A sitting-room in SORIN'S house, which has been converted into a
writing-room for TREPLIEFF. To the right and left are doors
leading into inner rooms, and in the centre is a glass door
opening onto a terrace. Besides the usual furniture of a
sitting-room there is a writing-desk in the right-hand corner of
the room. There is a Turkish divan near the door on the left, and
shelves full of books stand against t he walls. Books are lying
scattered about on the windowsills and chairs. It is evening. The
room is dimly lighted by a shaded lamp on a table. The wind moans
in the tree tops and whistles down the chimney. The watchman in
the garden is heard sounding his rattle. MEDVIEDENKO and MASHA
MASHA [Calling TREPLIEFF] Mr. Constantine, where are you?
[Looking about her] There is no one here. His old uncle is
forever asking for Constantine, and can't live without him for an
He dreads being left alone. [Listening to the wind]
This is a wild night. We have had this storm for two days.
MASHA [Turning up the lamp] The waves on the lake are enormous.
It is very dark in the garden. Do you know, I think
that old theatre ought to be knocked down. It is still standing
there, naked and hideous as a skeleton, with the curtain flapping
in the wind. I thought I heard a voice weeping in it as I passed
there last night.
She takes snuff. TREPLIEFF and PAULINA come in. TREPLIEFF is
carrying some pillows and a blanket, and PAULINA is carrying
sheets and pillow cases. They lay them on the divan, and
TREPLIEFF goes and sits down at his desk.
TREPLIEFF shakes hands with him in silence, and MEDVIEDENKO goes
PAULINA [Looking at the manuscripts] No one ever dreamed,
Constantine, that you would one day turn into a real author. The
magazines pay you well for your stories. [She strokes his hair.]
You have grown handsome, too. Dear, kind Constantine, be a little
nicer to my Masha.
MASHA [Still making the bed] Leave him alone, mother.
She is a sweet child. [A pause] A woman, Constantine,
asks only for kind looks. I know that from experience.
TREPLIEFF gets up from his desk and goes out without a word.
There now! You have vexed him. I told you not to bother
My heart aches for you. I see how things are, and
You see what doesn't exist. Hopeless love is only found in
novels. It is a trifle; all one has to do is to keep a tight rein
on oneself, and keep one's head clear. Love must be plucked out
the moment it springs up in the heart. My husband has been
promised a school in another district, and when we have once left
this place I shall forget it all. I shall tear my passion out by
the roots. [The notes of a melancholy waltz are heard in the
Constantine is playing. That means he is sad.
It is easy for you to make light of it. You are rich
enough to scatter money to your chickens, if you wanted to.
You think I am rich? My friend, after practising for thirty
years, during which I could not call my soul my own for one
minute of the night or day, I succeeded at last in scraping
together one thousand roubles, all of which went, not long ago,
in a trip which I took abroad. I haven't a penny.
MASHA [To her husband] So you didn't go home after all?
MEDVIEDENKO [Apologetically] How can I go home when they won't
give me a horse?
MASHA [Under her breath, with bitter anger] Would I might never
see your face again!
SORIN in his chair is wheeled to the left-hand side of the room.
PAULINA, MASHA, and DORN sit down beside him. MEDVIEDENKO stands
What a lot of changes you have made here! You have turned
this sitting-room into a library.
Constantine likes to work in this room, because from it he
can step out into the garden to meditate whenever he feels like
it. [The watchman's rattle is heard.]
DORN [Sings] "The moon swims in the sky to-night."
I am going to give Constantine an idea for a story. It
shall be called "The Man Who Wished--L'Homme qui a voulu." When I
was young, I wished to become an author; I failed. I wished to be
an orator; I speak abominably, [Exciting himself] with my eternal
"and all, and all," dragging each sentence on and on until I
sometimes break out into a sweat all over. I wished to marry, and
I didn't; I wished to live in the city, and here I am ending my
days in the country, and all.
You wished to become State Councillor, and--you are one!
SORIN [Laughing] I didn't try for that, it came of its own
Come, you must admit that it is petty to cavil at life at
sixty-two years of age.
You are pig-headed! Can't you see I want to live?
That is futile. Nature has commanded that every life shall
come to an end.
You speak like a man who is satiated with life. Your
thirst for it is quenched, and so you are calm and indifferent,
but even you dread death.
The fear of death is an animal passion which must be
overcome. Only those who believe in a future life and tremble for
sins committed, can logically fear death; but you, for one thing,
don't believe in a future life, and for another, you haven't
committed any sins. You have served as a Councillor for
twenty-five years, that is all.
Because there is such a splendid crowd in its streets. When
you leave the hotel in the evening, and throw yourself into the
heart of that throng, and move with it without aim or object,
swept along, hither and thither, their life seems to be yours,
their soul flows into you, and you begin to believe at last in a
great world spirit, like the one in your play that Nina
Zarietchnaya acted. By the way, where is Nina now? Is she well?
She had a child that died. Trigorin soon tired of her
and returned to hi s former ties, as might have been expected. He
had never broken them, indeed, but out of weakness of character
had always vacillated between the two. As far as I can make out
from what I have heard, Nina's domestic life has not been
altogether a success.
I believe she made an even worse failure of that. She
made her debut on the stage of the Summer Theatre in Moscow, and
afterward made a tour of the country towns. At that time I never
let her out of my sight, and wherever she went I followed. She
always attempted great and difficult parts, but her delivery was
harsh and monotonous, and her gestures heavy and crude. She
shrieked and died well at times, but those were but moments.
I never could make out. I believe she has. I saw her,
but she refused to see me, and her servant would never admit me
to her rooms. I appreciated her feelings, and did not insist upon
a meeting. [A pause] What more can I tell you? She sometimes
writes to me now that I have come home, such clever, sympathetic
letters, full of warm feeling. She never complains, but I can
tell that she is profoundly unhappy; not a line but speaks to me
of an aching, breaking nerve. She has one strange fancy; she
always signs herself "The Sea-gull." The miller in "Rusalka"
called himself "The Crow," and so she repeats in all her letters
that she is a sea-gull. She is here now.
In the village, at the inn. She has been there for
five days. I should have gone to see her, but Masha here went,
and she refuses to see any one. Some one told me she had been
seen wandering in the fields a mile from here yesterday evening.
Yes, I saw her. She was walking away from here in
the direction of the village. I asked her why she had not been to
see us. She said she would come.
But she won't. [A pause] Her father and stepmother
have disowned her. They have even put watchmen all around their
estate to keep her away. [He goes with the doctor toward the
desk] How easy it is, Doctor, to be a philosopher on paper, and
how difficult in real life!
She was a beautiful girl. Even the State Councillor
himself was in love with her for a time.
ARKADINA [To her son] Here is a magazine that Boris has brought
you with your latest story in it.
TREPLIEFF [To TRIGORIN, as he takes the magazine] Many thanks;
you are very kind.
Your admirers all send you their regards. Every one in
Moscow and St. Petersburg is interested in you, and all ply me
with questions about you. They ask me what you look like, how old
you are, whether you are fair or dark. For some reason they all
think that you are no longer young, and no one knows who you are,
as you always write under an assumed name. You are as great a
mystery as the Man in the Iron Mask.
No, I must go back to Moscow to-morrow. I am finishing
another novel, and have promised something to a magazine besides.
In fact, it is the same old business.
During their conversation ARKADINA and PAULINA have put up a
card-table in the centre of the room; SHAMRAEFF lights the
candles and arranges the chairs, then fetches a box of lotto from
The weather has given me a rough welcome. The wind is
frightful. If it goes down by morning I shall go fishing in the
lake, and shall have a look at the garden and the spot--do you
remember?--where your play was given. I remember the piece very
well, but should like to see again where the scene was laid.
MASHA [To her father] Father, do please let my husband have a
horse. He ought to go home.
SHAMRAEFF [Angrily] A horse to go home with! [Sternly] You know
the horses have just been to the station. I can't send them out
But there are other horses. [Seeing that her father
remains silent] You are impossible!
PAULINA [With a sigh] On foot in this weather? [She takes a seat
at the card-table] Shall we begin?
It is only six miles. Good-bye. [He kisses his
wife's hand;] Good-bye, mother. [His mother-in-law gives him her
hand unwillingly] I should not have troubled you all, but the
baby-- [He bows to every one] Good-bye. [He goes out with an
He will get there all right, he is not a
Come, let us begin. Don't let us waste time, we shall
soon be called to supper.
SHAMRAEFF, MASHA, and DORN sit down at the card-table.
ARKADINA [To TRIGORIN] When the long autumn evenings descend on
us we while away the time here by playing lotto. Look at this old
set; we used it when our mother played with us as children. Don't
you want to take a hand in the game with us until supper time?
[She and TRIGORIN sit down at the table] It is a monotonous game,
but it is all right when one gets used to it. [She deals three
cards to each of the players.]
TREPLIEFF [Looking through the pages of the magazine] He has
read his own story, and hasn't even cut the pages of mine.
He lays the magazine on his desk and goes toward the door on the
right, stopping as he passes his mother to give her a kiss.
He doesn't seem able to make a success, he can't
somehow strike the right note. There is an odd vagueness about
his writings that sometimes verges on delirium. He has never
created a single living character.
And if I caught a perch or a bass, what bliss it would
I have great faith in Constantine. I know there is
something in him. He thinks in images; his stories are vivid and
full of colour, and always affect me deeply. It is only a pity
that he has no definite object in view. He creates impressions,
and nothing more, and one cannot go far on impressions alone. Are
you glad, madam, that you have an
author for a son?
Just think, I have never read anything of his; I never
Wherever he goes and whatever he does, that man always
has good luck. [She gets up] And now, come to supper. Our
renowned guest did not have any dinner to-day. We can continue
our game later. [To her son] Come, Constantine, leave your
writing and come to supper.
I don't want anything to eat, mother; I am not hungry.
As you please. [She wakes SORIN] Come to supper, Peter.
[She takes SHAMRAEFF'S arm] Let me tell you about my reception in
PAULINA blows out the candles on the table, then she and DORN
roll SORIN'S chair out of the room, and all go out through the
door on the left, except TREPLIEFF, who is left alone. TREPLIEFF
prepares to write. He runs his eye over what he has already
I have talked a great deal about new forms of art, but
I feel myself gradually slipping into the beaten track. [He
reads] "The placard cried it from the wall--a pale face in a
frame of dusky hair"--cried--frame--that is stupid. [He scratches
out what he has written] I shall begin again from the place where
my hero is wakened by the noise of the rain, but what follows
must go. This description of a moonlight night is long and
stilted. Trigorin has worked out a process of his own, and
descriptions are easy for him. He writes that the neck of a
broken bottle lying on the bank glittered in the moonlight, and
that the shadows lay black under the mill-wheel. There you have a
moonlight night before your eyes, but I speak of the shimmering
light, the twinkling stars, the distant sounds of a piano melting
into the still and scented air, and the result is abominable. [A
pause] The conviction is gradually forcing itself upon me that
good literature is not a question of forms new or old, but of
ideas that must pour freely from the author's heart, without his
bothering his head about any forms whatsoever. [A knock is heard
at the window nearest the table] What was that? [He looks out of
the window] I can't see anything. [He opens the glass door and
looks out into the garden] I heard some one run down the steps.
[He calls] Who is there? [He goes out, and is heard walking
quickly along the terrace. In a few minutes he comes back with
NINA ZARIETCHNAYA] Oh, Nina, Nina!
NINA lays her head on TREPLIEFF'S breast and stifles her sobs.
TREPLIEFF [Deeply moved] Nina, Nina! It is you--you! I felt you
would come; all day my heart has been aching for you. [He takes
off her hat and cloak] My darling, my beloved has come back to
me! We mustn't cry, we mustn't cry.
TREPLIEFF locks the door on the right and comes back to NINA.
There is no lock on that one. I shall put a chair
against it. [He puts an arm-chair against the door] Don't be
frightened, no one shall come in.
NINA [Gazing intently into his face] Let me look at you. [She
looks about her] It is warm and comfortable in here. This used to
be a sitting-room. Have I changed much?
Yes, you have grown thinner, and your eyes are larger
than they were. Nina, it seems so strange to see you! Why didn't
you let me go to you? Why didn't you come sooner to me? You have
been here nearly a week, I know. I have been several times each
day to where you live, and have stood like a beggar beneath your
I was afraid you might hate me. I dream every night that
you look at me without recognising me. I have been wandering
about on the shores of the lake ever since I came back. I have
often been near your house, but I have never had the courage to
come in. Let us sit down. [They sit down] Let us sit down and
talk our hearts out. It is so quiet and warm in here. Do you hear
the wind whistling outside? As Turgenieff says, "Happy is he who
can sit at night under the roof of his home, who has a warm
corner in which to take refuge." I am a sea-gull--and yet--no.
[She passes her hand across her forehead] What was I saying? Oh,
yes, Turgenieff. He says, "and God help all houseless wanderers."
It is all right. I shall feel better after this. I have not
cried for two years. I went into the garden last night to see if
our old theatre were still standing. I see it is. I wept there
for the first time in two years, and my heart grew lighter, and
my soul saw more clearly again. See, I am not crying now. [She
takes his hand in hers] So you are an author now, and I am an
actress. We have both been sucked into the whirlpool. My life
used to be as happy as a child's; I used to wake singing in the
morning; I loved you and dreamt of fame, and what is the reality?
To-morrow morning early I must start for Eltz by train in a
third-class carriage, with a lot of peasants, and at Eltz the
educated trades-people will pursue me with compliments. It is a
I have accepted an engagement there for the winter. It is
time for me to go.
Nina, I have cursed you, and hated you, and torn up
your photograph, and yet I have known every minute of my life
that my heart and soul were yours for ever. To cease from loving
you is beyond my power. I have suffered continually from the time
I lost you and began to write, and my life has been almost
unendurable. My youth was suddenly plucked from me then, and I
seem now to have lived in this world for ninety years. I have
called out to you, I have kissed the ground you walked on,
wherever I looked I have seen your face before my eyes, and the
smile that had illumined for me the best years of my life.
NINA [Despairingly] Why, why does he talk to me like this?
I am quite alone, unwarmed by any attachment. I am as
cold as if I were living in a cave. Whatever I write is dry and
gloomy and harsh. Stay here, Nina, I beseech you, or else let me
go away with you.
Yes, my uncle fell ill on Thursday, and we telegraphed
for her to come.
Why do you say that you have kissed the ground I walked on?
You should kill me rather. [She bends over the table] I am so
tired. If I could only rest--rest. [She raises her head] I am a
sea-gull--no--no, I am an actress. [She hears ARKADINA and
TRIGORIN laughing in the distance, runs to the door on the left
and looks through the keyhole] He is there too. [She goes back to
TREPLIEFF] Ah, well--no matter. He does not believe in the
theatre; he used to laugh at my dreams, so that little by little
I became down-hearted and ceased to believe in it too. Then came
all the cares of love, the continual anxiety about my little one,
so that I soon grew trivial and spiritless, and played my parts
without meaning. 1 never knew what to do with my hands, and I
could not walk properly or control my voice. You cannot imagine
the state of mind of one who knows as he goes through a play how
terribly badly he is acting. I am a sea-gull--no--no, that is not
wha t I meant to say. Do you remember how you shot a seagull
once? A man chanced to pass that way and destroyed it out of
idleness. That is an idea for a short story, but it is not what I
meant to say. [She passes her hand across her forehead] What was
I saying? Oh, yes, the stage. I have changed now. Now I am a real
actress. I act with joy, with exaltation, I am intoxicated by it,
and feel that I am superb. I have been walking and walking, and
thinking and thinking, ever since I have been here, and I feel
the strength of my spirit growing in me every day. I know now, I
understand at last, Constantine, that for us, whether we write or
act, it is not the honour and glory of which I have dreamt that
is important, it is the strength to endure. One must know how to
bear one's cross, and one must have faith. I believe, and so do
not suffer so much, and when I think of my calling I do not fear
TREPLIEFF [Sadly] You have found your way, you know where you
are going, but I am still groping in a chaos of phantoms and
dreams, not knowing whom and what end I am serving by it all. I
do not believe in anything, and I do not know what my calling is.
NINA [Listening] Hush! I must go. Good-bye. When I have become a
famous actress you must come and see me. Will you promise to
come? But now-- [She takes his hand] it is late. I can hardly
stand. I am fainting. I am hungry.
No, no--and don't come out, I can find the way alone. My
carriage is not far away. So she brought him back with her?
However, what difference can that make to me? Don't tell Trigorin
anything when you see him. I love him--I love him even more than
I used to. It is an idea for a short story. I love him--I love
him passionately--I love him to despair. Have you forgotten,
Constantine, how pleasant the old times were? What a gay, bright,
gentle, pure life we led? How a feeling as sweet and tender as a
flower blossomed in our hearts? Do you remember, [She recites]
"All men and beasts, lions, eagles, and quails, horned 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 set before it,
has died out at last. A thousand years have passed since the
earth last bore a living creature on its 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----"
She embraces TREPLIEFF impetuously and runs out onto the terrace.
TREPLIEFF [After a pause] It would be a pity if she were seen in
the garden. My mother would be distressed.
He stands for several minutes tearing up his manuscripts and
throwing them under the table, then unlocks the door on the right
and goes out.
DORN [Trying to force open the door on the left] Odd! This door
seems to be locked. [He comes in and puts the chair back in its
former place] This is like a hurdle race.
ARKADINA and PAULINA come in, followed by JACOB carrying some
bottles; then come MASHA, SHAMRAEFF, and TRIGORIN.
Put the claret and the beer here, on the table, so that
we can drink while we are playing. Sit down, friends.
Nothing at all; probably one of my medicine bottles has
blown up. Don't worry. [He goes out through the door on the
right, and comes back in a few moments] It is as I thought, a
flask of ether has exploded. [He sings]
"Spellbound once more I stand before thee."
ARKADINA [Sitting down at the table] Heavens! I was really
frightened. That noise reminded me of-- [She covers her face with
her hands] Everything is black before my eyes.
DORN [Looking through the pages of a magazine, to TRIGORIN]
There was an article from America in this magazine about two
months ago that I wanted to ask you about, among other things.
[He leads TRIGORIN to the front of the stage] I am very much
interested in this question. [He lowers his voice and whispers]
You must take Madame Arkadina away from here; what I wanted to
say was, that Constantine has shot himself.