|Home||Lermontov||Other Pushkin||Onegin Book I||Book II||Book III||Book IV||Book V||BookVI||BookVII||BookVIII||Gypsies||Chekhov
ANTON CHEKHOV Uncle Vanya
The dining room of Serebryakovís house. Night. The watchman is heard in the distance beating his board. Serebryakov is sitting in an armchair dozing. Elena Andreyevna, also dozing, is sitting in an armchair beside him.)
SEREBRYAKOV (waking up.) Whoís there? Sonya, is that you?
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Itís me.
SEREBRYAKOV Itís you, Elene... This pain is unbearable.
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Your blanket has fallen on the floor. (Wraps his legs in the blanket.) Iíll close the window, Alexander.
SEREBRYAKOV No, itís stuffy... I just dozed off and it seemed in my dream that my left leg belonged to someone else. I woke with a horrendous pain. No, this is not gout, itís more likely to be rheumatism. What time is it?
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Twenty past twelve.
SEREBRYAKOV Have a look for Batushkov in the library tomorrow. I think we have him.
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Whatís that?
SEREBRYAKOV Have a look for Batushkov in the morning. I seem to remember we had a copy.
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Youíre tired. This is the second night youíve had no sleep.
SEREBRYAKOV Itís said that Turgenev developed angina from his gout. Iím afraid it might happen with me. This cursed, this disgusting old age. Damn and blast it. When I grew old I became disgusting even to myself. And I know itís equally disgusting to you all when you look at me.
ELENA ANDREYEVNA You talk about your old age as if we were responsible for your growing old.
SEREBRYAKOV Iím disgusting to you in the first place.
(Elena Andreyevna walks away and sits farher off.)
Of course, youíre right. Iím not stupid and I understand. Youíre young, healthy, beautiful, you want to live, and Iím an old man, practically a corpse. Well then. Do you think I donít understand? Of course itís stupid that Iím still hanging on. But wait, not long and Iíll soon free you all. I donít have much longer to drag it out.
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Iím exhausted... For Godís sake do stop talking.
SEREBRYAKOV It turns out that because of me everyone is exhausted, bored to death, squandering their youth, and I alone am enjoying life to the full and am satisfied. Of course, of course!
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Oh do be quiet! Youíre torturing me!
SEREBRYAKOV Iím torturing everyone. Of course.
ELENA ANDREYEVNA (tearfully.) Itís unbearable! Tell me, what do you want from me?
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Then do stop talking. I beg you.
SEREBRYAKOV Itís a strange business. If Ivan Petrovich starts talking, or that old idiot, Marya Vasilyevna, -- it doesnít matter, everyone listens, but if I open my mouth to say one word, then everyone starts to feel themselves hard done by. Even my voice is disgusting. Well, letís grant it, Iím disgusting, Iím an egoist, Iím a despot, but donít I, even in my old age, have some right to be an egoist? Have I not deserved it? Do I not, I ask you, have some right to a peaceful old age and to peopleís respect?
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Nobody is disputing your rights.
(The window bangs in the wind.)
The windís got up. Iíll close the window. (She closes it.) Nobody is disputing your rights.
(Pause. The workman in the garden beats on his board and sings.)
SEREBRYAKOV To spend all oneís life working in the cause of science, to get accustomed to oneís study, to the lecture hall, to respected colleagues Ė then suddenly, without rhyme or reason, to find oneself in this tomb, everyday to meet stupid people, to listen to piffling conversation... I want to live, I love success, I love renown, the noise and bustle, but here Ė itís like being in exile. Every minute to yearn for the past, to watch the success of others, to be afraid of dying... I canít do it. I havenít the strength. And here they canít even forgive me for being old!
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Wait, have patience. In five or six years I will be old as well.
SONYA Papa, you yourself sent for Dr. Astrov, but when he got here you refused to see him. Thatís impolite. Weíve disturbed the man unnecessarily...
SEREBRYAKOV What do I want with your Doctor Astrov. He knows as much about medicine as I do about astronomy.
SONYA We canít summon the whole medicine faculty here for the sake of your gout.
SEREBRYAKOV Iím not even going to talk to that weirdo.
SONYA As you please. (She sits down.) It doesnít matter to me.
SEREBRYAKOV What time is it now?
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Nearly one.
SEREBRYAKOV Itís stuffy... Sonya, hand me those drops from the table!
SONYA Certainly. (Gives him a bottle of drops.)
SEREBRYAKOV (Irritated.) Oh not those ones! You canít ask for anything here!
SONYA Please, donít play the spoilt child with me. Some people might find it amusing, but you can spare me, if you donít mind. Iím not impressed. And I havenít the time. I have to be up early, itíd haymaking.
(Uncle Vanya enters in a dressing gown and with a candle.)
UNCLE VANYA Thereís a storm gathering.
There you are! HťlŤne and Sonya, go off and get some sleep. Iíve come to give you a break.
SEREBRYAKOV (Terrified.) No, no! Donít leave me with him. Heíll talk the life out of me.
UNCLE VANYA But theyíve got to have some rest! This is a second night theyíve had no sleep.
SEREBRYAKOV Let them go and sleep. But you must go. I beg you. In the name of our former friendship, do not protest. We will talk afterwards.
UNCLE VANYA (With a laugh.) Our former friendship... former...
SONYA Be quiet, Uncle Vanya.
SEREBRYAKOV (To his wife.) My dearest. Donít leave me with him! Heíll talk me to death.
UNCLE VANYA This is almost getting to be amusing.
(Enter Marina with a candle.)
SONYA Nanny, you should be in bed. Itís late.
MARINA The samovarís still on the table. One canít just go to bed.
SEREBRYAKOV Everyone is awake, they are worn out, Iím the only one whoís living in bliss.
MARINA (Goes up to Serebryakov.) What is it dear boy? Are you in pain? My legs are absolutely throbbing, absolutely throbbing. (Puts his blanket straight.) Youíve had this illness a long time... Vera Petrovna, dear soul, Sonyaís mother, often she would not sleep, she endured a lot... She really did love you...
Old people, just like the young, they want someone to have sympathy for them, but nobody has time for the old. (She kisses Serebyakov on the shoulder.) Come on, dear boy, letís take you to bed... Come on dear... Iíll brew you a lime tea and Iíll get something to warm your legs... Then Iíll say prayers for you...
SEREBRYAKOV (touched.) Letís go then, Marina.
MARINA My legs also are absolutely throbbing, absolutely throbbing! (She and Sonya wheel him out.) Vera Petrovna, she also used to suffer, she wept a lot... You Sonya were very young then and silly... Come on, come on dear boy...
(Serebryakov, Sonya and Marina all leave.)
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Iím worn out with him. I can hardly stand up.
UNCLE VANYA You with him, and Iím worn out with myself. This is the third night Iíve not slept.
ELENA ANDREYEVNA This house has a curse on it. Your mother hates everything except her brochures and the professor; the professor is bad tempered, he doesnít trust me and heís afraid of you; Sonya is angry with her father, is angry with me, and she hasnít spoken one word to me over the last two weeks; you hate my husband and openly despise your mother; Iím all strung up and twenty times today I wanted to cry... There is a curse on this house.
UNCLE VANYA Letís not start philosophising.
ELENA ANDREYEVNA You, Ivan Petrovich, youíre educated and clever, and it seems you must be aware that the world is destroyed not by bandits, or fires, but by hatred, enmities, and by all these petty differences... You would be better employed making peace among everyone, not forever grumbling.
UNCLE VANYA Teach me how to make peace with myself first. (Seizes he hand.) My dearest...
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Leave me alone! (Takes her hand away.) Go, go!
UNCLE VANYA Itís raining now and everything in nature is freshened up and is breathing softly. But the storm brings no relief to me. Day and night like an evil spirit the thought tortures me that my life has gone by never to return. There is no past because I wasted it stupidly on trifling rubbish, and the present is horrifying because of its absurdity. Here you have my life and my love: where can I offer them, what use can I make of them? My feelings are lost in vain, like a ray of sunlight falling into a pit, and I myself am wasting away.
ELENA ANDREYEVNA When you talk to me about your love I grow numb and donít know what to say. Excuse me, thereís nothing I can say to you. (She tries to leave.) Good night.
UNCLE VANYA (Barring her way.) And if you only knew how much I suffer from the thought that here, alongside me in this same house, another life is wasting away Ė yours! What are you waiting for? What cursed philosophy is holding you back? Listen to me. Listen...
ELENA ANDREYEVNA (Looks searchingly at him.) Ivan Petrovich, youíre drunk!
UNCLE VANYA It may be... It may be so...
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Whereís the doctor?
UNCLE VANYA In there, heís staying the night with me. It may be, it may be so... Anything might be!
ELENA ANDREYEVNA So you both drank today. But what for.
UNCLE VANYA Well at least itís like life... No objections please, HťlŤne.
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Before you never used to drink, and you never talked so much either... Go and get some sleep. Iím finding this boring.
UNCLE VANYA (Falling on his knees and grasping her hand.) My dearest one! My wondrous sweetheart!
ELENA ANDREYEVNA (Deeply annoyed.) Leave me alone. This is after all quite revolting. (She leaves.)
UNCLE VANYA alone.) Sheís gone.
Ten years ago I met her at my late sisterís. She was seventeen then, and I was thirty seven. Why didnít I fall in love with her then and propose to her. Why, it was all so possible! And now she would have been my wife... Yes... And then we would have both been wakened by the storm; she would have been frightened by the thunder and I would have held her in my arms and whispered to her ďDonít be afraid, Iím here.Ē What a sublime thought, so wonderful, I even laugh at it... but, my God, my thoughts are getting confused... Why am I old. Why does she not understand me? All her posturing, her meaningless morality, those stupid unconnected thoughts about the end of the world Ė God how I hate it.
And how Iíve been deceived! I adored this professor, this pitiful gout ridden stooge, I worked for him like an ox. Sonya and I squeezed the last droplets out of this estate for him. Like peasant merchants we traded in oil, peas, milk, we hardly ate a thing so as collect from our pennies and farthings thousands, just to send to him. I was proud of him and his learning, I lived and breathed it! Everything that he wrote or pronounced seemed to me like emanations of genius... My God! And now? Now heís retired and itís become clear, the sum total of his life: after heís gone not a single line of his work will survive, heís completely unknown, a nonentity! A soap bubble! And I have been deceived... Ė I see it now, -- stupidly deceived...
(Astrov enters wearing a jacket but no waistcoat, and no tie; he is merry. Telyegin follows carrying a guitar.)
TELYEGIN Everyone is asleep!
(TelYegin strums softly.)
(To Uncle Vanya.) Youíre on your own here? No girls? (Puts his arms on his hips as if to begin dancing. He sings quietly.) ďThe hut is shaking, the stove is hot, for the poor master no bed, no cot...Ē The storm woke me. It was a fair downpour. What time is it?
UNCLE VANYA God knows.
ASTROV I thought I heard Elena Andryevnaís voice.
UNCLE VANYA She was here just now.
ASTROV What a gorgeous woman. (He looks at the bottles on the table.) All these medicines. What a load of prescriptions there are here! From Kharkov, from Moscow, from Tula... Heís pestered every town in the country with his gout. Is he ill, or just pretending?
UNCLE VANYA heís ill.
ASTROV Why are you so sad today. Are you sorry for the professor, or what?
UNCLE VANYA Leave me alone.
ASTROV Or in love with the professorís wife.
UNCLE VANYA Sheís a friend.
UNCLE VANYA What do you mean by that?
ASTROV A woman can be a manís friend only in the following sequence: first an acquaintance, then a lover, then finally a friend.
UNCLE VANYA Thatís a lousy, vulgar philosophy.
ASTROV Really? Yes... I must admit it, Iím becoming vulgar. Well you see, Iím drunk. Usually I only drink like this only once a month. When I get into this condition then I become arrogant and rude in the extreme. I donít give a fig for anything! I take on the most difficult operations and perform them brilliantly; I sketch out vast plans for the future; at the same time I donít feel myself to be a weirdo in any way, and I believe that I will be bringing enormous benefits to the human race... enormous! And at the same time I have my own personal philosophy, and all of you, brethren, you appear like so many beetles, or microbes. (To TelYegin.) Waffles, play.
TELYEGIN My friend, I would be glad to play for you, with all my heart, but consider Ė in the house theyíre all asleep!
(Telyegin strums quietly.)
I need more to drink. Letís go, in there, it seems, we still have some cognac. Then in the morning weíll set out for my place. Síokay? I have an assistant who never says ďokayĒ, but always ďsíokayĒ. Heís a great rogue. Well then, síokay? (He sees Sonya who enters.) Pardon me, I have no tie. (He leaves; Telyegin follows him.)
SONYA And you, Uncle Vanya, youíve been drinking again with the doctor. A fine pair of tipplers. Well heís always been like that, but why you? At your age it doesnít suit you at all.
UNCLE VANYA Age has got nothing to do with it. When you have no real life then you live with mirages. At least itís better than nothing.
SONYA our hay is all cut, everyday it rains, itís all rotting in the fields, and you busy yourself with mirages. Youíve given up on the farm... Iím doing everything on my own, Iím completely worn out... (In a frightened tone.) Uncle, there are tears in your eyes!
UNCLE VANYA What tears? Itís nothing... Nonsense. You just looked at me like your dear mother... My dearest... (Eagerly kisses her hands and her face.) My sister... My dearest sister... Where is she now? If only she knew. Ah, if only she knew.
SONYA What, Uncle? Knew what?
UNCLE VANYA Itís hard, itís all wrong... Itís nothing... Afterwards... Itís nothing... I must go... (He leaves.)
SONYA (Knocks on the door.) Mikhail Lvovich, are you asleep? Can you spare a minute?
ASTROV (From behind the door.) Iíll be with you right away! (A few moments afterwards he enters. He is already wearing a tie and a waistcoat.) What can I do for you?
SONYA You can drink if you must and if it doesnít disgust you, but please, donít encourage uncle Vanya to drink, it harms him.
ASTROV Very well. We wonít drink anymore.
Iíll set off for home right now. Itís signed and sealed. When theyíve harnessed the horses itíll be dawn.
SONYA Itís still raining. Wait till the morning.
ASTROV The storm is passing, weíre only under the edge of it. Iíll set off. And please, donít call me out again for your father. I tell him itís gout Ė he says itís rheumatism. I ask him to lie down, he sits up. And today he refused absolutely to speak with me.
SONYA Heís had too much his own way. (She looks into the sideboard.) Do you want a bite to eat?
ASTROV Well, why not?
SONYA I like to have a snack in the night. There is something here in the sideboard, I think. They say that in his life he had great success with women, and his women-folk over indulged him. Here, have some cheese.
(They both stand by the sideboard and eat.)
ASTROV Iíve had nothing to eat all day, Iíve only had drink. Your father has a difficult character. (He takes a bottle from the sideboard.) May I? (He pours a glass and downs it.) Thereís nobody here and we may speak freely. You know, it seems to me I could not survive for one month in this house, it would stifle me... Your father is completely wrapped up in his gout and his books, Uncle Vanya with his melancholy, your granny, and last of all your stepmother...
SONYA What about my stepmother?
ASTROV In human beings there should always be beauty: in the face, in the dress, in the soul, the thoughts. She is beautiful, no doubt of that, but... after all she only eats, sleeps, goes for a stroll, charms us all with her beauty, and nothing more. She has no obligations, others work for her... Is it not so? But a life led in idleness cannot be a pure life.
However, perhaps I am judging her too harshly. Iím dissatisfied with life, like your Uncle Vanya, and we are both becoming grumblers.
SONYA Are you dissatisfied with life?
ASTROV Generally speaking I love life, but I cannot endure our provincial, Russian, narrow minded life and I utterly despise it with all my being. And as regards my own personal, individual life, so help me God, there is absolutely nothing good in it. You know, when you are going through a dark wood at night, and if at the same time a small light glimmers in the distance, then you donít notice your tiredness, the darkness, or the sharp branches which fly in your face... I work Ė as indeed you know Ė I work like no one else in the district, fate tosses me about without rest, at times I suffer unbearably, but for me there is no light in the distance. I donít expect anything for myself, I donít love people... For a long time now I have not loved anyone.
ASTROV Nobody. I feel a certain tenderness for your old nanny Ė for old times sake. The peasants are all the same, primitive, they live in dirt, and itís difficult to get on with the intelligentisia. They wear you out. All of them, are good acquaintances, have petty thoughts and feelings, and they donít see beyond the ends of their noses Ė to put it bluntly, they are stupid. Those who are a bit more intelligent and broad minded are hysterical, consumed with self analysis and self reflection. They are the sort who whine, they hate, they slander viciously, they sidle up to a person, look at him askance and decide ďOh, heís a psychopath,Ē or ďHeís a phrasemonger.Ē And when they canít decide what label to attach to my forehead they say ďĒThatís a weird man, very weird!Ē I love the woods Ė thatís weird; I donít eat meat Ė thatís also weird. A direct, pure, uninhibited relationship with nature and with people is nowhere to be found... Nowhere! (He starts to have another drink.)
SONYA (Preventing him.) No, I beg you, please, please, donít have any more.
SONYA It is so much unlike you. You are refined, you have a gentle voice... Even more, unlike all those others whom I know, you are one of the best. Why do you want to be like all those other tedious people who drink and play cards? Donít be like them, I beg you. You are always saying that people do not create things, they only destroy all that which is given them from on high. Why then, why are you destroying yourself? Thereís no need, no need, please, I implore you not to.
ASTROV (Reaches his hand out to her.) I wonít drink any more.
SONYA Give me your word.
ASTROV My word of honour.
SONYA (Clasps his hand firmly.) Thank you!
ASTROV Enough! Iíve sobered up. Look, Iím completely sober and Iíll stay like that till the end of my days. (Looks at his watch.) So, where were we? I was saying, my time is already past, itís too late... Iíve grown old, Iím worn out with work, Iíve become common, my feelings are dulled, and it seems I could no longer become attached to anyone. I donít love anyone ... and I could no longer fall in love. One thing that still stirs me is beauty. I am not indifferent to what is beautiful. It seems to me that if, for example, Elena Andreyevna here took it upon herself to do it, she could set my head in a whirl in half a day... But that would not be love, not devotion... (He covers his face with his hands.)
SONYA What is the matter?
ASTROV Itís nothing... During Lent a patient died on the operating table.
SONYA Itís more than time to forget that.
Tell me, Mikhail Lvovich... If I had a friend, or a younger sister, and if you found out that she, you know, that she loved you, how would you respond to that?
ASTROV (Shrugs his shoulders.) I donít know. I reckon, not at all. I let her know that I could not love her... that my head cannot busy itself with such things. Whatever, if Iím going to go, itís time. Goodbye dear girl, otherwise we shall never stop talking. (He shakes her hand.) Iíll go through the sitting room, if you donít mind, or else Iím afraid your uncle will stop me. (He leaves.)
SONYA (Alone.) He didnít say anything to me... His heart and his mind are a closed book to me, but why do I feel so happy? (She laughs from sheer happiness.) I said to him, youíre refined, youíre noble, you have such a gentle voice... Did that sound out of place? His voice still resounds, it caresses, I still feel it in the air. But when I spoke to him about a younger sister, he didnít understand... (She wrings her hands.) Oh how dreadful it is that Iím not pretty! Itís dreadful. And I know Iím not pretty, I know it, I know it... Last Sunday when we came out of church, I heard them talking about me, and one woman said ďSheís good hearted, generous, but itís a pity sheís so ugly...Ē Ugly...
(Elena Andreyevna enters.)
ELENA ANDREYEVNA (She opens the window.) The storm has passed. How wonderfully fresh it is!
Whereís the doctor?
SONYA Heís gone.
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Sonya!
SONYA What is it?
ELENA ANDREYEVNA How long are you going to be sulking with me? We havenít done anything wrong to each other. Why should we be enemies? Itís gone on too long...
SONYA I wanted to say so myself... (Embraces her.) Enough of being angry.
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Thatís so much better.
(Both of them are moved.)
SONYA Has pap gone to bed?
ELENA ANDREYEVNA No, heís sitting in the drawing room... We havenít spoken to each other for weeks, and God knows why. (She notices that the sideboard is open.) Whatís this?
SONYA Mikhail Lvovich had something to eat.
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Thereís some wine. Letís drink to friendship.
SONYA Yes letís.
ELENA ANDREYEVNA From the same glass... (She pours it out.) Itís better that way. So, we drink as friends?
SONYA As friends. (They drink and kiss.) Iíve longed to make up with you, but somehow I was always ashamed... (She cries.)
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Why are you crying?
SONYA Itís nothing. Itís just me.
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Now, now, enough, enough... (She cries.) You silly, now Iíve started crying.
Youhave been angry with me as if I married your father for his money... Perhaps you believe those slanders, but I swear to you that I married him for love. I was carried away by his learning and his fame. It was not a real love, it was artificial, but then it seemed to me at the time that it was real. I am not a schemer. But you, since the day of our marriage, have not stopped punishing me with your clever, suspicious eyes.
SONYA Shush, peace, peace. Letís forget it.
ELENA ANDREYEVNA You shouldnít look at people in that way. It doesnít suit you. You should take people on trust, otherwise life becomes impossible.
SONYA Tell me honestly, as a friend... Are you happy?
ELENA ANDREYEVNA No.
SONYA I knew that. Just one more question. Tell me frankly Ė do you wish that your husband was younger?
ELENA ANDREYEVNA What an innocent you are. Of course I would wish it! (She laughs.) Go on, ask me another one, ask me...
SONYA Do you like the doctor.
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Yes, very much.
SONYA (She laughs.) I expect I look stupid... Do I? Heís gone, but I can still hear his voice and his footsteps and if I look in the dark window I seem to see his face. Let me tell you how I feel... But I canít speak out so loud, Iím ashamed. Come to my room , there we can talk. Do I look stupid to you? Tell me honestly... Tell me something about him.
ELENA ANDREYEVNA What should I say?
SONYA Heís clever... heís capable of anything, he can do anything... He cures people, he sows forests...
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Itís not the medicine and the sowing of forests that matters... My dear, you must see, it is his talent! And do you know what talent means? Boldness, free thoughts, a wide ranging outlook... He sows a woodland and he is already considering what the result of it will be in a thousand years time, he is already dreaming of future human happiness. Such people are rare, we have to love them... He drinks, at times heís coarse, --- well does it matter? Talented people in Russia are so rare, they canít be perfect. Just consider what sort of life this doctor has! Impassable mud on the roads, frosts, storms, huge distances, an uneducated, wild people, everywhere poverty and disease, and for anyone caught in those circumstances who works and struggles to alleviate them day after day, itís pretty difficult to preserve themselves pure and perfect and sober to the age of forty... (Kisses her.) With all my heart I wish you happiness, you deserve happiness... (She stands up.) But Iím such a tedious, routine person... In music, in my husbandís house, in romance Ė everywhere, in a word, Iíve just been a routine person. When you come to think of it Sonya, Iím a very, very unhappy person. (Walks agitatedly up and down the stage.) Happiness is not for me in this world. Not at all! Why are you laughing?
SONYA (She laughs, covering her face with her hands.) Iím so happy... So happy!
ELENA ANDREYEVNA I feel like playing something... Iíd like to play something on the piano.
SONYA. Do play. (Embraces her.) I couldnít sleep now. Do play something!
ELENA ANDREYEVNA I will. But your fatherís not sleeping. When heís not well music irritates him. You go and ask him. If he doesnít mind, then Iíll play. Go and ask.
SONYA Iíll go right away. (She leaves.)
(In the garden the watchman is beating his board.)
ELENA ANDREYEVNA Itís so long since Iíve played. Iíll play and cry, Iíll cry like a fool. (Through the window.) Is that you, Efim, keeping the watch?
(The voice of the watchman ďItís me.Ē)
Donít beat the bounds here. The masterís not well.
(The voice of the watchman ďIíll leave right now. Hey Rover, Spot, Rover!Ē)
SONYA (Returning.) He says no!
|Home||Lermontov||Other Pushkin||Onegin Book I||Book II||Book III||Book IV||Book V||BookVI||BookVII||BookVIII||Gypsies||Chekhov