by Anton Checkov
IRINA ABKADINA, an actress
CONSTANTINE TREPLIEFF, her son
PETER SORIN, her brother
NINA ZARIETCHNAYA, a young girl, the daughter of a rich landowner ILIA SHAMRAEFF, the manager of SORIN'S estate
PAULINA, his wife
MASHA, their daughter
BORIS TRIGORIN, an author
EUGENE DORN, a doctor
SIMON MEDVIEDENKO, a schoolmaster
JACOB, a workman
The scene is laid in the park on SORIN'S estate. A broad avenue of trees leads away from the audience toward a lake which lies lost in the depths of the park. The avenue is obstructed by a rough stage, temporarily erected for the performance of amateur theatricals, and which screens the lake from view. There is a dense growth of bushes to the left and right of the stage. TREPLIEFF. To your places then. The moon is rising; the play must commence. NINA. Yes, sir.
TREPLIEFF. Is the alcohol ready? Is the sulphur ready? There must be fumes of sulphur in the air when the red eyes shine out. [To NINA] Go, now, everything is ready. Are you nervous? NINA. Yes, very. I am not so much afraid of your mother as I am of Trigorin. I am terrified and ashamed to act before him; he is so famous. Is he young? TREPLIEFF. Yes.
NINA. What beautiful stories he writes!
TREPLIEFF. [Coldly] I have never read any of them, so I can't say. NINA. Your play is very hard to act; there are no living characters in it. It seems more like a recitation. I think love should always come into every play. TREPLIEFF. Attention, ladies and gentlemen! The play is about to begin. [A pause] I shall commence. [He taps the door with a stick, and speaks in a loud voice] O, ye time-honoured, ancient mists that drive at night across the surface of this lake, blind you our eyes with sleep, and show us in our dreams that which will be in twice ten thousand years! NINA. All men and beasts, lions, eagles, and quails, hornd stags, geese, spiders, silent fish that inhabit the waves, starfish from the sea, and creatures invisible to the eye--in one word, life--all, all life, completing the dreary round imposed upon it, has died out at last. A thousand years have passed since the earth last bore a living creature on her breast, and the unhappy moon now lights her lamp in vain. No longer are the cries of storks heard in the meadows, or the drone of beetles in the groves of limes. ARKADINA. [Whispers] What decadent rubbish is this?
TREPLIEFF. [Imploringly] Mother!
ARKADINA. I smell sulphur. Is that done on purpose?
ARKADINA. Oh, I see; that is part of the effect.
TREPLIEFF. [Loudly and angrily] Enough of this! There's an end to the performance. Down with the curtain! ARKADINA. Why, what are you so angry about?
TREPLIEFF. [Stamping his foot] The curtain; down with it! [The curtain falls] Excuse me, I forgot that only a chosen few might write plays or act them. I have infringed the monopoly. I-- I-- He would like to say more, but waves his hand instead, and goes out to the left. TRIGORIN. Everybody must write as he feels, and as best he may. ARKADINA. Let him write as he feels and can, but let him spare me his nonsense. NINA. [Comes in from behind the stage] I see that the play will never be finished, so now I can go home. Good evening. [She kisses ARKADINA and PAULINA.] ARKADINA. We were quite charmed by your acting. With your looks and such a lovely voice it is a crime for you to hide yourself in the country. It is your duty to go on the stage, do you hear me? NINA. It is the dream of my life, which will never come true. ARKADINA. Who knows? Perhaps it will. But let me present Monsieur Boris Trigorin. NINA. I am delighted to meet you. [Embarrassed] I have read all your books. ARKADINA. [Drawing NINA down beside her] Don't be afraid of him, dear. See, he is embarrassed himself. NINA. [To TRIGORIN] It was a curious play, wasn't it?
TRIGORIN. Very. I couldn't understand it at all, but...