Book//mark – The Three Sisters | Anton Chekhov, 1900

The Three Sisters, Anton Chekhov, first edition by Adolf Marks, 1901             Anton Chekhov with his family, in front of Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya home, 1890

“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.”

“A woman can become a man’s friend only in the following stages – first an acquantaince, next a mistress, and only then a friend.”

Solyony: I can’t live without you. (Goes up to her.) You’re divine! What happiness! You have wonderful eyes, brilliant, disturbing eyes.

“I’ve never been in love. I’ve dreamt of it day and night, but my heart is like a fine piano no one can play because the key is lost.”

”Vershinin: I don’t remember you individually; all I remember is that there were three of you. Three sisters.”

(The three sisters stand close to one another.)

“Fine. Since the tea is not forthcoming, let’s have a philosophical conversation.”

“Do you see that tree? It is dead but it still sways in the wind with the others. I think it would be like that with me. That if I died I would still be part of life in one way or another.”

“There will come a time when everybody will know why, for what purpose, there is all this suffering, and there will be no more mysteries. But now we must live … we must work, just work!”

“After us they’ll fly in hot air balloons, coat styles will change, perhaps they’ll discover a sixth sense and cultivate it, but life will remain the same, a hard life full of secrets, but happy. And a thousand years from now man will still be sighing, “Oh! Life is so hard!” and will still, like now, be afraid of death and not want to die.”

”I used to know a thing or two twenty-five years ago, but now I don’t remember anything. Not a thing! Perhaps I’m not a man at all, but I just imagine that I’ve got hands and feet and a head. Perhaps I don’t exist at all, and I only imagine that I’m walking around and eating and sleeping.”

“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…”

“Migrant birds, cranes for example, fly and fly, and whatever thoughts, high or low, enter their heads, they will still fly and not know why or where. They fly and will continue to fly, whatever philosophers come to life among them; they may philosophize as much as they like, only they will fly….”

”Irina: [Andrey’s] finally become a member of the County Council. He’s a member, and Protopopov is the chairman… The whole town is talking and laughing, and he’s the only one who doesn’t know anything, doesn’t see anything. Tonight everybody went to see the fire, but not him. He just sits in his room and pays no attention to anything; he just plays his violin.”

”Chebutykin: No matter how you rationalize it, my boy, loneliness is an awful business.”

”Andrey: Nobody should get married. It’s boring.”

“But then there’s loneliness. However you might philosophise about it, loneliness is a terrible thing, my dear fellow… Although in reality, of course, it’s absolutely of no importance!.”

“Andrey: In Moscow you can sit in an enormous restaurant where you don’t know anybody and where nobody knows you, and you don’t feel all the same that you’re a stranger. And here you know everybody and everybody knows you, and you’re a stranger… and a lonely stranger.”

“It goes without saying that you could not vanquish the ignorant masses around you; little by little, as you advance in life, you will be obliged to yield and to be swallowed up in the crowd of a hundred thousand human beings; life will stifle you, but you will all the same not have disappeared without having exerted an influence; of women like you, there will be after you perhaps only six, then twelve, and so on, until finally you will become the majority. In two or three hundred years life on earth will be unimaginably beautiful, amazing, astonishing. Man has need of that life and if it doesn’t yet exist, he must sense it, wait for it and dream of it, prepare to receive it, and to achieve that he must see and know more than our grandfathers and fathers saw or knew.”

”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.”

”Vershinin: You’re a strange, wonderful woman. Strange and wonderful. I can see your eyes shining in the dark. ”

”Masha: Isn’t there some meaning?

Tuzenbach: Meaning? … Look out there, it’s snowing. What’s the meaning of that?.”

“With total rapture and delight he talks about the birds which he can see from his prison window, and which he had never noticed before, when he was a minister. Now of course, after he’s been released, he doesn’t notice the birds anymore, just as beforehand. In the same way you won’t notice Moscow, when you actually live there.”

The Three Sisters, Anton Chekhov, 1900
 Members of the Moscow Art Theatre in 1899
Three Sisters first performed in 1901 at the Moscow Art Theatre. Moscow Art Theatre company it was founded in 1898 by the theatre practitioner Konstantin Stanislavski, together with the playwright and director Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko.

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