Vershinin, from Three Sisters

From Three Sisters (1900) by Anton Chekhov (as translated by Elisaveta Fen):

ACT THREE

[An excerpt of the monologue delivered by Vershinin*]

And when my little girls were standing in the doorway with nothing on but their night clothes, and the street was red with the glow of fire and full of terrifying noises, it struck me that the same sort of thing used to happen years ago, when armies used to make sudden raids on towns, and plunder them and set them on fire… Anyway, is there any essential difference between things as they were and as they are now? And before very long, say, in another two or three hundred years, people may be looking at our present life just as we look at the past now, with horror and scorn. Our own times may seem uncouth to them, boring and frightfully uncomfortable and strange… Oh, what a great life it’ll be then, what a life! [Laughs.] Forgive me, I’m philosophizing my head off again… But may I go on, please? I’m bursting to philosophize just at the moment. I’m in the mood for it. [A pause.] You seem as if you’ve all gone to sleep. As I was saying: what a great life it will be in the future! Just try to imagine it… At the present time there are only three people of your intellectual calibre in the whole of this town, but future generations will be more productive of people like you. They’ll go on producing more and more of the same sort until at last the time will come when everything will be just as you’d wish it yourselves. People will live their lives in your way, and then even you may be outmoded, and a new lot will come along who will be even better than you are… [Laughs.] I’m in quite a special mood to-day. I feel full of a tremendous urge to live… [Sings.] “To Love all ages are in fee, the passion’s good for you and me” … [Laughs.]

*Vershinin is traditionally cast as ‘male’. This moment happens as Vershinin arrives at the house of the Three Sisters after helping to put out a fire in their town. Though married to someone else, Vershinin is in love with one of the sisters, Masha. In the play, she is present for this moment.

Monologue curated by Classical Monologue Dramaturg, Rory Starkman.

DRAMATURG NOTES (from all three pieces):

Though all three of these characters are traditionally cast as ‘male’, nothing in these monologues indicate that they need to be male. Each monologue reads as a philosophical soliloquy, and though traditionally it has always been males who were thought to philosophize (and even still there is a disparity within university philosophy departments, which tend to be overrun with people assigned male at birth), the ability to think out loud and express one’s thoughts and emotions is not a gendered aspect of living. In de-gendering/un-gendering these monologues from 1900, the idea of philosophical thought in performance can move further out of the male realm and into a more non-binary theatrical space.

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