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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780804769655
Publisher: Stanford University Press
Publication date: 10/21/2010
Pages: 312
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Marina Brodskaya is a translator, interpreter, and teacher who was born and raised in Leningrad/St. Petersburg. She now lives in Northern California.

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By Anton Chekhov

Stanford University Press

ISBN: 978-0-8047-6966-2

Chapter One


A Drama in Four Acts


IVANOV, NIKOLAI ALEXEYEVICH, a permanent member of the local government, Peasant Affairs division

ANNA PETROVNA, his wife, née Sarra Abramson

SHABELSKY, MATVEY SEMENOVICH, count, Ivanov's uncle on his mother's side

LEBEDEV, PAVEL KIRILLYCH, chairman of the District Council


SASHA, THEIR DAUGHTER, twenty years old

LVOV, EVGENY KONSTANTINOVICH, a young country doctor

BABAKINA, MARFA EGOROVNA, a rich merchant's daughter, young widow, and landowner

KOSYKH, DMITRI NIKITICH, an excise tax clerk

BORKIN, MIKHAIL MIKHAILOVICH, a distant relative of Ivanov and manager of his estate

AVDOTIYA NAZAROVNA, an old woman of uncertain occupation

EGORUSHKA, a freeloader at the Lebedevs


PYOTR, Ivanov's servant

GAVRIL, the Lebedevs' servant


The action takes place in one of the districts in Central Russia.


The garden of Ivanov's country estate. To the left, a terrace and the facade of the house. One window is open. In front of the terrace—a broad semicircle of a lawn; to the left and right of it—paths leading into the garden. On the right—garden settees and small tables. On the last one, a lamp is burning. Evening is descending. As the curtain rises, sounds of a piano and cello duet being rehearsed come from the house.


Ivanov and Borkin.

Ivanov is sitting at a table reading a book. Borkin, in high boots and carrying a rifle, appears in the back of the garden. He is a little tipsy. Upon seeing Ivanov he tiptoes over toward him, and when he comes up very close to him, aims the rifle at his face.

IVANOV [Noticing Borkin, flinches and jumps to his feet]: Misha, for God's sake ... You scared me ... I'm upset as it is and you here with your stupid jokes ... [Sitting down] You've scared me and you're so pleased with yourself ...

BORKIN [Bursts out laughing]: All right, all right, I'm sorry ... [Sits down next to him] I won't do it again ... [Taking off his cap] It's hot. Can you believe, dear boy, I've just knocked off twelve miles in only three hours ... I'm tired out. Here, feel my heart beating ...

IVANOV [Still reading]: Fine, later ...

BORKIN: No, feel it now. [Takes Ivanov's hand and presses it against his chest] Can you hear it? Thump-thump-thump. That means I have a heart murmur and I can die suddenly at any moment. Tell me, will you feel sorry if I die?

IVANOV: I'm reading now ..., later ...

BORKIN: No, seriously, will you feel sorry if I die suddenly? Nikolai Alexeyevich, will you feel sorry if I die?

IVANOV: Don't bother me!

BORKIN: Please, my dear man, tell me: will you feel sorry or not?

IVANOV: I'm sorry that you smell of vodka. Misha, that's disgusting.

BORKIN: Does it really smell? That's most unusual ... But really, there's nothing unusual about it. In Plesniki, I bumped into a prosecutor and we downed, I confess, eight shots each or so. Strictly speaking, of course, drinking is very bad for you. It's bad for you, isn't it? Eh? Is it bad?

IVANOV: This is unbearable ... Misha, don't you see this mockery ...

BORKIN: All right, all right ... my fault, my fault! Never mind, fine, you can sit here by yourself ... [Gets up and goes away] You people are amazing; can't even talk to you ... [Comes back] Oh, yes! I almost forgot ... Eighty-two rubles, please! ...

IVANOV: What eighty-two rubles?

BORKIN: To pay the workers tomorrow.

IVANOV: I don't have it.

BORKIN: Much obliged! [Teasing] I don't have it ... Do we need to pay the workers? Do we?

IVANOV: I don't know. I don't have anything today. Wait till the first of the month when I get my salary.

BORKIN: Try talking to your kind of people! ... The workers are coming for the money not on the first of the month but tomorrow morning! ...

IVANOV: Then what can I do now? Rake me over the coals ... And what a revolting habit you have of bothering me just as I sit down to read or write or ...

BORKIN: Tell me, do we need to pay the workers or not? Ekh, that's what I'm talking about! ... [Waves his hand] Some estate owners, damn it, landowners ... Efficient farming ... Two thousand acres and not a kopeck in his pocket ... He has a wine cellar and no corkscrew ... And what if I sell the troika1 tomorrow! I will! I've already sold the oats in the field, and tomorrow I'll sell the rye. [Marches up and down the stage] You think I'm going to stand on ceremony with you? Do you? You've got the wrong fellow ...


Same characters, Anna and Shabelsky (offstage).

Shabelsky's voice coming through the window: "Playing with you is simply impossible ... You're more tone deaf than a gefilte fish. And your technique is ghastly."

ANNA [Appearing at the open window]: Who was that conversing just now? Was that you, Misha? Why are you marching like that?

BORKIN: Your "Nicolas-voilà" will make you pick up the pace.

ANNA: Misha, tell them to put hay on the croquet lawn.

BORKIN [Waves his hand]: Leave me alone, please!

ANNA: Listen to that tone of voice ... It's not becoming to you at all. If you want women to like you, don't ever get angry in their presence and don't put on airs ... [To her husband] Nikolai, let's go gambol in the hay! ...

IVANOV: Aniuta, it's bad for you to stand by the open window. [Calling] Get away, please ... [Yells out] Uncle, shut the window! The window shuts.

BORKIN: And don't forget also that in two days you need to pay the interest to Lebedev.

IVANOV: I know. I'll be at Lebedev's today and I'll ask him to wait ... [He looks at his watch]

BORKIN: When are you going there?


BORKIN: Wait! Wait! ... Isn't today Shurochka's birthday? Tsk-tsk-tsk-tsk ... And I forgot ... You call that memory! [Jumping] I'll go, I will ... [Singing] I'm going ... I'll go take a bath, chew through some paperwork, take three drops of ammonia—and I'll be as good as new ... My dearest and sweetest Nikolai Alexeyevich, sweetheart, you're always fretting, whining, always in gloomlandia, but just think how much you and I could accomplish together! I'd do anything for you ... Do you want me to marry Marfa Babakina? Take half of her dowry ... No, not half—all of it, take it all! ...

IVANOV: Stop spewing nonsense ...

BORKIN: No, seriously! Do you want me to marry Marfusha?5 The dowry—fifty-fifty ... But why am I telling you this? Can you even grasp this? [Teasing] "Stop spewing nonsense!" You're a good man, intelligent, but you don't have what it takes—you know, no gumption, so to speak. If only we would spread our wings, make the devil himself jealous ... You are crazy, a crybaby, but if you were a normal person, you'd have a million in a year. For instance, if I had twenty-three hundred rubles now, I'd have two hundred thousand in two weeks. You don't believe me? You think it's all nonsense? No, it's not nonsense ... Give me twenty-three hundred rubles and I'll deliver twenty thousand in a week. Just across the river, Ovsianov's selling a strip of land, directly across from us, for twenty-three hundred rubles. If we buy it, then both riverbanks will be ours. And if both riverbanks are ours, then you see, we have a right to build a dam. Isn't that right? We'll build a mill, and as soon as we announce that we are putting a dam here, then everybody who lives down the river will cry gevalt, and we'll say: kommen-sie—if you don't want a dam, then pay up. You get it? The Zarevsky factory will give us five thousand; Korolkov—three thousand, and the monastery will give five thousand ...

IVANOV: Misha, that's all shenanigans ... If you don't want us to have a falling out, keep them to yourself.

BORKIN [Sits down at the table]: Of course! ... I knew it! ... You are not doing anything yourself, only tying my hands ...


Same characters plus Shabelsky and Lvov.

SHABELSKY [Coming out of the house with Lvov]: Doctors are the same as lawyers, the only difference being that lawyers only rob you while doctors rob you and kill you ... Present company excepted. [Sits down on the small garden settee] Charlatans, exploiters ... Perhaps somewhere in Arcadia you can find an exception to the rule, but ... I've spent twenty thousand on treatments, and I have yet to meet a doctor who didn't strike me as a bonafide crook.

BORKIN [To Ivanov]: Well, you're not doing anything yourself, only tying my hands ... That's why we've got no money ...

SHABELSKY: Again, present company excepted ... Maybe there are exceptions, although ... [He yawns]

IVANOV [Closing the book]: What can you tell us, doctor?

LVOV [Glancing at the window]: Same thing as I told you this morning: she needs to go to the Crimea immediately. [Walking]

SHABELSKY [Snorts with laughter]: To the Crimea! ... Misha, why shouldn't you and I treat patients? It's so easy ... Every time Madame Angot or Ophelia gets a scratchy throat or starts coughing out of boredom, you take out a piece of paper and, in keeping with the laws of science, start prescribing: first, a young doctor, then a trip to the Crimea, and in the Crimea—a young Tatar ...

IVANOV [To the count]: Oh, stop droning, you drone! [To Lvov] Going to the Crimea requires money. Even if, suppose, I find the money, she absolutely refuses to go ...

LVOV: Yes, she does.

A pause.

BORKIN: Listen, Doctor, is Anna Petrovna really so sick that she must go to the Crimea? ...

LVOV [Glances at the window]: Yes, she has consumption ...

BORKIN: Oh! ... that's not good ... I've noticed a while back, just by looking at her face, that she isn't long for this world.

LVOV: But talk softly ... you can hear it from the house.

A pause.

BORKIN: [Sighing] This life of ours ... It's like a flower, budding sumptuously in a field; then along comes a jackass, eats it, and there's no more flower ...

SHABELSKY: That's such nonsense, sheer nonsense ... [Yawning] That's just nonsense and more of your schemes.

A pause.

BORKIN: Meanwhile, gentlemen, I've been teaching Nikolai Alexeyevich how to make money. I've shared a great idea with him, but, as usual, the gunpowder fell on damp soil. I can't drill it into him ... Look at him: melancholy, spleen, sorrow, grief, and hopelessness ...

SHABELSKY [Gets up and stretches]: You, brilliant noggin, are always coming up with schemes and teaching everyone but me how to live ... Big brain, tell me how to live, show me the way ...

BORKIN [Getting up]: I'm off to take a dip. Good-bye, gentlemen ... [To the count] You've got twenty ways out ... If I were you, I'd have twenty thousand in a week. [Walks]

SHABELSKY [Follows him]: How's that? Come on, teach me.

BORKIN: There's nothing to teach. It's very simple ... [Comes back] Nikolai Alexeyevich, give me a ruble!

Ivanov hands him the money in silence.

Merci! [To Shabelsky] You are still holding many trump cards.

SHABELSKY [Following him]: Well, which ones?

BORKIN: If I were you, I'd have thirty thousand in a week, if not more. [They walk out together]

IVANOV [After a pause]: These superfluous people, superfluous talk; responding to stupid questions—doctor, all this has exhausted me to the point of illness. I've become irritable, short tempered, brusque, and petty to the point that I no longer recognize myself. I have headaches for days on end, insomnia, ringing in my ears ... And there is no escape, positively none ... None ...

LVOV: I need to have a serious talk with you, Nikolai Alexeyevich.


LVOV: It's about Anna Petrovna. She refuses to go to the Crimea, but she would go with you.

IVANOV [Thoughtfully]: Going together requires money. Besides, they won't give me a long vacation. I've already used up my vacation this year ...

LVOV: Let's assume that it's true. Now, furthermore, the most important medicine for consumption is complete rest, and your wife doesn't know a moment's peace. She's worried constantly about your feelings towards her. Forgive me, I'm upset and will speak frankly. Your behavior's killing her.

A pause.

Nikolai Alexseyevich, I'd like to think better of you! ...

IVANOV: That's all true ... It is probably my fault, but my thoughts are all confused; my heart's paralyzed with laziness, and I'm incapable of understanding myself. I don't understand other people or myself ... [Glances at the window] Someone could overhear us; let's take a walk.

They get up.

My dear friend, I'd tell it to you from the very beginning, but the story's long and complicated, and it'll take all night.

They walk.

Aniuta is a remarkable and extraordinary woman ... She converted, left her mother and father and all her riches for me, and were I to ask her for another hundred such sacrifices, she would do it without batting an eye. Well, whereas there's nothing remarkable about me, and I've made no sacrifices. Although it's a long story ... The point of it is, my dear doctor, [Hesitating] ... that—in short, I got married because I was passionately in love, and I swore to love her forever, but ... five years later, she still loves me, whereas I ... [Spreads his hands in exasperation] Here, you're telling me that she's dying, but I don't feel love or pity; I feel a kind of emptiness and exhaustion. From the outside I must look awful, but I myself don't understand what's happening to my soul ...

They walk down a tree-lined alley.


Shabelsky, then Anna Petrovna.

SHABELSKY [Enters laughing uproariously]: I swear, the man is not a crook, but a great thinker, a virtuoso! He deserves a monument. He combines modern-day pus in all its varieties: a lawyer, a doctor, a scrounger, and a cashier. [Sits down on the lowest step of the terrace] And come to think of it, he never went to the university, that's what's amazing ... Just think what a genius of a scoundrel he could have been had he studied the humanities and absorbed a little culture! He says, "You could have twenty thousand in a week. You still have your trump ace: your title—count. [Laughing uproariously] Any bride with a dowry would marry you ..."

Anna opens the window and looks down.

"Would you like me to fix you up with Marfa, he says?" Qui est-ce que c'est Marfusha? Oh, that Marfusha ... Balabalkina ... the one who looks like a washerwoman.

ANNA: Count, is that you?

SHABELSKY: What is it?

Anna laughs.

[With a Yiddish accent] Vai you lahfink?

ANNA: I just remembered something you said. Remember what you said at lunch? A pardoned thief, a horse ... How does it go?

SHABELSKY: A christened Yid, a pardoned thief, and a crippled steed—are all the same.

ANNA [Laughing]: You can't even make simple word-play without spite. You're a spiteful person. [Seriously] Count, I'm not joking, you're very mean. Living in the same house with you is both boring and terrifying. Always grumbling, complaining, and everybody is always either a rascal or a scoundrel. Tell me honestly, Count, have you ever spoken well of anybody?

SHABELSKY: What kind of an examination is this?

ANNA: We've been living together under the same roof for five years, and I've yet to hear you speak nicely of people, without spitefulness or derision. What have people ever done to you? Do you really think that you're so much better than everybody?

SHABELSKY: I don't think that at all. I think I'm just as much a pig in a skullcap and a rascal like the rest of them. Mauvais ton and a has-been. I always chew myself out. Who am I? What am I? I used to be rich, free, a little happy, but now ... a freeloader, a sponger, a faceless buffoon. I get indignant, I despise them, and they respond by laughing in my face; I laugh and they nod their heads mournfully and say, "The old man's off his rocker." ... But most of the time, they don't hear or notice me ...

ANNA [Gravely]: Here it goes again ...


ANNA: The owl. It hoots every evening.

SHABELSKY: Let it hoot. It can't be any worse than it is already. [Stretching] Alas, my dearest Sarra, were I to win a hundred or two hundred thousand, I'd show you which end is up! I'd be gone in a flash. I'd leave this hole, this free bread, and I wouldn't come back here till the Day of Reckoning ...

ANNA: And if you won, what would you do?

SHABELSKY [Thoughtfully]: First, I'd go to Moscow to hear the Gypsies sing. Then ... then, I'd take off for Paris. I'd rent an apartment there and start going to the Russian Church there ...


Excerpted from FIVE PLAYS by Anton Chekhov Excerpted by permission of Stanford University Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Introduction TOBIAS WOLFF....................ix
Notes on the Translation MONIKA GREENLEAF....................xix
Note on Russian Names....................xxiii
THE SEAGULL....................63
UNCLE VANYA....................115
THREE SISTERS....................161
THE CHERRY ORCHARD....................225

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