophelia, and getting the name wrong.

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