UNCLE VANYA

A monologue from the play by Anton Chekhov

NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Moscow Arts Theatre Series of Plays. Ed. Oliver M. Sayler. New York: Brentanos, 1922.

VOINITSKY: The Professor as usual sits in his library from morning till night--

"Straining our mind, wrinkling our brow,
We write, write, write,
With no respite
Or hope of praise in the future or now."

Unfortunate paper! He ought to write his autobiography; he would make a really excellent subject for a book! Just consider, the life of a retired professor, as stale as a piece of old bread, racked with gout, headaches and rheumatism, his liver bursting with jealousy and envy, living on the estate of his first wife, although he hates it, because he can't afford to live in town. He is everlastingly whining about his hard fate, although, as a matter of fact, he is unusually lucky. [Nervously] He is the son of a common deacon and has achieved the professor's chair, has become the son-in-law of a senator, is called "your Excellency," but never mind! I'll tell you something; he has been writing about art for twenty-five years, and he doesn't know the very first thing about it. For twenty-five years he has been hashing over the thoughts of other men on realism, naturalism, and all such nonsense; for twenty-five years he has been reading and writing things long known to clever men and uninteresting to stupid ones; for twenty-five years he has been pouring water from one empty tumbler into another. Yet consider the man's conceit and pretensions! He has been pensioned off. No living soul has ever heard of him. He is totally unknown. That means for twenty-five years he has been sailing under false colors. But look at him! He stalks across the earth like a demi-god! I admit, I am envious of him. Look at the success he has had with women! Don Juan himself was not more lucky. His first wife, my sister, was beautiful, gentle, as pure as the blue heaven above, noble, great-hearted, with more admirers than he has pupils, and she loved him as only creatures of angelic purity can love those who are as pure and beautiful as they are themselves. His mother-in-law, my mother, adores him to this day, and he still inspires her with a kind of worshipped awe. His second wife is, as you see, a great beauty; she married him in his old age and surrendered to him all the glory of her beauty and freedom. What for? Such loyalty is false and unnatural, root and branch. It sounds very well, but there is no logic to it. It is immoral for a woman to deceive an old husband whom she hates. But for her to stifle her pathetic youth and intense longings within her--that is not immoral?!

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