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ANTON CHEKHOV The Three Sisters
NATASHA. Is that you Andrey? What are you doing? Are you reading? It's not important. I was just thinking… (She walks away, opens another door, looks inside and then closes it.) Has anyone lit a fire?…
ANDREY. (Enters reading a book.) What is it Natasha?
NATASHA. I was looking to see if anyone had lit the fire. It's Shrovetide, the servant doesn't know what she's doing, so I keep my eyes open, I must keep my eyes open to make sure nothing goes wrong. Last night, at midnight, I went through the dining room, and there was a candle burning. But who lit it, that's the point, I can't find out. (She puts down the candlestick.) What time is it?
ANDREY. (Looks at his watch.) Quarter past eight.
NATASHA. And still Olga and Irina are not back. They're not home yet. They work all the time, the poor things; Olga at the governors' meeting, Irina at the Telegraph office… (She sighs.) This morning I spoke to your sister. "Irina", I said, "you must take more care of yourself, you poor thing." But would she listen? A quarter past eight did you say. I'm very worried about Bobik. He's not well. Why is he so cold? Yesterday he was feverish, and now today he's all cold… I'm terribly worried.
ANDREY. It's nothing, Natasha. He's a healthy lad.
NATASHA. All the same, he'd better go on a diet. I worry about him. And this evening, apparently, after nine, the mummers are coming to play here. Andrey darling, perhaps it would be better if they didn't come.
ANDREY. Really, I can't say. They were after all invited.
NATASHA. Today, when little Bobik woke up, he looked at me and suddenly he smiled at me - it must be, he knew who it was. "Bobik", I said, "Hello Bobik, hello my little darling". And he laughed. Children understand, you see, they understand everything. So, it's decided, Andrey, I will give orders that the mummers are not to be let in.
ANDREY. (Hesitantly.) But my sisters should perhaps decide. It is after all their house.
NATASHA. Of course, I'll tell them as well. They are so good. (She walks about.) I've ordered yoghurt for supper. The doctor said 'You must have only yoghurt to eat, otherwise you won't lose weight'. (She stops.) Bobik is cold. I'm worried that he might be cold in his room, perhaps. We must put him in another room, at least until the weather gets warmer. Take Irina's room, for example, it's just right for a baby: it's dry and it gets the sun all day. We must tell her, and for the time being she could move in with Olga in the same room... After all, it doesn't matter, she's not at home in the day, she only sleeps here…
ANDREY. It's nothing. I was just thinking… Besides there's nothing to say…
NATASHA. Yes… There's something I meant to tell you. Ah, yes, from the council, Ferapont is here, he was asking for you.
ANDREY. (Yawns.) Tell them to call him.
FERAPONT. The chairman sent a book and some papers. Here they are… (He hands over a book and a package.)
ANDREY. Thank you. That's fine. But why didn't you come early on? Look, it's past eight.
FERAPONT. What's that?
ANDREY. (Louder.) I said, it's late for you to come, it's past eight o'clock.
FERAPONT. Yes, I know. I did come when it was still light, but they would not let me see you. The master, they said, is busy. Well then, if he's busy he's busy, I've no place to rush off to. (Thinking that Andrey has asked him something.) What's that?
ANDREY. Nothing. (Studying the book.) Tomorrow it's Friday, we don't have a sitting tomorrow, but still, I think I'll go…I'll do something. It's boring at home…
FERAPONT. I can't really say… My hearing's not good…
ANDREY. If your hearing were all that good, then, I suppose, I probably wouldn't talk to you. I need to talk to somebody, but my wife doesn't understand me, I'm afraid of my sisters for some reason, afraid that they might be laughing at me, or are ashamed of me… I don't drink, I don't like the local inns, but how much I would love to be sitting now in Moscow at Tyestov's, or at the Great Moscow restaurant. What do you think, old man?
FERAPONT. In Moscow, a contractor told us only yesterday at the council, some merchants had pancakes to eat. One of them ate forty pancakes, and they say he died. It was either forty or fifty, I can't remember which.
ANDREY. In Moscow you sit in a huge restaurant, you don't know anyone, and nobody knows you, but all the same you don't feel yourself to be a stranger. But here you know everyone and everyone knows you, but you're a stranger, a stranger. You're a stranger and you're alone.
FERAPONT. What's that?
ANDREY. What for?
FERAPONT. How should I know? That's what the contractor said.
ANDREY. It's utter nonsense. (He reads his book.) Did you ever visit Moscow?
FERAPONT. (After a pause.) No, I never did. It was not God's will.
ANDREY. Yes, you may go. Keep well.
VERSHININ. I'm thirsty. I'd love some tea.
MASHA. (Looks at her watch.) They'll soon be bringing it. My marriage was agreed to when I was eighteen, and I was afraid of my husband, because he was a teacher, and I had barely finished my studies. He seemed then to me to be extraordinarily learned, clever and solemn. But now it's not the same, unfortunately.
VERSHININ. Yes… That's how it is.
MASHA. I say nothing about my husband, I've got used to him, but among civilians generally, such a high proportion of them are coarse people, with no finesse, and no education. Coarseness and vulgarity upsets and offends me, it causes me pain when I meet a man who is insufficiently sensitive, insufficiently pliable or considerate. When I have to spend time with the other teachers, my husband's colleagues, it's simply agonising.
VERSHININ. Yes, I suppose so… But it seems to me that it doesn't matter whether it's civilian or military personnel, they are all much the same and equally interesting, at least in this town. What does it matter! If you listen to the local intelligentsia, it doesn't matter whether it's civilian or military, they all say that they're fed up with their wives, they're fed up with home life, they're fed up with their estates, they're fed up with their horses… Russians have a wonderful aptitude for loftiness of thought, but why is it that in reality they always sink so low? Why is it so?
MASHA. Why should it be?
VERSHININ. Why is he fed up with his children, fed up with his wife? And why are his wife and children fed up with him?
MASHA. I think you are a bit depressed today.
VERSHININ. Perhaps. I didn't eat today, I have had nothing since this morning. My daughter was rather ill, and when my daughters become ill a great anxiety takes hold of me, and my conscience tortures me that their mother is like the person she is. If only you had seen her today. It was so shameful. We started to quarrel from seven in the morning, and at nine o'clock I slammed the door and left.
VERSHININ. Are you superstitious?
VERSHININ. It's strange. (Kisses her hand.) You're a wonderful, a marvellous woman. Wonderful, marvellous! It's dark here, but I can see the glint of your eyes.
MASHA. (Sits on another chair.) It's brighter here…
VERSHININ. I adore, I adore, I adore… I adore your eyes, your movements, which I dream of… You're a wonderful, a marvellous woman!
MASHA. (Laughing softly.) When you say such things to me, I have to laugh, although it's rather frightening… Don't talk like that, please… (Quietly.) Alright, go on talking, I don't mind… (Covers her face with her hands.) I don't mind. Somebody's coming, talk about something else…
IRINA. I'm so tired!
TUZENBACH. Every day I intend to go to the Telegraph Office and walk home with you. I will do it for ten, for twenty years, as long as you don't drive me away… (Seeing Masha and Vershinin, happily.) It's you? Greetings, greetings.
IRINA. At last I'm home. (To Masha.) Just now a woman came to the Office, she was sending a telegram to her brother in Saratov, because her son had just died, and she could not remember the address at all. So she sent it without the address, simply to Saratov. She was crying. And I was rude to her for absolutely no reason. "I haven't time for this" I said. It was so stupid. Do the mummers come tonight?
IRINA. (Sits in an armchair.) I must rest. I'm so tired.
TUZENBACH. (With a smile.) When you come home from work, you seem so tiny, so vulnerable…
MASHA. You've grown thinner… (She whistles.) And you look younger, and your face is looking rather boyish…
TUZENBACH. That's her hair style.
IRINA. I must look for another job, this one doesn't suit me. The thing which I looked for in it, about which I dreamed, is simply not there at all. It's a labour without poetry, without any thought attached…
MASHA. (Unconcerned.) So what should we do!
IRINA. Two weeks ago he lost, in December he lost. The sooner he loses everything, I suppose, the sooner we could get away from this town. Lord above, I dream of Moscow every night, I'm almost entirely mad. (She laughs.) We are going to move there in June, but until June there is still… February, March, April, May… almost half the year!
MASHA. All that matters is that Natasha does not find out somehow or other about Andrey's losses.
IRINA. I don't think she cares in the slightest about it.
IRINA. (She laughs.) No. Not a single kopeck for the last eight months. Evidently he's forgotten.
MASHA. (She laughs.) Look how importantly he sits.
VERSHININ. I don't know. I need a cup of tea. Half my life for a cup of tea! I've had nothing since this morning…
CHEBUTYKIN. Irina. Irina Sergeyevna!
IRINA. What do you want?
CHEBUTYKIN. Please come here. Venez ici.
TUZENBACH. Of course. But about what?
VERSHININ. About what? Well, let's dream… let's dream for example about life in the future, what it will be like after us, in two or three hundred years time.
TUZENBACH. Very well. When we are no more, people will fly around in balloons, they'll change the style of jackets, perhaps they'll discover a sixth sense and develop it, but life will remain more or less the same, a difficult life, full of mysteries, and sometimes it will be a happy life. And after a thousand years men will still sigh and say 'Ah, what a wearisome life,' - and at the same time, just as now, they will fear death and not wish to accept it.
VERSHININ. (Thoughtfully.) How can I express this? It seems to me that everything on this earth must gradually change, and it is changing already in front of our eyes. After two or three hundred years, perhaps after a thousand - the exact figure is not important - a new and happy life will emerge. We ourselves will not be a part of it, of course, but that is what we are living for now, we are working for it, even suffering, but we are in fact creating it. And that is the sole purpose of our existence now, or, if you wish, our only happiness.
MASHA. I don't know. I've been laughing all day, since this morning.
VERSHININ. I finished my training at the same point as you did. I did not go to University. I read a lot, but I am not skilled at choosing books and I probably read things that are inappropriate. But all the same, the longer I live, the greater is my desire to know. My hair is turning grey, I'm almost an old man, but I know hardly anything, hardly anything at all! But despite that it seems to me that the most important and the most real things I do know, I know them for certain. Somehow I would like to prove to you that there is no happiness, there must not and there cannot be happiness for us… We must simply work and work, while happiness - that will be the destiny of our distant descendants.
VERSHININ. Absolutely not.
TUZENBACH. (Clapping his hands and laughing.) It's obvious that we don't understand one another. So, how can I convince you?
MASHA. But what is the meaning of it?
TUZENBACH. The meaning… Look, it is snowing. What is the meaning of that?
MASHA. There is a line in Gogol: Gentlemen, how dull it is to live on this planet.
TUZENBACH. Well I would say: Gentlemen, how difficult it is to argue with you. You leave me speechless.
CHEBUTYKIN. (Reading from a newspaper.) Balzac got married in Berdichev.
IRINA. (Thoughtfully, as she sets out the Patience.) Balzac got married in Berdichev.
TUZENBACH. The die is cast. You know, Marya Sergeyevna, I am going to retire from the service.
MASHA. Yes, I heard. And I don't see anything good about it. I don't like civilians.
TUZENBACH. It doesn't matter… (He stands.) I'm far from handsome, what sort of military man am I? Well, it doesn't matter, however… I intend to work. Just for one day of my life to work so wholeheartedly that I can come home in the evening, tumble exhausted into bed and fall asleep there and then. (Going into the dining room.) Workers, surely, must sleep soundly!
FYEDOTIK. (To Irina.) Just now, in Moscow street, from Pizhikov, I bought these coloured pencils for you. And here's a little penknife…
IRINA. You're so used to treating me as if I was a little girl, but I am after all grown up now… (She takes the pencils and the penknife and exclaims in delight.) Aren't they lovely!
FYEDOTIK. And look, I bought a knife for myself, you see… one blade, and here's another blade, and a third blade, this is for poking your ears, these are scissors, this is for cleaning your nails…
RODEY. (Loudly.) Doctor, how old are you?
CHEBUTYKIN. How old am I? Thirty two.
MASHA. Yes. The winter is tedious. I have totally forgotten what summer is like.
IRINA. It's going to come out, your game, I can see. We will go to Moscow.
FYEDOTIK. No, it won't come out. Look, the eight was covering the two of spades. (He laughs.) That means you won't go to Moscow.
CHEBUTYKIN. (Reading the newspaper.) Tsitsikar. Small pox is raging there.
ANFISA. Masha, have some tea, little one. (To Vershinin.) Please, have some, your excellency… Excuse me Sir, I have forgotten your name
MASHA. Bring it over here nanny. I'm not going over there.
ANFISA. I'm comi-i-ing!
NATASHA. (To Solyony.) Little babies have a wonderful understanding. 'Hello little Bobik', I said, 'hello my little darling'. And he looked at me in that special way. You'll think that it's just the mother in me that is speaking, but no, it's not, I assure you. He's a most remarkable child.
SOLYONY. If that child were mine, then I'd fry him up in the frying pan and gobble the lot. (Takes his tea and walks into the dining room, where he sits in a corner.)
NATASHA. (Covers her face with her hands.) What a shocking, ill-bred man!
MASHA. The happy person is one who does not notice if it is winter or summer. I think that if I were in Moscow, then I would be indifferent to the weather.
VERSHININ. Recently I read the diary of a French minister, written while he was in prison. He had been imprisoned because of the Panama affair. With total rapture and delight he talks about the birds which he can see from his prison window, and which he had never noticed before, when he was a minister. Now of course, after he's been released, he doesn't notice the birds anymore, just as beforehand. In the same way you won't notice Moscow, when you actually live there. Happiness is not for us, nor will it be, we can only wish for it.
TUZENBACH. (Takes a box from the table.) Where are the chocolates?
IRINA. Solyony has eaten them.
TUZENBACH. All of them?
ANFISA. (To Tuzenbach, serving him tea.) Sir, there's a letter for you.
VERSHININ. For me? (Takes the letter.) It's from my daughter. (He reads it.) Yes, of course… I must, excuse me, Marya Sergeyevna, I must leave quietly. I won't have the tea. (He stands up in an agitated manner.) It's always the same old story…
MASHA. What is it? Is it a secret?
VERSHININ. (Quietly.) My wife has poisoned herself again. I must go. I'll get away unnoticed. It's all so terribly unpleasant. (Kisses Masha's hand.) My dearest, most wonderful, most beautiful woman… I'll go out this way, very quietly… (He leaves.)
ANFISA. Where's he gone? I'd just given him tea… Strange man.
MASHA. (Flaring up.) Leave him be! You pester so, nobody has any rest… (Walks to the table with her tea.) You're so exasperating, you silly old woman!
ANFISA. Why are you so offended? My dearest girl!
MASHA. (In the dining room, at the table, in an angry tone.) Let me have somewhere to sit. (Messes up the cards on the table.) You've spread all over here with your cards. Just drink your tea.
IRINA. You're in a bad mood, Masha.
MASHA. Well if I am in a bad mood, don't talk to me. Don't touch me!
CHEBUTYKIN. (Laughing.) Don't touch her, don't touch her.
MASHA. You're sixty years old, but you behave like a little boy, you're always talking utter crap.
NATASHA. (Sighs.) Dear Masha, how can you use such dreadful expressions? You have such a wonderful appearance and presence, in decent society, I can absolutely assure you of this, you would be simply enchanting, if only you didn't use such language. Je vous prie, pardonnez moi, Marie, mais vous avez des manières un peu grossières.
TUZENBACH. (Trying not to laugh.) Let me have… Let me just… I think I see some cognac…
NATASHA. Il parait que mon Bobik déjà ne dort pas, he's woken up. He hasn't been well today. I must go to him, excuse me… (She leaves.)
IRINA. Where has Alexander Ignatyevich gone?
MASHA. Home. Some disaster with his wife again.
TUZENBACH. (Goes to Solyony, a decanter of cognac in his hand.) You are always sitting alone and brooding about something - goodness knows what it can be. Come on, let's make peace. Let's have a brandy. (They drink.) Today I will have to play the piano, all night, probably, all manner of rubbish… What must be must be.
SOLYONY. Why should we make peace? I haven't quarrelled with you.
TUZENBACH. You always seem to create the impression that something has occurred between us. You have a somewhat strange character, you must admit.
SOLYONY. (In a declamatory style.) I am strange, yet who is not strange! Do not be angry, Aleko!
TUZENBACH. What has Aleko got to do with it?
TUZENBACH. I am often angry with you, you frequently irritate me when we are in company, but all the same I like you for some reason. Well, whatever happens, today I shall get drunk. Let's drink to that!
SOLYONY. Let's drink to it.
TUZENBACH. I'm retiring from the service. Enough is enough. For five years I thought about it, and finally I took the decision. I intend to work.
SOLYONY. (In a declamatory style.) Aleko, curb your rage… Forget, forget those dreams you cherish so…
CHEBUTYKIN. (Going into the drawing room with Irina.) And the meal was also a typical Caucasian one - onion soup, and for the roast, chexkhartma, a lamb casserole.
SOLYONY. Cheremsha is certainly not a lamb casserole. It's a plant, rather like our garlic.
CHEBUTYKIN. That is not so, my dear boy. Chexkhartma is not garlic, but a casserole made from lamb.
SOLYONY. I can assure you - cheremsha is garlic.
CHEBUTYKIN. And I can assure you - chexkhartma is lamb casserole.
SOLYONY. And I can assure you - cheremsha is garlic.
CHEBUTYKIN. Why should I bother to quarrel with you? You were never in the Caucasus, and you never ate chexkhartma.
SOLYONY. I didn't eat it because I loathed it. Cheremsha smells just like garlic.
ANDREY. (In a pleading voice.) Gentleman, surely that's enough! Please, please!
TUZENBACH. When are the mummers due here?
IRINA. They promised for about nine o'clock. That means any minute now.
TUZENBACH. (Embraces Andrey.) Ah, my summer house, my new built house…
ANDREY. (Dances and sings.) My new built house, of maple wood…
CHEBUTYKIN. (Dances.) Of maple wood and lattice work all round…
SOLYONY. To which one? There are two universities in Moscow.
ANDREY. There is only one university in Moscow.
SOLYONY. I assure you, there are two.
ANDREY. Let there be three. All the better.
SOLYONY. There are two universities in Moscow.
TUZENBACH. Bravo, bravo! (He laughs.) Ladies and gentlemen, it is time, I am about to play! What an odd fellow he is, that Solyony… (He sits at the piano and plays a waltz.)
MASHA. (Dances alone to the waltz.) The baron is drunk, the baron is drunk, the baron is drunk!
CHEBUTYKIN. It's time for us to leave. Good health to you all.
TUZENBACH. Good night. Time to leave.
IRINA. But please… What about the mummers?..
ANDREY. (Embarrassed.) There won't be any mummers. You see, my dear sisters, Natasha says that Bobik is not very well, and so, therefore… To put it bluntly, I don't know, and I don't care either way.
IRINA. (Shrugs her shoulders.) Bobik is not well.
MASHA. So this is what we have come to. Well, if they're driving us away, there's no alternative, we have to go. (To Irina.) It's not Bobik who is unwell, but she is, that woman… Here! (Taps with her finger on her forehead.) Ignoramus!
RODEY. (Loudly.) I deliberately slept today after lunch, I thought that I would be dancing all night. And now its only just nine o'clock!
ANDREY. Marriage is quite unnecessary. It's unnecessary because it's a bore.
CHEBUTYKIN. That may be so. But then there's loneliness. However you might philosophise about it, loneliness is a terrible thing, my dear fellow… Although in reality, of course, it's absolutely of no importance!
ANDREY. Let's leave quickly.
CHEBUTYKIN. What's the hurry. We'll get there in time.
ANDREY. I'm worried that my wife might stop me.
ANDREY. I don't intend to play today, I shall just watch. I'm not all that well… What should one do for asthma, Ivan Romanich?
CHEBUTYKIN. Why ask? I don't remember, my dear fellow. I simply don't know.
ANDREY. Let's go through the kitchen.
ANFISA. (In a whisper.) It's the mummers.
IRINA. They've gone home.
SOLYONY. How strange. Are you alone here?
IRINA. I'm alone.
SOLYONY. Just now I behaved rather recklessly, I was tactless. But you are not like that, like all the others, you are sublime and you are so pure, you know about principles… Only you alone can understand me. I love you, deeply, endlessly, I love you…
IRINA. Goodnight! Please leave.
SOLYONY. I cannot live without you. (Following her.) My paradise! (Tearfully.) What happiness! Those luxuriant, wonderful, fantastic eyes, such as I have never seen in any other woman…
IRINA. (Coldly.) Please stop, Vasily Vasilich!
SOLYONY. This is the first time that I have spoken to you about love, and it's as if I am not on this earth at all, I am on another planet. (Rubs his forehead.) Well, it doesn't matter. Love can't be forced, naturally… But there must not be any rivals against me… it will not be… I swear to you, by all that is holy, any rival in my place I will kill… Oh, you are so wonderful!
SOLYONY. It doesn't matter to me. Goodnight! (He leaves.)
NATASHA. How tired you are, my poor poor girl! (Kisses Irina.) You should go to bed earlier.
IRINA. Is Bobik asleep?
NATASHA. He's asleep. It's an uneasy sleep. That reminds me, dear Irina, I kept meaning to tell you, but either you were not here, or I didn't have the time. It seems so cold and damp for Bobik in the present nursery. But your room is such a perfect one for a child. Dear Irina, dear sister, please move in, for the time being, to Olga's room!
IRINA. (Not understanding.) Where?
VERSHININ. It's strange, I left not long ago, half an hour, and they were expecting the mummers…
IRINA. Everyone has gone.
KULYGIN. Has Masha gone? Where has she gone? And why is Protopopov waiting downstairs with a sledge? Who is he waiting for?
IRINA. No interrogation please. I'm worn out.
KULYGIN. A very capricious madam.
OLGA. The meeting has only just finished. I'm exhausted. Our headmistress is ill, and now I'm taking her place. My head is aching, it's aching… (She sits.) Yesterday Andrey lost two hundred roubles at cards… The whole town is talking about it.
KULYGIN. Yes, and I'm tired out by our meeting. (He sits.)
VERSHININ. My wife took it into her head just now to scare the wits out of me, she nearly poisoned herself. Everything worked out in the end, and I'm glad, I can rest now… So, it seems, we have to leave? May I wish you the best of everything. [To Kulygin.] Fyodor Ilyich, come out with me somewhere! I can't stay at home. I absolutely cannot… Let's go out!
KULYGIN. I'm tired. I'm not going out. (He stands up.) I'm tired. Did my wife go home?
IRINA. She must have done.
KULYGIN. (Kisses Irina's hand.) Goodnight. Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow there is the whole day to rest. All the best! (He starts to go.) I really would like some tea. I counted on spending an evening in pleasant company and instead - o fallacem hominum spem! All exclamations take the accusative case…
VERSHININ. So, it seems, I must go out alone. (He goes out with Kulygin, whistling.)
OLGA. My head is aching, it's aching… Andrey lost money… the whole town is talking… I must go and lie down. (She starts to go.) Tomorrow I am free… Good God, how pleasant that will be. Free tomorrow, free the day after tomorrow… My head is aching, it's aching. (Exit.)
IRINA. (Alone.) Everyone has gone. There is no one here.
IRINA. (Left on her own, with deep longing.) Moscow! Moscow! Moscow!
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