translated by

Gerard R. Ledger.


Copyright G. R. Ledger June 1998.

Three Sisters was written by Chekhov in 1900 and first performed by the Moscow Art

Theatre on 31st January 1901.


The text used was that of 'The Complete Collected Works and Letters of A. P. Chekhov', (Polnoe Sobranie Sochineniy i Pisem), Eds. Prof. A. M. Egolin and Prof. N. C. Tichonov, Moscow 1948. Their edition is a copy of the 1902 version of the play, published in Chekhov's collected works of that date.

All stage directions are included, in italics, and mostly enclosed in round brackets. A few extra stage directions have been added, to assist the English reader or player who is unfamiliar with Russian names and may wonder at times who is being addressed. These additional stage directions are all included in square brackets, to indicate that they are not Chekhov's directions. As far as possible the original punctuation has been used, including the frequent use of … which seems to suggest a pause, or an unfinished sentence, or a change of course in mid-sentence.

A few notes have been added at the end of Act Four, giving translations of the foreign phrases used by the characters, and explaining a few other difficulties.

Please notify any errors or omissions to

Academic and amateur use of this translation is freely permitted, provided the customary acknowledgements are made.

G. R. Ledger, June 1998.


A drama in four acts.


ANDREY, Andrey Sergeyevich Prozorov

NATALYA Ivanovna, (Natasha), his fiancée, afterwards his wife.


MASHA } his sisters.


KULYGIN, Fyodor Ilyich, a school teacher, husband of Masha.

VERSHININ, Alexander Ignatyevich, a lieutenant colonel, commander of the

local regiment.

TUZENBACH, Nikolay Lyvovich, a baron and a lieutenant.

SOLYONY, Vasiliy Vasilyevich, a staff captain.

CHEBUTYKIN, Ivan Romanovich, a regimental doctor.

FYEDOTIK, Alexey Petrovich, a sub-lieutenant.

RODEY, Vladimir Karlovich, a sub- lieutenant.

FERAPONT, a watchman for the local council.

ANFISA, Nanny to the Prozorov family, an old lady of 80.

The action takes place in a provincial town.


Inside the Prozorov house. A sitting room with pillars, behind which is seen another large dining or reception room. It is midday; outside it is bright and sunny. In the dining room beyond the table is being laid for lunch. Olga in a blue dress, the official school dress for a teacher of the Girls' High School, is continually correcting exercise books as she stands or while she walks around. Masha in a black dress sits on a chair with her hat on her knees and reads a book. Irina in a white dress is standing deep in thought.

OLGA. Father died exactly a year ago, on this very same day, on the fifth of May, on your name day, Irina. It was very cold, and snow was falling. It seemed to me as if I would not live through it, you were lying in a faint, as if you were dead. But look, a year has gone by and we can remember it lightly, you are already wearing white, and your face is full of brightness…

(The clock strikes eleven.)

And then also the clock struck in just the same way.


I remember, when they carried father out, the band was playing, at the cemetery they fired shots in his honour. He was a general, and commanding officer of a brigade, but even so, not many came to the funeral. But of course, it was raining then. Very heavy rain, and snow.

IRINA. Why do you insist on remembering it!

(Behind the pillars, in the dining room, Baron Tuzenbach, Chebutykin and Solyony appear near the table.)

OLGA. Today it's warm, we can even have the windows open - but the birch trees are still not in leaf. Father was given command of a brigade and left Moscow with us eleven years ago. And I remember it all distinctly, at the beginning of May, just at this time, in Moscow already everything is in flower, it's warm, everything is flooded with sunlight. Eleven years have gone by, but I remember everything there, as if we left Moscow yesterday. Good God! This morning I woke up and I saw a blaze of colour, I saw the spring, and gladness bubbled up inside my heart, and I desperately wanted to be where I came from, in my native land.

CHEBUTYKIN. Its absolutely not true.

TUZENBACH. Of course, it's nonsense.

(Masha, deep in thought over her book, starts to whistle a tune.)

OLGA. Don't whistle Masha. How could you!


Because I go to the school every day and then give lessons until the evening, that is why I continually have headaches, and the thoughts I have are those of an ageing old woman. And really and truly, while I have been working in the school, I feel as if every day my youth and my strength have been oozing away drop by drop. The only thing that grows and strengthens is one single dream ….

IRINA. To go back to Moscow. To sell the house, to finish everything here, and then, to Moscow…

OLGA. Yes. To Moscow, as fast as possible.

(Chebutykin and Tuzenbach laugh.)

IRINA. Our brother, probably, will become a professor, at any rate he won't want to live here. The only difficulty is with poor Masha.

OLGA. Masha will come to Moscow for the whole summer, every year.

(Masha softly whistles a tune.)

IRINA. With God's help it will all work out. (Looking out of the window.) What wonderful weather today. I don't know why everything is so bright inside me today. This morning I remembered that it was my name day, and suddenly I felt happy, and I remembered my childhood, when Mama was still alive. And what wonderful thoughts stirred inside me, wonderful thoughts.

OLGA. Today you are all radiant, you are looking unusually beautiful. And Masha is also beautiful. Andrey would be handsome, only he has grown rather stout, and that doesn't suit him. But I've grown old, and I've grown very thin, it must be because I get angry with the girls at school. But now, today, I am free, I'm at home, and my head doesn't ache at all, and I feel myself to be younger than I was yesterday. I'm twenty eight years old, only twenty eight... Everything is fine, everything as God wishes, but it seems to me, that if I were to marry and if I were at home every day, then it would be much better.


I would love my husband.

TUZENBACH. (To Solyony.) You talk such rubbish, it's annoying to listen to you. (Coming into the sitting room.) I forgot to tell you. Today our new battalion commander, Vershinin, is going to visit you. (He sits at the piano.)

OLGA. Well, of course, we'll be delighted.

IRINA. Is he old?

TUZENBACH. No, not especially. At the most, forty, or forty five. (He plays quietly.) Evidently, he's a fine sort of fellow. He's not stupid, that's for sure. Only he talks a lot.

IRINA. Is he an interesting man?

TUZENBACH. Yes, not bad, only he has a wife, a mother in law, and two daughters. And then, this is his second marriage. He visits people and everywhere he announces that he has a wife and two daughters. He'll say the same here. His wife is a sort of half-wit, with long girlish plaits, she speaks all manner of high-blown phrases, she philosophises and often attempts suicide, evidently to stir up her old man. I would have left someone like that long ago, but he endures it and only complains about her.

SOLYONY. (Coming from the dining room into the sitting room towards Chebutykin.) With one hand I can lift up fifty pounds, but with two I can lift one hundred and fifty, perhaps even two hundred. From that I can conclude that two men are stronger than one not by twice as much, but three times, even more …

CHEBUTYKIN. (Reading the newspaper as he walks in.) For loss of hair... two scruples of naphthalene in half a bottle of surgical spirit... dissolve it and use the mixture every day... (Writes in a notebook.) Yes my dear fellow, we'll make a note of it. (To Solyony.) So, let me explain to you, you get the cork pushed into the bottle, or whatever, have a glass tube running through the cork... Then you take a small pinch of completely ordinary kvass …

IRINA. [To Chebutykin]. Ivan Romanich, dearest Ivan Romanich.

CHEBUTYKIN. What is it, my dearest girl, my enchantment?

IRINA. Tell me, why is it I am so happy today? It's as if my sails are all spread, above me is the wide blue heaven and large white birds are flying in it.

CHEBUTYKIN. (Kissing both her hands, tenderly.) My darling white bird …

IRINA. When I woke up today, I got up and washed, and suddenly it seemed that everything on this earth was clear to me, and I now know how I must live. Dearest Ivan Romanich, I know everything. Man must toil, he must work in the sweat of his brow, whoever he is, and in this alone is encompassed the sense and the aim of his life, his happiness, his raptures. How wonderful to be a workman, one who rises when it is scarcely daylight and breaks stones on the roadway, or a shepherd, or a teacher who teaches children, or an engine driver on the railway... Good God, let alone being a man, it would be better to be an ox, better to be a simple horse, as long as one works, rather than be a young woman who stirs at eleven o'clock in the morning, then drinks coffee in bed, then takes two hours to get dressed... Oh, that is appalling! Just as in hot weather you are sometimes dying for a drink, that is how much I want to work. And if I am not going to get up early and devote myself to work, then deny me your friendship Ivan Romanich.

CHEBUTYKIN. (Tenderly.) I will deny it, I will …

OLGA. Father taught us to get up at seven o'clock. But now Irina wakes up at seven and then lies in bed till at least nine o'clock and thinks about something. And she has such a serious face. (She laughs.)

IRINA. You are in the habit of seeing me as a young girl, and it's strange to you when I have a serious face. But I'm twenty years old.

TUZENBACH. A longing for work, Gods above, how I understand it! I haven't worked once in my life. I was born in St. Petersburg, where it is cold and detached, into a family which never new work and had no cares. I remember when I used to come home from the cadet corps, a servant would pull my boots off for me, and I would be bad tempered while he was doing it, and my mother used to look upon me with a sort of reverence and was amazed when other people had a different view of me. They carefully preserved me from work. Only they barely managed to protect me, only barely. A time will come, storm clouds are building up all around us, a heavy, mighty tempest is preparing, which will overtake us, it is already near, and it will blow away from our society idleness, indifference, prejudice against work, and putrefying boredom. I will work, and within some twenty five or thirty years every single individual will be working. Every single one.

CHEBUTYKIN. I won't work.

TUZENBACH. You don't count.

SOLYONY. In twenty five years time you won't be on the earth any longer, thank God. In two or three years you'll either die of a fit, or I will fly into a rage and slam a bullet into your head, my dear angel. (Takes from his pocket a scent bottle and sprinkles the scent on his chest and hands.)

CHEBUTYKIN. (Laughs.) But it's true, I never did anything. When I left university I didn't lift a finger, I didn't even read a book, I only read newspapers... (Takes another newspaper from his pocket.) Look... I know from the newspapers that there was, for example, someone, Dobrolyubov shall we say, and that he wrote here that - I don't know... God knows what he wrote...

(A knocking is heard under the floor from the room beneath.)

Now look... I'm being summoned from below, somebody's here to see me. I'll be back right away ... wait for me … (He hurries away, stroking his beard.)

IRINA. This is some scheme of his.

OLGA. Yes, it's awful. He's always doing idiotic things.

MASHA. A green oak grows by the curving shore,

A gilded chain on the oak tree hangs...

A gilded chain on the oak tree hangs … (She stands up and quietly


OLGA. You're not happy today Masha.

(Masha continues humming and puts on her hat.)

Where are you going?

MASHA. Home.

IRINA. That's very strange.

TUZENBACH. To leave the Saint's day party!

MASHA. It doesn't matter... I will be back this evening. Goodbye, dearest. (She kisses Irina.) Once again I wish you all health, and all happiness... In earlier years, when father was alive, every time we would have thirty or forty officers at our parties, it was bustling and noisy, but today, there's just one and a half men and it's quiet, like the desert... I'm leaving now... Today I have a fit of the blues, I'm not happy, so don't listen to me. (Laughing through her tears.) We'll talk afterwards, so goodbye for the time being, my dearest, I'm just going off somewhere.

IRINA. (Annoyed.) Well, I don't know …

OLGA. (Tearfully.) I understand you Masha.

SOLYONY. If a man philosophises, then it will be philosophy, or at least sophistry; but if a woman philosophises, or two women, then you will have - pull the other leg please.

MASHA. What exactly do you mean by that, you terrible uncouth man?

SOLYONY. Nothing. Before he had uttered a note, the bear was upon his throat.


MASHA. (Angrily, to Olga.) Do stop moaning!

(Anfisa and Ferapont enter with a cake.)

ANFISA. This way, old fellow. Come in, your boots are clean. (To Irina.) The local council, from Protopopov, Mikhail Ivanich, a cake …

IRINA. Thank you. Give him my thanks. (Accepts the cake.)

FERAPONT. What's that?

IRINA. (Louder.) Give him my thanks.

OLGA. Nanny, give him some cake. Ferapont, if you go out through there they will give you some cake.

FERAPONT. What's that?

ANFISA. Come on, old man. Come this way Ferapont. Let's go... (She goes out with Ferapont.)

MASHA. I don't like that Protopopov, that Mikhail Potapich or Ivanich. He ought not to be invited.

IRINA. I didn't invite him.

MASHA. That's excellent.

(Chebutykin enters, followed by a soldier carrying a silver samovar; a gasp of amazement and displeasure.)

OLGA. (Covers her face with her hands.) A samovar! This is dreadful! (Goes into the dining room to the table.)

IRINA. [To Chebutykin]. My dearest, dearest Ivan Romanich, what are you doing?

TUZENBACH. (Laughs.) I told you so.

MASHA. Ivan Romanich, you simply have no shame.

CHEBUTYKIN. My dearest children, most sweet, most beautiful girls, you are my sole delight, you are the dearest things that exist here on this earth. I will soon be sixty, I am an old man, alone, a worthless old man... There is nothing of any worth in me, except the love I have for you three, and if you were not here, then I would long ago have ceased to live on the earth... (To Irina.) My sweet one, my little child, I have known you since the day you were born... I carried you in my arms... I loved your late mother …

IRINA. But why such expensive presents.

CHEBUTYKIN. (Tearfully and angrily.) Expensive presents…What utter nonsense! (To the orderly.) Put the samovar over there… (In a mocking voice.) Expensive presents…

(The orderly carries the samovar through to the dining room.)

ANFISA. (Walking across the sitting room.) My dears, there is an unknown colonel. He's already taken off his overcoat, children, and he's coming this way. Irina, dearest, be kind to him, treat him well… (Going out.) It's already time for lunch… Lord, oh Lord…

TUZENBACH. Vershinin, for sure.

(Vershinin enters.)

Lieutenant Colonel Vershinin!

VERSHININ. (To Masha and Irina.) I have the honour to introduce myself - Vershinin. I am very, very pleased that at last I have managed to visit you. How you have changed! What a place! What a place!

IRINA. Please sit down. We are delighted.

VERSHININ. (Joyfully.) I am so happy, so happy to be here. But you were three sisters. I remember - three little girls. Your faces I can't say I remember, but that your father, colonel Prozorov, had three little girls, I particularly remember, and I saw it with my own eyes. How time flies! Ah, yes, how time flies!

TUZENBACH. Alexander Ignatyevich is from Moscow.

IRINA. From Moscow? Are you from Moscow?

VERSHININ. Yes, I'm from there. Your father was a garrison commander there, and I was an officer in the same brigade. (To Masha.) I think I seem to remember your face just a little.

MASHA. But yours I don't, no, not at all!

IRINA. Olga! Olga! (Shouts through to the dining room.) Olga, come in here.

(Olga comes into the sitting room.)

Lieutenant Colonel Vershinin, it turns out, is from Moscow.

VERSHININ. You, surely, must be Olga Sergeyevna, the eldest… And you are Masha… And you, Irina - the youngest.

OLGA. And you're from Moscow?

VERSHININ. Yes. I studied in Moscow and began my military service in Moscow. I served there a long time, but finally I was given a posting here - and so I transferred here, as you see. I don't remember you exactly, I only remember that you were three sisters. Your father is still fresh in my memory, and if I close my eyes I can see him, as if he were alive. I used to visit you in Moscow.

OLGA. I thought I remembered everyone, and suddenly…

VERSHININ. My name is Alexander Ignatyevich…

IRINA. Alexander Ignatyevich, and you're from Moscow… Such a surprise!

OLGA. You know, we intend to move there.

IRINA. We think that by the autumn we will be gone. Our home town, we were born there… On Old Basmanny Street…

(They both laugh with pleasure.)

MASHA. How unexpected to see a fellow countryman. (Vivaciously.) Now I remember, Olga, at home there was talk about 'the love-sick major. You were then a lieutenant and in love with someone, and everyone teased you for some reason as the major…

VERSHININ. (He laughs.) That's it, that's it… The love-sick major, it was just that…

MASHA. Then you had only a moustache. How much you have aged! (Tearfully.) How much you have aged!

VERSHININ. Yes, when they called me the love-sick major I was still a young man, and I was in love. Not so now.

OLGA. But you still haven't got a single grey hair. You might have aged, but you're still not old.

VERSHININ. But I am already forty three. Is it long since you left Moscow?

IRINA. Eleven years. Now why Masha, why are you crying, you silly… (Tearfully.) Look, it's making me cry…

MASHA. It's nothing. What street did you live on?

VERSHININ. On Old Basmanny Street.

OLGA. We were there also…

VERSHININ. At one time I lived on German Street. From German Street I frequently crossed to The Red Barracks. On the way there, there was a gloomy bridge, and the water gurgled under the bridge. Alone on that bridge your heart became heavy.


But here there is such a wide and splendid river. A wonderful river.

OLGA. Yes, but here it's cold. It's cold, and there are mosquitoes…

VERSHININ. What do you mean! Here its such a healthy, such a fine, such a truly Slavonic climate. The woods, the river… and here besides there are birch trees. Those beautiful, modest birches, I love them more than any other tree. Its fine to live here. But it is strange, the rail station is fifteen miles away… And nobody knows why that is.

SOLYONY. I know why it is.

(They all look at him.)

Because, if the station were nearer, it would not be far away, but if it is far away then, evidently, it cannot be nearby.

(An awkward silence.)

TUZENBACH. You're a buffoon, Vasily Vasilich.

OLGA. Now I remember you. I do remember.

VERSHININ. I knew your mother.

CHEBUTYKIN. She was beautiful, God rest her soul.

IRINA. Mamma is buried in Moscow.

OLGA. In the Novo-Devichy cemetery…

MASHA. Just think, I am already beginning to forget her face. People will not remember us either. They will forget.

VERSHININ. Yes. They will forget. That is our fate, you can't do anything about it. The things which to us seem serious, significant, very important, - the time will come - they will be forgotten or they will seem of no consequence.


And it's interesting, at the moment we have no means of knowing what especially will be considered elevated or important, or what will be pitiful and ridiculous. Is it possible that the discoveries of Copernicus, or, shall we say, Columbus, appeared in the first instance unnecessary and laughable, while some empty waffle written by a freak seemed to be true. And it could happen that our present day life, which we accept so unquestioningly, will in time appear strange, awkward, stupid, somewhat unclean, perhaps even warped and sinful…

TUZENBACH. Who knows? Perhaps our life now will be called sublime and people will mention it with reverence. For nowadays there is no torture, no capital punishment, no violent invasions, but at the same time, how much suffering there is.

SOLYONY. (In a shrill voice.) Cheep, cheep, cheep… Don't feed the baron with buckwheat, just give him a chance to philosophise.

TUZENBACH. Vasily Vasilich, I must ask you to leave me in peace. (Sits in a different place.) Its quite boring, when all's said and done.

SOLYONY. (In a shrill voice.) Cheep, cheep, cheep…

TUZENBACH. (To Vershinin.) The sufferings which may be observed nowadays - they are so widespread and so vast - but people speak nevertheless about a certain moral improvement which society has achieved…

VERSHININ. Of course, of course.

CHEBUTYKIN. You said just now, Baron, that they will call our life sublime; but people despite that are debased. (He stands up.) Look how debased I am. Such things have to be said to console me, that my life is sublime, that's understood.

(Behind the scene someone plays the violin.)

MASHA. That's Andrey playing, our brother.

IRINA. He's very scholarly. He's bound to be a professor. Father was a military man, but his son chose for himself an academic career.

MASHA. According to Father's wishes.

OLGA. We were teasing him today. It seems that he's a little bit in love.

IRINA. With a local damozel. She will be here today, in all probability.

MASHA. But heavens above how she dresses! It's not that it's ugly, or unfashionable, it's just pitiful. Some sort of strange, glaring, yellowish skirt with a vulgar sort of fringe and a crimson blouse. And her cheeks are so scrubbed, absolutely scrubbed. Andrey is not in love - I won't agree to that, for at least he has some taste, but he's simply like that, he teases us, he plays the fool. I heard yesterday that she's going to marry Protopopov, the chairman of the local council. That's excellent… (Through the side door.) Andrey, come in here. Dear Andrey, just for a minute.

(Enter Andrey.)

OLGA. This is my brother, Andrey Sergeyevich.

VERSHININ. Vershinin.

ANDREY. Prozorov. (Wipes the sweat from his face.) You are our new military commander?

OLGA. Just imagine, Alexander Ignatich is from Moscow.

ANDREY. Really? Then I congratulate you, for now my sisters will give you no rest.

VERSHININ. I think I have already succeeded in boring your sisters.

IRINA. Look at this. This is the portrait frame that Andrey gave me today as a present. (She shows him a frame.) He made it himself.

VERSHININ. (Looking at the frame and not knowing what to say.) Yes… of course…

IRINA. And that frame over there, on the piano, he made that as well.

(Andrey gesticulates and walks away.)

OLGA. He's the cleverest of the four of us, he plays the violin, and he does fretwork - to put it in a few words, he's good at everything. Andrey, don't go away. That's just what he's like. He always walks away.

(Masha and Irina, laughing, take him by the arms and lead him back.)

MASHA. This way! This way!

ANDREY. Leave me alone, please.

MASHA. You're so quirky. They used to call Alexander Ignatyevich the love-sick major, but he didn't take the slightest offence.

VERSHININ. Not the slightest.

MASHA. But I want to call you 'The love-sick violinist'!

IRINA. Or 'The love-sick professor'!…

OLGA. He's in love! Our little Andrey is in love!

IRINA. (Clapping.) Bravo, bravo! Encore! Our little Andrey is in love!

CHEBUTYKIN. (Goes up behind Andrey and clasps him round the waist with both his arms.) For love alone upon this planet, Our guardian Nature us did place! (He laughs; all the time he holds a newspaper.)

ANDREY. That's it, enough, enough… (Wipes his face.) I didn't sleep all night and now I'm not quite myself, as they say. I read until four, then I went to bed, but it was no good. I thought of this and that, but here the dawn is early, and the sun comes right into my bedroom. I intend, during the summer, while I am here, to translate a book from English.

VERSHININ. Do you read English?

ANDREY. Yes. Our late Father, may God rest his soul, oppressed us with education. It's funny and somewhat stupid, but all the same I have to admit it, after his death I started to put on weight, and I've grown fat inside a year, as if my body had freed itself from being watched. Thanks to Father I and my sisters know French, German and English, and Irina knows Italian as well. But at what a price!

MASHA. In this town to know three languages is an unnecessary luxury. It's not even a luxury, but a sort of unnecessary addition, like a sixth finger. We have a great deal of superfluous knowledge.

VERSHININ. Well fancy that! (He laughs.) To have superfluous knowledge! It seems to me that there is not and there could not be such a dull and gloomy town which would not have need of clever and educated people. Let us suppose that among the hundred thousand inhabitants of that town, which we accept is backward and uncultured, there would only be three such as you. It stands to reason that you would be unable to overcome the surrounding mass of dark ignorance. In the course of your life, little by little, you would have to yield and become absorbed by the crowds in their thousands, life would smother you, but all the same you would not disappear, you would not be without influence. Of people like yourselves perhaps another six would appear when you were gone, then twelve, and so on and so on, until, finally, those such as you would be in the majority. After two or three hundred years life on this earth will be unimaginably beautiful and extraordinary. Mankind needs such a life, and if for the time being it is not at hand, then he must have an apprehension of it, wait for it, dream about it, prepare himself for it, and for this purpose he must perceive and know more than his father and grandfather perceived and knew. (He laughs.) And you complain that you know much that is superfluous.

MASHA. (Takes off her hat.) I will stay for lunch.

IRINA. (With a sigh.) Really, all this ought to be written down…

(Andrey has disappeared, having left without being noticed.)

TUZENBACH. After many years, you say, life on the earth will be beautiful and extraordinary. That's true. But to be able to participate in it now, even remotely, one must prepare oneself for it, one must work…

VERSHININ. (He stands up.) Yes. What a marvellous lot of flowers you have here. (Looking around.) A wonderful room. I'm envious. All my life I have been hanging around rooms with just two chairs, with one settee, and with stoves that always smoke. It is precisely flowers like this which have been missing all of my life. (He rubs his hands.) Ah, well, what does it matter?

TUZENBACH. Yes, one must work. You no doubt think 'He's a German, he's slightly touched'. But I give you my word of honour, I'm a Russian, I do not even speak German. My father was Russian orthodox…


VERSHININ. (Paces the room.) I often think, what if one were to start one's life again, with full consciousness? If one life, which had already been lived, were, so to speak, a rough sketch, and the other - a full drawing! Then each one of us would, I think, first of all strive not to repeat himself, at least he would create for himself other surroundings and circumstances, he would arrange to have such a room with flowers, with this mass of bloom… I have a wife, and two daughters, and in addition my wife is not very well, and so on and so forth, but then, if I were to start my life afresh, then I would not marry… Definitely not!

(Kulygin enters wearing official school clothing.)

KULYGIN. (Goes up to Irina.) My dearest sister, permit me to congratulate you on the day of your Saint and to wish you, sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, good health and all those things which a young girl of your age might wish herself. And then I would like to offer you, as a present, this little book. (Gives her a small book.) It is the story of our school, over the last fifty years, written by me. A trifling little book, written in my spare time, but do, nevertheless, read it my dear. Good day to you all, Gentlemen! (To Vershinin.) Kulygin, teacher of the local boy's school. His majesty's official servant of the seventh grade. (To Irina.) In that little book you will find a list of all those who completed their courses in our school over the last fifty years. 'Feci, quod potui, faciant meliora potentes.' (He kisses Masha.)

IRINA. But you already gave me exactly the same book at Easter.

KULYGIN. (He laughs.) That cannot be! Well in that case give it back, or better still give it to the colonel. Please take it, colonel. At some time you will read it out of boredom.

VERSHININ. Thank you. (He gets ready to leave.) I am so pleased that I have been able to meet you…

OLGA. Are you leaving? No, you must not!

IRINA. You must stay to lunch with us. Please do so.

OLGA. I insist that you stay!

VERSHININ. (He bows.) It seems that I have stumbled on a Saint's day celebration. Pardon me, I did not know, I did not congratulate you… (He goes out with Olga into the dining room.)

KULYGIN. Today, gentlemen, it is Sunday, a day of rest, and we will rest, we will enjoy our leisure, everyone according to his age and position. Carpets should be taken up and put away until the winter… with Persian powder or with naphthalene… the Romans were healthy because they knew how to work, they maintained 'mens sana in corpore sano' - a healthy mind in a healthy body. Their life was regulated according to strict patterns and forms. Our director and head teacher says this: 'The important part of every life is its formal structure… Whatever loses its form is ruined - and it is the same with our day to day life.' (He puts his arms around Masha's waist and laughs.) Masha loves me. My wife loves me. One should take the curtains down also, and put them away with the carpets… Today I am happy, I am in an excellent frame of mind. Masha, today at four o'clock we are going to the head's apartments. A walk with all the teachers and their families has been arranged.

MASHA. I am not going.

KULYGIN. (Offended.) Dear Masha, why not?

MASHA. We'll talk about it later… (Angrily.) Alright, I'll go, only leave me alone, please… (She walks away.)

KULYGIN. And then we'll spend the evening at the with the head as well. Despite all his physical frailties, this is a man who strives above all to be sociable. He's a most excellent, enlightened personality. A most splendid example of a man. Yesterday, after our meeting, he said to me: 'I'm worn out, Fyodor Ilyich, I'm worn out.' (He looks at the clock on the wall, then at his own watch.) Your clock is seven minutes fast. Yes, he said, I'm worn out.

(Behind the scene someone plays the violin.)

OLGA. Gentlemen, we request the pleasure of your company, lunch is served. And there are desserts.

KULYGIN. Ah, my dearest, dearest Olga! Yesterday I worked from morning until eleven in the evening, I was exhausted, and now I feel myself to be so happy. (Goes into the dining room towards the table.) Dearest Olga…

CHEBUTYKIN. (Puts the newspaper in his pocket and strokes his beard.) Desserts? Splendid!

MASHA. (Sternly to Chebutykin.) But listen to me: Don't drink anything today. Do you hear? It's bad for you.

CHEBUTYKIN. Drop it, drop it! That's all past. Two years since I last had a binge. (Impatiently.) Heavens above, does it matter!

MASHA. All the same, don't you dare to drink. Don't you dare. (Angrily, but so that her husband does not hear.) Again, blast it, to spend another entire boring evening at the head's apartments.

TUZENBACH. I wouldn't go if I were in your place… It's quite simple.

CHEBUTYKIN. Don't go, my little darling.

MASHA. Yes, don't go… Oh what a cursed, wretched, unbearable life… (Goes to the dining room.)

CHEBUTYKIN. (Following her.) Stea-eady!

SOLYONY. (Passing through into the dining room.) Cheep, cheep, cheep…

TUZENBACH. That's enough, Vasily Vasilich! Stop it!

SOLYONY. Cheep, cheep, cheep…

KULYGIN. (Happily.) Good health, Colonel! I'm a school master, but here I'm at home, as it were, for I'm Masha's husband… She's so good, such a good woman…

VERSHININ. I'll have a drink of this black vodka… (He drinks.) Good health! (To Olga.) I feel so relaxed here.

(Irina and Tuzenbach remain alone in the sitting room.)

IRINA. Masha is out of sorts today. She married when she was eighteen, when her husband seemed to her to be the cleverest of men. But now it's different. He's certainly a good man, but not exactly the cleverest.

OLGA. (Impatiently.) Andrey, are you going to join us or not!

ANDREY. (From behind the scene.) I'm just coming. (Enters and goes to the table.)

TUZENBACH. What are you thinking of?

IRINA. Nothing much. I don't like that Solyony of yours, he frightens me. He always talks nonsense…

TUZENBACH. He's a strange man. I feel sorry for him, but also angry, but more sorrow than anger. It seems that he's rather shy. When I'm with him alone, then he's very intelligent and kind, but in society he's generally coarse, a bit of a bruiser. Don't go yet, wait until they've all sat at the table. Let me just be with you, near you. What are you thinking of?


You're twenty years old, and I'm not yet thirty. How many years remain ahead of us, a long, long series of days, all full of my love for you…

IRINA. Nikolay Lyvovich, don't talk to me about love.

TUZENBACH. (Not hearing her.) I have a desperate thirst for life, for the struggle, for toil, and this thirst in my soul is merged with my love for you Irina, and it's as if on purpose that you are beautiful, and my life seems to be beautiful in the same way! What are you thinking of?

IRINA. You talk about a beautiful life. Yes, but suppose that it only appears to be so. For us three sisters life has not been so beautiful, it has smothered us, like choking weeds… I can't help crying. This is really unnecessary. (She quickly wipes her face and smiles.) We must work, work and work. The reason we are unhappy and look on life so gloomily is that we don't know how to work…

(Enter Natalya Ivanovna. She is dressed in pink, with a green belt.)

NATASHA. They're already sitting for lunch… I'm late… (Briefly looks in the mirror, straightens herself.) Well, my hair is alright, I think… (Seeing Irina.) Dearest Irina, many happy returns! (Kisses her firmly and persistently.) What a lot of guests you have, to tell you the truth, I'm feeling rather awkward… Baron, good morning.

OLGA. (Coming into the sitting room.) Ah, here is Natasha. Welcome , my dearest.

(They kiss.)

NATASHA. Birthday greetings. You have so many people here, I'm terribly shy…

OLGA. It's nothing, they're all people we know. (In a low voice, somewhat shocked.) The green belt you're wearing! My dear, it's just not right!

NATASHA. Is it bad luck?

OLGA. No, it simply doesn't suit the dress… it's rather strange…

NATASHA. (In a tearful voice.) Really? But it's not quite green, it's rather a matt colour. (Follows Olga into the dining room.)

(In the dining room they are seated for lunch; the sitting room is empty.)

KULYGIN. Irina, I wish you a fine, handsome fiancé. It's time that you were married.

CHEBUTYKIN. [To Natasha]. Natalya Ivanaovna, I wish you a fiancé as well.

KULYGIN. Natalya Ivanovna already has a fiancé.

MASHA. (Raps with a fork against a plate.) Why not down a glass or two! Friends, life is rosy, let us celebrate all we can

KULYGIN. You would lose marks for that, Masha.

VERSHININ. The liqueur is wonderful. What's it made of?

SOLYONY. It's made from beetles.

IRINA. (In a tearful voice.) No! No! That's just disgusting!..

OLGA. For dinner there will be roast turkey followed by apple tart. Thank God, today I have all day at home. I'm at home in the evening… Gentlemen, do come this evening…

VERSHININ. May I come this evening?

IRINA. Please do.

NATASHA. They don't stand on ceremony.

CHEBUTYKIN. For love alone upon this planet, Our guardian Nature us did place! (He laughs.)

ANDREY. (Angrily.) Stop it. All of you!. Aren't you tired of it yet?

(Fyedotik and Rodey enter with a large basket of flowers.)

FYEDOTIK. It seems they're already eating.

RODEY. (Loudly and gutturally.) Eating? Yes, they're already eating.

FYEDOTIK. Hold still for a minute! (He takes a photograph.) That's one! Just wait a moment longer. (Takes another photograph.) Two! That's all done! (They take the basket and go into the dining room., where they are noisily welcomed.)

RODEY. Happy name day, and I wish you absolutely everything, everything! Today the weather is enchanting, it's simply magnificent. Today I was out strolling all morning with the students. I teach P. E. in the High School…

FYEDOTIK. You can move now, Irina, you can move! (He takes a photograph.) You look so charming today. (Takes a humming top from his pocket.) Here, while I think of it, a spinning top… Makes a wonderful sound…

IRINA. What a lovely thing!

MASHA. A green oak grows by the curving shore,

A gilded chain on the oak tree hangs...

A gilded chain on the oak tree hangs …

(Tearfully.) But why do I keep repeating it? That phrase has stuck in my mind from early this morning…

KULYGIN. There are thirteen at the table!

RODEY. Ladies and gentlemen, surely you don't believe in these superstitions? (Laughter.)

KULYGIN. If there are thirteen at the table, then, evidently, somebody here is in love. [To Chebutykin.] Would it be you, by any chance, Ivan Romanich… (Laughter.)

CHEBUTYKIN. I know I am an old sinner, but, joking aside, I really can't understand why Natasha here is so embarrassed.

(Loud laughter; Natasha runs from the dining room into the sitting room. Andrey follows her.)

ANDREY. It's alright, don't pay any attention to them. Wait, stay a minute… Please…

NATASHA. I'm so ashamed… I don't know what is happening to me, but I know they're making fun of me. I just left the table, I know it's impolite, but I can't help it… I can't help it… (Covers her face with her hands.)

ANDREY. My dearest one, please, please, I implore you, don't be upset. I'm absolutely certain, they are joking, they do it from the goodness of their hearts. My darling one, my beautiful, they are all good people, honest and well-meaning, and they love both you and me. Come to the window, over here they can't see us. (He looks around.)

NATASHA. I'm so unused to being in the big world.

ANDREY. Innocent youth, most wonderful, most beautiful youth. My darling, my beautiful one, don't be so upset… Believe me, believe me… I feel so absolutely inspired, my heart is full of love and delight… Ah, now they can't see us, they can't see us! For what reason, for what reason I fell in love with you, when I fell in love - I just don't understand at all. My darling girl, my beautiful, my pure one, be my wife! I love you, I love you… as I have never loved anyone before… (They kiss.)

(Two officers come into the room and seeing the kissing couple they stand and gaze in astonishment.)