VOITSKI'S bedroom, which is also his office. A table stands near
the window; on it are ledgers, letter scales, and papers of every
description. Near by stands a smaller table belonging to ASTROFF,
with his paints and drawing materials. On the wall hangs a cage
containing a starling. There is also a map of Africa on the wall,
obviously of no use to anybody. There is a large sofa covered
with buckram. A door to the left leads into an inner room; one to
the right leads into the front hall, and before this door lies a
mat for the peasants with their muddy boots to stand on. It is an
autumn evening. The silence is profound. TELEGIN and MARINA are
sitting facing one another, winding wool.
Be quick, Marina, or we shall be called away to say
good-bye before you have finished. The carriage has already been
MARINA [Trying to wind more quickly] I am a little tired.
They have been frightened. The professor's wife won't
stay here an hour longer. "If we are going at all, let's be off,"
says she, "we shall go to Kharkoff and look about us, and then we
can send for our things." They are travelling light. It seems,
Marina, that fate has decreed for them not to live here.
And quite rightly. What a storm they have just raised! It
It was indeed. The scene was worthy of the brush of
I wish I'd never laid eyes on them. [A pause] Now we
shall have things as they were again: tea at eight, dinner at
one, and supper in the evening; everything in order as decent
folks, as Christians like to have it. [Sighs] It is a long time
since I have eaten noodles.
Yes, we haven't had noodles for ages. [A pause] Not for
ages. As I was going through the village this morning, Marina,
one of the shop-keepers called after me, "Hi! you hanger-on!" I
felt it bitterly.
Don't pay the least attention to them, master; we are all
dependents on God. You and Sonia and all of us. Every one must
work, no one can sit idle. Where is Sonia?
In the garden with the doctor, looking for Ivan. They
fear he may lay violent hands on himself.
You didn't? Very well, I shall have to wait a little
longer, and then you will have to forgive me if I resort to
force. We shall have to bind you and search you. I mean what I
Do as you please. [A pause] Oh, to make such a fool of
myself! To shoot twice and miss him both times! I shall never
When the impulse came to shoot, it would have been as
well had you put a bullet through your own head.
VOITSKI [Shrugging his shoulders] Strange! I attempted murder,
and am not going to be arrested or brought to trial. That means
they think me mad. [With a bitter laugh] Me! I am mad, and those
who hide their worthlessness, their dullness, their crying he
artlessness behind a professor's mask, are sane! Those who marry
old men and then deceive them under the noses of all, are sane! I
saw you kiss her; I saw you in each other's arms!
Yes, sir, I did kiss her; so there. [He puts his thumb
to his nose.]
VOITSKI [His eyes on the door] No, it is the earth that is mad,
because she still bears us on her breast.
Well? Am I not a madman, and therefore irresponsible?
Haven't I the right to talk nonsense?
This is a farce! You are not mad; you are simply a
ridiculous fool. I used to think every fool was out of his
senses, but now I see that lack of sense is a man's normal state,
and you are perfectly normal.
VOITSKI [Covers his face with his hands] Oh! If you knew how
ashamed I am! These piercing pangs of shame are like nothing on
earth. [In an agonised voice] I can't endure them! [He leans
against the table] What can I do? What can I do?
You must tell me something! Oh, my God! I am forty-seven
years old. I may live to sixty; I still have thirteen years
before me; an eternity! How shall I be able to endure life for
thirteen years? What shall I do? How can I fill them? Oh, don't
you see? [He presses ASTROFF'S hand convulsively] Don't you see,
if only I could live the rest of my life in some new way! If I
could only wake some still, bright morning and feel that life had
begun again; that the past was forgotten and had vanished like
smoke. [He weeps] Oh, to begin life anew! Tell me, tell me how to
ASTROFF [Crossly] What nonsense! What sort of a new life can you
and I look forward to? We can have no hope.
Tell me what to do. [He puts his hand to his heart] I
feel such a burning pain here.
ASTROFF [Shouts angrily] Stop! [Then, more gently] It may be
that posterity, which will despise us for our blind and stupid
lives, will find some road to happiness; but we--you and I--have
but one hope, the hope that we may be visited by visions, perhaps
by pleasant ones, as we lie resting in our graves. [Sighing] Yes,
brother, there were only two respectable, intelligent men in this
county, you and I. Ten years or so of this life of ours, this
miserable life, have sucked us under, and we have become as
contemptible and petty as the rest. But don't try to talk me out
of my purpose! Give me what you took from me, will you?
You took a little bottle of morphine out of my
medicine-case. [A pause] Listen! If you are positively determined
to make an end to yourself, go into the woods and shoot yourself
there. Give up the morphine, or there will be a lot of talk and
guesswork; people will think I gave it to you. I don't fancy
having to perform a post-mortem on you. Do you think I should
find it interesting?
Yes, he took it. [A pause] I am absolutely sure.
Give it up! Why do you want to frighten us? [Tenderly]
Give it up, Uncle Vanya! My misfortune is perhaps even greater
than yours, but I am not plunged in despair. I endure my sorrow,
and shall endure it until my life comes to a natural end. You
must endure yours, too. [A pause] Give it up! Dear, darling Uncle
Vanya. Give it up! [She weeps] You are so good, I am sure you
will have pity on us and give it up. You must endure your sorrow,
Uncle Vanya; you must endure it.
VOITSKI takes a bottle from the drawer of the table and hands it
There it is! [To SONIA] And now, we must get to work at
once; we must do something, or else I shall not be able to endure
Yes, yes, to work! As soon as we have seen them off we
shall go to work. [She nervously straightens out the papers on
the table] Everything is in a muddle!
ASTROFF [Putting the bottle in his case, which he straps
together] Now I can be off.
Couldn't you stay? Couldn't you? To-morrow--in the
No. It is all settled, and that is why I can look you so
bravely in the face. Our departure is fixed. One thing I must ask
of you: don't think too badly of me; I should like you to respect
Ah! [With an impatient gesture] Stay, I implore you!
Confess that there is nothing for you to do in this world. You
have no object in life; there is nothing to occupy your
attention, and sooner or later your feelings must master you. It
is inevitable. It would be better if it happened not in Kharkoff
or in Kursk, but here, in nature's lap. It would then at least be
poetical, even beautiful. Here you have the forests, the houses
half in ruins that Turgenieff writes of.
How comical you are! I am angry with you and yet I shall
always remember you with pleasure. You are interesting and
original. You and I will never meet again, and so I shall tell
you--why should I conceal it?--that I am just a little in love
with you. Come, one more last pressure of our hands, and then let
us part good friends. Let us not bear each other any ill will.
ASTROFF [Pressing her hand] Yes, go. [Thoughtfully] You seem to
be sincere and good, and yet there is something strangely
disquieting about all your personality. No sooner did you arrive
here with your husband than every one whom you found busy and
actively creating something was forced to drop his work and give
himself up for the whole summer to your husband's gout and
yourself. You and he have infected us with your idleness. I have
been swept off my feet; I have not put my hand to a thing for
weeks, during which sickness has been running its course
unchecked among the people, and the peasants have been pasturing
their cattle in my woods and young plantations. Go where you
will, you and your husband will always carry destruction in your
train. I am joking of course, and yet I am strangely sure that
had you stayed here we should have been overtaken by the most
immense desolation. I would have gone to my ruin, and you--you
would not have prospered. So go! E finita la comedia!
HELENA [Snatching a pencil off ASTROFF'S table, and hiding it
with a quick movement] I shall take this pencil for memory!
How strange it is. We meet, and then suddenly it seems
that we must part forever. That is the way in this world. As long
as we are alone, before Uncle Vanya comes in with a
bouquet--allow me--to kiss you good-bye--may I? [He kisses her on
the cheek] So! Splendid!
I wish you every happiness. [She glances about her] For
once in my life, I shall! and scorn the consequences! [She kisses
him impetuously, and they quickly part] I must go.
Yes, go. If the carriage is there, then start at once.
[They stand listening.]
VOITSKI, SEREBRAKOFF, MME. VOITSKAYA with her book, TELEGIN, and
SONIA come in.
SEREBRAKOFF [To VOITSKI] Shame on him who bears malice for the
past. I have gone through so much in the last few hours that I
feel capable of writing a whole treatise on the conduct of life
for the instruction of posterity. I gladly accept your apology,
and myself ask your forgiveness. [He kisses VOITSKI three times.]
MME. VOITSKAYA [Kissing him] Have your picture taken, Alexander,
and send me one. You know how dear you are to me.
Good-bye, your Exce llency. Don't forget us.
SEREBRAKOFF [Kissing his daughter] Good-bye, good-bye all.
[Shaking hands with ASTROFF] Many thanks for your pleasant
company. I have a deep regard for your opinions and your
enthusiasm, but let me, as an old man, give one word of advice at
parting: do something, my friend! Work! Do something! [They all
bow] Good luck to you all. [He goes out followed by MME.
VOITSKAYA and SONIA.]
VOITSKI [Kissing HELENA'S hand fervently] Good-bye--forgive me. I
shall never see you again!
It is long, long, since you and I have sat together at
this table. [She lights a lamp on the table] No ink! [She takes
the inkstand to the cupboard and fills it from an ink-bottle] How
sad it is to see them go!
Hardly before next summer. Probably not this winter,
though, of course, if anything should happen you will let me
know. [He shakes hands with them] Thank you for your kindness,
for your hospitality, for everything! [He goes up to MARINA and
kisses her head] Good-bye, old nurse!
TELEGIN comes in on tiptoe, sits down near the door, and begins
to tune his guitar.
VOITSKI [To SONIA, stroking her hair] Oh, my child, I am
miserable; if you only knew how miserable I am!
What can we do? We must live our lives. [A pause] Yes, we
shall live, Uncle Vanya. We shall live through the long
procession of days before us, and through the long evenings; we
shall patiently bear the trials that fate imposes on us; we shall
work for others without rest, both now and when we are old; and
when our last hour comes we shall meet it humbly, and there,
beyond the grave, we shall say that we have suffered and wept,
that our life was bitter, and God will have pity on us. Ah, then
dear, dear Uncle, we shall see that bright and beautiful life; we
shall rejoice and look back upon our sorrow here; a tender
smile--and--we shall rest. I have faith, Uncle, fervent,
passionate faith. [SONIA kneels down before her uncle and lays
her head on his hands. She speaks in a weary voice] We shall
rest. [TELEGIN plays softly on the guitar] We shall rest. We
shall hear the angels. We shall see heaven shining like a jewel.
We shall see all evil and all our pain sink away in the great
compassion that shall enfold the world. Our life will be as
peaceful and tender and sweet as a caress. I have faith; I have
faith. [She wipes away her tears] My poor, poor Uncle Vanya, you
are crying! [Weeping] You have never known what happiness was,
but wait, Uncle Vanya, wait! We shall rest. [She embraces him] We
shall rest. [The WATCHMAN'S rattle is heard in the garden;
TELEGIN plays softly; MME. VOITSKAYA writes something on the
margin of her pamphlet; MARINA knits her stocking] We shall rest.