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ANTON CHEKHOV The Three Sisters
TUZENBACH. (Exchanges farewell kisses with Fyedotik.) You're a fine fellow, life was so friendly here with you. (Kisses Rodey.) One more time… Goodbye, goodbye!
IRINA. Till we meet again!
FYEDOTIK. Not 'till we meet again', but goodbye. We won't see each other ever again.
KULYGIN. Who knows? (He rubs his eyes and smiles.) Look, I've even started to cry.
IRINA. Some time in the future we'll meet.
FYEDOTIK. In ten or fifteen years. But by then we'll hardly recognise one another and we'll greet each other coldly. (Takes a photograph.) Hold still… Just for the last time
RODEY. (Embraces Tuzenbach.) We won't see each other again… (Kisses Irina's hand.) Thank you for everything. For everything!
FYEDOTIK. (With annoyance.) Hold still!
TUZENBACH. God willing, we'll meet again. Write to us. Whatever else, at least write.
RODEY. (Casts a glance round the garden.) Goodbye trees! (He shouts.) Hall-oo-oo! Hall-oo-oo!
KULYGIN. With any luck you'll get married there, in Poland… Your Polish wife will kiss you and say 'Sweetcake!' (He laughs.)
FYEDOTIK. (Looking at his watch.) Less than an hour left. From our battery only Solyony is going by barge, we are all going with the infantry. Today three batteries of the division are leaving, tomorrow another three - then in the town there will be peace and quiet.
TUZENBACH. And terrible boredom.
RODEY. Where is Marya Sergeyevna?
KULYGIN. Masha is in the garden.
FYEDOTIK. We must say goodbye to her.
RODEY. Goodbye, time to go, otherwise I shall start crying… (Swiftly embraces Tuzenbach and Kulygin; kisses Irina's hand.) It was so enjoyable living here…
FYEDOTIK. (To Kulygin.) Here, just as a souvenir… a little notebook and pencil. We'll go from here to the river…
KULYGIN. (He shouts.) Goodbye!
CHEBUTYKIN. They forgot to say goodbye to me.
IRINA. Why do you say that?
CHEBUTYKIN. Well I forgot anyway. In any case, I shall see them again soon. I leave tomorrow. Yes… Still another short day left. In a year I'll be retired, then I'll come here again to live my life out somewhere close to you… Only one little year until I get my pension… (Puts a newspaper in his pocket, takes out another one.) I'll come here to be somewhere close to you, and I'll change my life, root and branch… I will become such a quiet thing, so accom… so accommodating, so perfectly polite…
IRINA. You know you need to change your life, you really do. Somehow or other.
CHEBUTYKIN. Yes. I know I do. (Sings softly.) Ta-ra-ra boom-de-boom,… I sat upon a stone…
KULYGIN. You are incorrigible, Ivan Romanich, incorrigible!
CHEBUTYKIN. Yes. But if I came to your lessons, then I would learn something
IRINA. Fyodor has shaved off his moustache. I think it's horrible!
KULYGIN. It's nothing.
CHEBUTYKIN. I could tell you what your face looks like now, but I'd better not.
KULYGIN. It's nothing. That's the way it has to be now, it's the modus vivendi. Our headmaster has shaved his moustache, and since I was promoted to examiner I have shaved mine too. Nobody seems to like it, but it doesn't bother me. I'm contented. With a moustache or without a moustache I'm always contented. (He sits.)
CHEBUTYKIN. What happened? Nothing happened. Complete nonsense. (Reads the newspaper.) It's of no consequence.
KULYGIN. They are saying that Solyony and the baron met in the street near the theatre yesterday evening…
TUZENBACH. Enough, enough! Really, it's hardly right… (Waves his hand and goes into the house.)
KULYGIN. They say that, near the theatre, Solyony started abusing him. The baron lost his temper and said something offensive…
CHEBUTYKIN. I've no idea. It's all nonsense.
KULYGIN. In some seminary or other a teacher wrote 'nonsense' when correcting an essay, but the pupil read it as 'consensus' - he thought it had been written in Latin. (He laughs.) It's remarkably funny, remarkably. They say that Solyony is in love with Irina and that he hates the baron… That's understandable. Irina is a very beautiful girl. She's even rather like Masha, and just as much a thinker. The only thing is, Irina, your character is softer. Although Masha, of course, has a very fine character. I love her. I love Masha.
KULYGIN. I suppose it's alright, but somehow all this is not very serious. It' just ideas, but nothing serious in them. Still, I wish you all happiness.
CHEBUTYKIN. (Deeply moved.) My wonderful girl, my beautiful girl… My precious one… You have gone so far ahead, I can't keep up with you any more. I've been left behind, like a migrating bird that's grown old and can no longer fly. Fly away my treasure, fly away, and may God go with you!
KULYGIN. Drop it, can't you! (He sighs.) Today the soldiers all leave, and then everything will run on the old lines. Whatever anyone says, Masha is a fine and honourable woman, I love her dearly and I bless my fate… Fate is different for different people… In the excise office here there is a clerk called Kozirev. He was a fellow student of mine, and he was expelled from the fifth form because he could not understand the 'ut consecutivum' in Latin. Now he's dreadfully poor, he's ill, and whenever I meet him I say to him 'Good morning, ut consecutivum.' 'Yes,' he says, 'that's just it, consecutivum,' and then he coughs… But for me, I've had good fortune all my life, I'm happy, I even have the Stanislav medal of the second class, and I teach others this very same thing, the 'ut consecutivum'. Of course I'm clever, cleverer than so many others, but that doesn't make for happiness…
KULYGIN. Has the headmistress arrived yet?
IRINA. No. They've sent for her. If only you knew how difficult it has been for me to live here alone, without Olga… She lives at the school; she's the headmistress, she's busy all day, while I'm alone here, living in boredom with nothing to do, and the room I am in is hateful… So I decided, if it's my destiny not to go to Moscow, so be it. It means that that's my fate. There is no way round it… Everything is as God wills it, that's true. Nikolay Lyvovich proposed to me… Well? I thought it over and came to a decision. He's a good man, it's astonishing, really, how good he is… And suddenly it was as if wings had grown on my soul, I brightened up, the burden was lifted from me and once more I wanted to work and work. Only it seems last night something happened, and some dark cloud is hanging over me.
CHEBUTYKIN. Nonsense. Consensus.
NATASHA. (In the window.) The headmistress!
KULYGIN. The headmistress has arrived. Let's go and meet her.
CHEBUTYKIN. What of it?
MASHA. (She sits.) Nothing.
CHEBUTYKIN. Very much.
MASHA. And did she love you?
CHEBUTYKIN. (After a pause.) That I no longer remember.
MASHA. Is my man here? That was how in the past our cook Martha used to talk about her policeman: my man. Is my man here?
CHEBUTYKIN. Not yet.
MASHA. When you pick up happiness in fragments, in torn pieces, and then lose it, as I do, then gradually you turn coarse, you become fierce and angry… (Points to her heart.) In here I am absolutely seething… (Looks at her brother Andrey who is wheeling the pram towards them.) There's Andrey, our brother… All his hopes have gone. A thousand people lift up a huge bell, there is an enormous expenditure of energy and money, and suddenly it falls down and smashes to pieces. Suddenly, for no reason at all. That's what happened to Andrey…
ANDREY. When is the house going to quieten down again? All that racket.
CHEBUTYKIN. Soon. (Looks at his watch.) I have an old watch, one which strikes… (Winds up his watch which then strikes.) The first, the second and the fifth battery are leaving at exactly one o'clock…
ANDREY. For good?
CHEBUTYKIN. I don't know. After a year I might return. Perhaps. Although, the devil only knows… it's not important.
CHEBUTYKIN. It was nothing. Stupidity. Solyony started to pester the baron and he flared up and insulted him. So it turned out in the end that Solyony was duty bound to challenge him to a duel. (Looks at his watch.) It looks as if it's already time… At half-past twelve, in the public woodland, that one over there that you can see beyond the river… Piff-paff. (He laughs.) Solyony imagines that he is Lermontov, he even writes poems. But joking aside, this is his third duel.
MASHA. Who's third duel?
MASHA. And the baron?
CHEBUTYKIN. What about the baron?
CHEBUTYKIN. The baron is an excellent man, but one baron more, or one baron less, does it really matter? Forget it! It's not important.
CHEBUTYKIN. That's only as it seems to be… In reality we are not here, there's nothing on the earth, we don't exist, it only seems as if we exist… And it's all the same anyway!
MASHA. You talk and talk the whole day long… (Starts to go.) We're living in this sort of climate where without any warning it starts to snow, but still everyone talks and talks… (She stops.) I won't go into the house, I can't go in there… When Vershinin comes, please let me know… (Walks along the avenue.) The migratory birds are already flying overhead… (She looks upwards.) Swans, or geese… Such lovely, happy things… (She leaves.)
ANDREY. Our house will be empty. The officers are leaving, you are leaving, Irina is getting married, and I'll be in the house on my own.
CHEBUTYKIN. And your wife?
CHEBUTYKIN. (Stands up.) Look, dear chap, I'm leaving tomorrow, perhaps we'll never see each other again, so here is my advice. It's just this: put on your hat, take your walking stick in your hand, and clear off… clear off and keep going, keep going without looking back. And the farther away you get the better it will be.
CHEBUTYKIN. Coming. You're wearing me out, all of you. (To Andrey.) If anyone asks for me, Andrey, tell them that I'll be back very shortly… (He sighs.) Ooh, ooh, ooh!
SOLYONY. Before he had uttered a note, the bear was upon his throat. (Walks with Chebutykin.) Why are you groaning, old man?
CHEBUTYKIN. Why do you ask!
SOLYONY. Are you well or not?
CHEBUTYKIN. (Angrily.) Like cheese and butter.
SOLYONY. The old man is getting angry for nothing. I'll just allow myself a little sport, I'll just wing him, like a snipe. (Takes a flask of perfume from his pocket and sprinkles his hands.) I've poured out a whole flask of the stuff today, and still they smell. Today they smell to me of corpses.
But he, the rebellious one, seeks out the storm,
As if in the heart of storms there might be peace…
CHEBUTYKIN. Yes. Before he had uttered a note, the bear was upon his throat. (Leaves with Solyony.)
ANDREY. (Irritated.) Leave me alone! Just leave me! I am asking you, please, please! (Leaves pushing the pram.)
FERAPONT. What else are papers for, if not for signing. (Goes towards the back of the stage.)
IRINA. That's understandable.
TUZENBACH. (Looks at his watch.) Dearest one, I will be back right away.
IRINA. Where are you going?
TUZENBACH. I must go in to town, in order to… to see off some friends.
IRINA. That's not true… Nikolay, why are you so distracted today?
TUZENBACH. (Makes an impatient gesture.) I'll be back in less than an hour and be with you again. (Kisses her hand.) My darling girl… (Looks into her face.) Five years have already gone since I first fell in love with you, but still I cannot accustom myself to it, and you seem to be more beautiful than ever. What wonderful and entrancing hair! What lovely eyes! I will take you away tomorrow, we will both work, we will be rich, and my dreams will become reality. You will be happy. But there is this one thing, just this one: that you do not love me.
IRINA. That is not something I have any power over. I will be your wife, I'll be faithful and loyal, even without love. What can one do? (She cries.) I didn't fall in love once in my life. I dreamed so much about love, night and day I have dreamed so long about it, but my heart is like a glorious grand piano, and the lid is closed and the key is thrown away.
TUZENBACH. I didn't sleep all night. There's nothing in my life which is so terrible or has the power to frighten me so much as that lost key which breaks my heart and doesn't let me sleep… Talk to me about something.
IRINA. What? What can I say? What?
IRINA. Really! Really!
IRINA. I am going with you.
TUZENBACH. (Alarmed.) No, no! (Quickly walks away, then stops in the avenue of trees.) Irina!
IRINA. What is it?
TUZENBACH. (Not knowing what to say.) I didn't have any coffee this morning. Please ask to have some brewed for me… (Leaves quickly.)
ANDREY. Ah, where is it, where has it gone, my past, when I was young and happy, and clever, when I dreamed and had lofty ideals, when the present and the future were lit up with hope and promise? Why is that, when our lives have scarcely begun, we become boring, grey, uninteresting, lazy, indifferent, useless, unhappy… Our town has been here for at least two hundred years, it has a hundred thousand inhabitants, and there is not one of them in all that number who is not like all the others, not a single saintly fanatic either in the past or in the present, not a single scholar, not a single artist, not even a remotely noteworthy man who might awaken some envy, or the desire to imitate him… All they do is eat, and drink, and sleep, and then die… others are then born and they also eat, and drink and sleep, and so as not to become completely numb from boredom, they embroider their lives with disgusting gossip, with vodka, with cards, and deceptions, and the wives deceive their husbands, while the husbands lie to themselves, they give the appearance that they see nothing and hear nothing, and the oppressing, inescapable and degenerate influence crushes their children, and the spark of divinity is extinguished in them, and they become just the same pitiful and mean corpses without life, all the same as one another, just as their parents were before them… (To Ferapont.) What do you want?
FERAPONT. What's that? Some papers to sign.
ANDREY. You will be the death of me.
FERAPONT. (Gives him the papers.) Just now the porter in the town hall told us that, he said, in St. Petersburg, in the winter, it was minus two hundred degrees of frost.
ANDREY. The present is unbearable, but if I think ahead to the future, ah! how fine it is. It becomes so free and so spacious; in the distance the dawn is breaking, I see freedom, I see how I and my children will be freed from idleness, from cabbage pickle, from roast chicken and vegetables, from dozing after dinner, from crippling inactivity…
FERAPONT. Two thousand people were frozen solid. The people, he said, were terrified. It was either in St. Petersburg, or it was in Moscow, I don't remember which.
ANDREY. (Seized with tender emotion.) My dearest sisters, my wonderful sisters! (Tearfully.) Masha, my own dearest sister…
NATASHA. (At the window.) Who is making that noise with all that talking? Is that you, Andrey darling? You will wake up little Sophie. Il ne faut pas faire du bruit, la Sophie est dormée déjà. Vous êtes un ours. (Flaring up.) If you really must chatter so, then give the pram with the baby to someone else. Ferapont, take the pram from the master.
FERAPONT. Yes Ma'am. (Takes the pram.)
ANDREY. (Embarrassed.) I was talking quietly.
NATASHA. (Behind the window, playing with little Bobik.) Bobik! You rascal, Bobik. You bad boy, Bobik!
ANDREY. (Glancing through the papers.) Alright, I'll have a look through these, and sign whatever is necessary, then you can take them to the council office… (He goes into the house reading the papers; Ferapont wheels the pram away to the far part of the garden.)
NATASHA. (Behind the window.) Bobik, what's your mummy's name? Little darling. Little darling. And who's this? This is auntie Olga, say 'Auntie Olga!', say 'Hello, auntie Olga!'
ANFISA. (gives money to the musicians.) Go on your way with God's blessing, good folks.
VERSHININ. (Glancing at his watch.) We are leaving shortly, Olga Sergeyevna, it's time for me to go.
IRINA. She's somewhere in the garden… I'll go and find her.
VERSHININ. If you would be so kind. I'm rather in a hurry.
ANFISA. I will help find her too. (She shouts.) Masha, hal-oo-oo! (She and Irina depart towards the far end of the garden.) Masha, hal-oo-oo!
VERSHININ. Everything must have an end. Even we must say goodbye. (Glances at his watch.) The town council gave us a sort of lunch, we drank champagne, the dignitaries gave speeches; I ate something and listened, but my heart was really here, with you… (He looks round the garden.) I've grown used to being here.
OLGA. Will we ever see each other again?
VERSHININ. Probably never.
OLGA. Of course. Of course. You need not worry yourself.
VERSHININ. Yes, I know… thank you, for everything… Please forgive me if anything was not entirely proper… I spoke a lot, gabbled so much - forgive me for that, don't have bad memories.
OLGA. (Wipes her eyes.) I wonder where Masha is…
VERSHININ. What can I say as a farewell speech? What should I philosophise about now?… (He laughs.) Life is such a harsh thing. To many it appears as a lonely and hopeless place, but all the same, we have to admit, it is becoming much more clear and more enlightened, and the time is not far away, evidently, when it will become entirely bright and clear. (Looks at his watch.) I must be going, it's already time! Formerly humanity was engaged with warfare, filling all its existence with expeditions, incursions, conquests, but now all that has outlived its time, and it has left in its space a huge emptiness, which, for the time being, there is nothing left to fill… Humanity passionately seeks for something, and, given time, it will surely find it. If only it could find it swiftly, swiftly !
OLGA. Look, she's coming now.
OLGA. There, Masha, there, please stop now, my dearest…
MASHA. (Restraining her sobs.)
A green oak grows by the curving shore,
A gilded chain on the oak tree hangs…
A gilded chain on the oak tree hangs…
I'm going out of my mind… A green oak grows… on the curving shore…
OLGA. Calm yourself, Masha, calm yourself… Let her have some water.
MASHA. I will stop crying…
KULYGIN. She has stopped crying… she is very good
MASHA. (Angrily.) I will not go in there! (She sobs, but quickly controls herself.) I am not going into the house again, I will not go in there.
IRINA. Come on, let's sit down together, and we can be quiet. After all, tomorrow I am leaving…
MASHA. Yes, you really are like our German teacher.
OLGA. (Laughs.) Yes, he is.
KULYGIN. Very much like him…
KULYGIN. A wonderful child, there's no doubt about that.
NATASHA. That means tomorrow I will already be all alone here. (She sighs.) First of all I will have this avenue of pine trees cut down, and then that maple… It's so ugly in the evenings… (To Irina.) You know, my dear Irina, that belt does not suit your style of face… It's badly chosen… You need something brighter than that. Then here I will have bedding plants put in, and here, and there will be a lovely scent… (Sternly.) Why is there a garden fork lying on this bench? (She approaches the house and addresses the maid.) I am asking you, why is there a garden fork lying on this bench? (She shouts.) Shut your mouth!
KULYGIN. She's off again.
KULYGIN. I took them into the house… I'll bring them now… (He goes into the house.)
OLGA. Yes. Now we can go home. It's time.
CHEBUTYKIN. Olga Sergeyevna!
OLGA. What is it?
CHEBUTYKIN. Nothing… I don't know how to tell you this… (Whispers in her ear.)
OLGA. (Horrified.) it can't be!
CHEBUTYKIN. Yes… What a saga… I'm quite worn out, exhausted, I don't want to say any more… (With annoyance.) In any case, it makes no difference!
MASHA. What's happened?
OLGA. (Embraces Irina.) It's been a terrible day… I don't know how to say this to you, my dearest…
IRINA. What is it? Tell me quickly. What is it? For God's sake! (She cries.)
CHEBUTYKIN. The baron has just been killed in a duel…
IRINA. (Cries quietly.) I knew it, I knew it…
CHEBUTYKIN. (Sits on a bench at the rear of the stage.) I'm exhausted… (Takes a newspaper out of his pocket.) Let them cry… (Sings quietly.) Ta-ra-ra boom-de-boom, I sat upon a stone… In any case, what does it matter!
IRINA. (Leans her head on Olga's breast.) The time will come, and everyone will know the meaning of all this, why there is all this suffering, and there won't be any mysteries, but meanwhile, we must go on living… we must work, we must work! Tomorrow I will leave on my own, I will teach in a school and I'll give all my life to those perhaps who need it. It's already autumn, soon it will be winter, the snow will fall, but I will be working, I will go on working…
OLGA. (Embraces both sisters.) The music is playing so cheerfully, it's so full of high spirits that one wants to stay alive. Oh God, Oh God! The time will come when we will be gone forever, we will be forgotten, our faces, our voices, and even how many of us there were. But our suffering will be transformed into happiness for those who live after us, peace and contentment will cover the earth, and they will remember and bless with kind words all those who live now. My dearest, dearest sisters, our life is still not finished. We will go on living. The music is playing so happily, so cheerfully, that it seems, in just a little time, we will know why we live, and why there is all this suffering… If only we could know! If only we could know!
OLGA. If only we could know! If only we could know!
Masha. A green oak grows on the curving shore etc.
The opening lines of Puskin's poem 'Ruslan and Ludmila'.
Kulygin. Feci, quod potui, faciant meliora potentes. (Latin.)
I have done what I could, may others more capable do better.
Kulygin. Mens sana in corpore sano. (Latin.)
A healthy mind in a healthy body.
Chebutykin. Venez ici. (French.)
Natasha. Je vous prie pardonnez moi, Marie etc. (French.)
Pardon me Masha, but I think your behaviour is somewhat coarse.
Natasha. Il parait etc. (French.)
It seems that my Bobik is already awake.
Kulygin. O fallacem spem hominum. (Latin.)
How vain are men's hopes.
(Kulygin's subsequent remark about the accusative case refers to a rule of Latin grammar.)
Kulygin. In vino veritas. (Latin.)
Truth comes from drink.
Vershinin. For love all ages shall be dancing, etc.
This is a quotation from Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, which had been set to music by Tchaikovsky. Vershinin possible takes the tune from T's opera. Chekhov discusses in a letter the interchange of tra-la-las between Vershinin and Masha.
'Tra-la-la…la-la. Vershinin pronounces tra-la-la as if it were a question, but you - as if it were a reply, and to you this appears such an original touch, that you pronounce the tra-la-la with a laugh. (Letter to Olga Knipper [who played the part of Masha in the original production] 20th. January 1901.) It is easier to put this into practice with a familiar tune.
Masha. Amo, amas, amat etc. (Latin.)
I love, you love, he loves, we love, you love, they love.
(Conjugation of the Latin verb, amare, to love.)
Kulygin. Omnia mea mecum porto. (Latin.)
All that I own I carry with me.
Kulygin. Modus vivendi. (Latin.)
The accepted custom.
Kulygin. Ut consecutivm. (Latin.)
A syntactical rule for the use of ut in Latin.
Natasha. Il ne faut pas faire du bruit etc. (Latin.)
Stop making a noise, Sophie is already asleep. You are a bear.
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