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Uncle Vanya, by Anton Chekhov, 1896


The drawing-room of SEREBRYAKOV'S house. There are three doors: one to the right, one to the left, and one in the centre of the room. VOYNITSKY and SONYA are sitting down. HELENA is walking up and down, absorbed in thought.

VOYNITSKY. We were requested by the Herr Professor to be here at one o'clock. [Looks at his watch] It's now a quarter to one. It seems he has some communication to make to the world.

HELENA. Probably a matter of business.

VOYNITSKY. He's never had any business. He writes nonsense, grumbles, and eats his heart out with jealousy; that's all he does.

SONYA. [Reproachfully] Uncle!

VOYNITSKY. All right. I beg your pardon. [He points to HELENA] Look at her. Wandering around and ready to fall over from sheer idleness. A sweet picture, really.

HELENA. I wonder you're not tired, droning on in the same key from morning till night. [Despairingly] I'm dying of this boredom. What'll I do?

SONYA. [Shrugging her shoulders] There's plenty to do if you would.

HELENA. For instance?

SONYA. You could help run this place, teach the children, care for the sick -- isn't that enough? Before you and papa came, Uncle Vanya and I used to go to market ourselves to sell our own flour.

HELENA. I don't know anything about such things, and besides, they don't interest me. It's only in idealistic novels that women go out and teach and heal the peasants; how can I suddenly begin to do it?

SONYA. How can you live here and not do it? Wait awhile, you'll get used to it all. [Embraces her] Don't be bored, dearest. [Laughing] You feel miserable and restless, and can't seem to fit into this life, and your restlessness is infectious. Look at Uncle Vanya, he does nothing now but follow you like a shadow, and I have left my work today to come here and talk with you. I'm getting lazy, and don't want to go on with anything. Dr. Astrov hardly ever used to come here; it was all we could do to persuade him to visit us once a month, and now he's abandoned his forestry and his practice, and comes every day. You must be a witch.

VOYNITSKY. Why are you so down? [Vigorously] Come, my dearest, my beauty, be sensible! The blood of a mermaid runs in your veins. Oh, won't you let yourself be one? Give free rein to your nature for once in your life; fall head over heels in love with some other water sprite and plunge down head first into a deep pool, so that the Herr Professor and all of us just throw up our hands.

HELENA. [Angrily] Leave me alone! How cruel you are! [She tries to go out.]

VOYNITSKY. [Preventing her] There, there, my beauty, I apologise. [He kisses her hand] Forgive me.

HELENA. Confess it -- you'd try the patience of an angel.

VOYNITSKY. As a peace offering I'm going to fetch a bouquet of flowers which I picked for you this morning: some autumn roses, beautiful, sorrowful roses. [He goes out.]

SONYA. Autumn roses, beautiful, sorrowful roses!

[She and HELENA stand looking out of the window.]

HELENA. September already! How shall we live through the long winter here? [A pause] Where's the doctor?

SONYA. He's writing in Uncle Vanya's room. I'm glad Uncle Vanya has gone out, I want to talk to you about something.

HELENA. About what?

SONYA. About what? [She lays her head on HELENA'S breast.]

HELENA. There, there, that will do. [Stroking her hair] Don't, Sonya.

SONYA. I'm ugly!

HELENA. You have lovely hair.

SONYA. No! [She turns to look at herself in the mirror] No, when a woman is ugly they always say she has beautiful hair or eyes. I've loved him now for six years, I've loved him more than one loves one's mother. I seem to hear him beside me every moment of the day. I feel the pressure of his hand on mine. If I look up, I seem to see him coming, and as you see, I run to you to talk of him. He's here every day now, but he never looks at me, he doesn't notice my presence. It's agony. I have absolutely no hope, no, no hope. [Desperately] Oh, my God! Give me strength to endure. I prayed all last night. I often go up to him and speak to him and look into his eyes. My pride is gone. My self-control. Yesterday I couldn't control myself and told Uncle Vanya I was in love, and all the servants know it. Every one knows that I love him.

HELENA. Does he?

SONYA. No, he never notices me.

HELENA. [Thoughtfully] He's a strange man. Listen, Sonya, will you allow me to speak to him? I'll be careful, only hint. [A pause] Really, to be in uncertainty all these years! Let me do it!

SONYA nods an affirmative.

HELENA. Good! It'll be easy to find out whether he loves you or not. Don't be ashamed, sweetheart, don't worry. I'll be careful; he won't notice a thing. We only want to find out whether it is yes or no, don't we? [A pause] And if it is no, then he must stop coming here, is that so?

SONYA nods.

HELENA. It will be easier not to see him any more. We won't put off the examination an instant. He said he had some sketches to show me. Go and tell him at once that I want to see him.

SONYA. [Very agitated] Will you tell me the whole truth?

HELENA. Of course I will. I am sure that no matter what it is, the truth will be easier for you to bear than this uncertainty. Trust me, dearest.

SONYA. Yes, yes. I'll say that you want to see his sketches. [She starts out, but stops near the door and looks back] No, it is better not to know -- at least -- then there may be hope.

HELENA. What do you say?

SONYA. Nothing. [She goes out.]

HELENA. [Alone] There's no greater sorrow than to know another's secret when you can't help them. [In deep thought] He's obviously not in love with her, but why shouldn't he marry her? She's not pretty, but she's so clever and pure and good, she would make a splendid wife for a country doctor of his years. But, no, that' s not exactly it at all. [A pause] I can understand how the poor child feels. She lives here in this desperate loneliness with no one around her except these colourless shadows that go mooning about talking nonsense and knowing nothing except that they eat, drink, and sleep. Among them appears from time to time this Dr. Astrov, so different, so handsome, so interesting, so charming. It's like seeing the moon rise on a dark night. Oh, to surrender oneself to his embrace! To lose oneself in his arms! I'm a little in love with him myself! Yes, I'm lonely without him, and when I think of him I smile. That Uncle Vanya says I have the blood of a mermaid in my veins: "Give free rein to your nature for once in your life!" Perhaps it's right that I should. Oh, to be free as a bird, to fly away from all your sleepy faces and your talk and forget that you have existed at all! But I'm a coward, I'm afraid; my conscience torments me. He comes here every day now. I can guess why, and feel guilty already; I should like to fall on my knees at Sonya's feet and beg her forgiveness, and to cry.

ASTROV comes in carrying a portfolio.

ASTROV. How do you do? [Shakes hands with her] Do you want to see my sketches?

HELENA. Yes, you promised to show me what you had been doing. Have you got time now?

ASTROV. Of course I have!

He lays the portfolio on the table, takes out a sketch and fastens it to the table with thumb-tacks.

ASTROV. Where were you born?

HELENA. [Helping him] In St. Petersburg.

ASTROV. And educated?

HELENA. At the Conservatory there.

ASTROV. Then this probably won't interest you.

HELENA. Oh, why not? It's true I don't know country life very well, but I've read a great deal about it.

ASTROV. I have my own desk there in Ivan's room. When I'm absolutely too exhausted to go on I drop everything and rush over here to forget myself in this work for an hour or two. Ivan and Miss Sonya sit rattling at their counting-boards, the cricket chirps, and I sit beside them and paint, feeling warm and peaceful. But I don't permit myself this luxury very often, only once a month. [Pointing to the picture] Look there! That is a map of our district as it was fifty years ago. The green tints, both dark and light, represent forests. Half the map, as you see, is covered with it. Where the green is striped with red the forests were inhabited by elk and wild goats. Here on this lake, lived great flocks of swans and geese and ducks; as the peasants say, there was a power of birds of every kind. Thick as clouds in the sky. Beside the hamlets and villages, you see, I have dotted down here and there the various settlements, farms, hermit's caves, and water-mills. This country carried a great many cattle and horses, as you can see by the quantity of blue paint. For instance, see how thickly it lies in this part; there were great herds of them here, and every house had three horses. [A pause] Now, look lower down. This is the district as it was twenty-five years ago. Only a third of the map is green now with forests. There are still some elk, but there are no goats left. The blue paint is lighter, and so on, and so on. Now we come to the third part; our country as it appears today. We still see spots of green, but not much. The elk, the swans, the wood-grouse have disappeared. It is, on the whole, the picture of a regular and slow decline which it will evidently only take about ten or fifteen more years to complete. You may perhaps object that it is the march of progress, that the old order must give place to the new, and you might be right if roads and railways had been run through these ruined woods, or if factories and schools had taken their place. The people then would have become better educated and healthier and richer, but as it is, we have nothing of the sort. We have the same swamps and mosquitoes; the same disease and want; the typhoid, the diphtheria, the burning villages. We are confronted by the degradation of our country, brought on by the fierce struggle for existence of the human race. It is the consequence of the ignorance and unconsciousness of starving, shivering, sick humanity that, to save its children, instinctively snatches at everything that can warm it and still its hunger. So it destroys everything it can lay its hands on, without a thought for the morrow. And almost everything has gone, and nothing has been created to take its place. [Coldly] But I see by your face that you're bored.

HELENA. I know so little about such things!

ASTROV. There is nothing to know. It simply isn't interesting to you, that's all.

HELENA. Frankly, my thoughts were elsewhere. Forgive me! I want to submit you to a little examination, but I'm embarrassed and don't know how to begin.

ASTROV. An examination?

HELENA. Yes, but quite an innocent one. Sit down. [They sit down] It's about a certain young girl I know. Let us discuss it like honest people, like friends, and then forget what has passed between us, shall we?

ASTROV. All right.

HELENA. It's about my step-daughter, Sonya. Do you like her?

ASTROV. Yes, I respect her.

HELENA. Do you like her -- as a woman?

ASTROV. [Slowly] No.

HELENA. One more word, and that will be the last. You haven't noticed anything?

ASTROV. No, nothing.

HELENA. [Taking his hand] You don't love her. I see that in your eyes. She is suffering. You must realise that, and not come here any more.

ASTROV. I'm past all that, yes, [Stands up] and then I haven't the time. [Shrugging his shoulders] Where shall I find time for such things? [He is embarrassed.]

HELENA. Ugh! What an unpleasant conversation! I'm as out of breath as if I'd been running three miles uphill. Thank heaven, that's over! Now let's forget everything as if nothing had been said. And -- and you go away now. You're sensible. You understand. [A pause] I'm actually blushing.

ASTROV. If you'd spoken a month or two ago I might perhaps have considered it, but now -- [He shrugs his shoulders] Of course, if she is suffering -- but I cannot understand why you had to put me through this examination. [He searches her face with his eyes, and shakes his finger at her] Oho, you are clever!

HELENA. What does that mean?

ASTROV. [Laughing] You are a clever one! Let's say that Sonya is suffering, but what does this examination of yours mean? [He prevents her from retorting, and goes on quickly] Please don't put on such a look of surprise; you know perfectly well why I come here every day. Yes, you know perfectly why and for whose sake I come! Oh, my sweet tigress! don't look at me that way; I'm an old bird!

HELENA. [Perplexed] A tigress? I don't understand you.

ASTROV. Beautiful, sleek tigress, you must have your victims! For a whole month I've done nothing but seek you eagerly. I've thrown over everything for you, and you love to see it. Now then, I'm sure you knew all this without putting me through your examination. [Crossing his arms and bowing his head] I surrender. Here you have me -- now, eat me.

HELENA. You've gone mad!

ASTROV. [Laughs through clenched teeth] You're shy!

HELENA. I'm a better and stronger woman than you think I am. [She tries to leave the room.]

ASTROV. [Barring her way] I'm leaving today and I won't be back, but -- [Takes her by the arm and looks around] Where can we meet? Tell me quickly, where? Some one may come in -- tell me quickly. [Passionately] You marvelous, wonderful woman! One kiss, just let me kiss your fragrant hair.

HELENA. I swear to you --

ASTROV. [Stopping her from speaking] Why swear anything? No need for that. No need to say anything. Oh, how lovely you are -- what hands! [He kisses her hands.]

HELENA. Enough of this! [She frees her hands] Leave the room! You've forgotten yourself.

ASTROV. Tell me, tell me, where can we meet tomorrow? [He puts his arm around her waist] Don't you see that we must meet, that it's inevitable?

He kisses her. VOYNITSKY comes in carrying a bunch of roses, and stops in the doorway.

HELENA. [Without seeing VOYNITSKY] Have pity! Leave me alone! [lays her head on ASTROV'S chest] No! [She tries to break away from him.]

ASTROV. [Holding her by the waist] Be in the forest tomorrow at two o'clock. Will you? Will you?

HELENA. [Sees VOYNITSKY] Let me go! [Goes to the window deeply embarrassed] This is appalling!

VOYNITSKY. [Throws the roses on a chair, and speaks in great excitement, wiping his face and neck with his handkerchief] Nothing -- yes, yes, nothing.

ASTROV. [Inwardly upset] The weather is fine today, my dear Ivan; the morning was overcast and looked like rain, but now the sun is shining again. Honestly, we've had a very fine autumn, and the wheat is looking fairly well. [Puts his map back into the portfolio] But the days are growing short. [Goes out]

HELENA. [Goes quickly up to VOYNITSKY] You must do your best; you must use all your power to get my husband and myself away from here today! Do you hear? I mean it, this very day!

VOYNITSKY. [Wiping his face] Oh! Ah! Oh! All right! I -- Helena, I saw everything! Everything!

HELENA. [In great agitation] Do you hear me? I must leave here this very day!


TELEGIN. I am not very well myself, your Excellency. I have been ailing for two days, and my head --

SEREBRYAKOV. Where are the others? I hate this house. It is a regular labyrinth. Every one is always scattered through the twenty-six enormous rooms; one never can find a soul. [Rings] Ask my wife and Madame Voitskaya to come here!

HELENA. I'm here already.

SEREBRYAKOV. Please, all of you, sit down.

SONYA. [Goes up to HELENA and asks anxiously] What did he say?

HELENA. I'll tell you later.

SONYA. You're trembling, aren't you. [Looking quickly and inquiringly into her face] I understand; he said he wouldn't come here any more. [A pause] Tell me, did he?

HELENA nods.

SEREBRYAKOV. [To TELEGIN] One can, after all, become reconciled to being an invalid, but not to this country life. The ways of it stick in my throat and I feel exactly as if I had been whirled off the earth and landed on a strange planet. Please be seated, ladies and gentlemen. Sonya! [SONYA does not hear. She is standing with her head bowed sadly forward on her breast] Sonya! [A pause] She does not hear me. [To MARINA] Sit down too, Nanny. [MARINA sits down and begins to knit her stocking] I crave your indulgence, ladies and gentlemen; hang your ears, if I may say so, on the peg of attention. [He laughs.]

VOYNITSKY. [Agitated] Perhaps you don't need me -- may I be excused?

SEREBRYAKOV. No, you are needed now more than any one.

VOYNITSKY. What is it you want of me?

SEREBRYAKOV. "Want of you"? -- but what are you angry about? [A pause] If it is anything I have done, I ask you to forgive me.

VOYNITSKY. Oh, drop that tone and come to business; what do you want?


SEREBRYAKOV. Here is mother. Ladies and gentlemen, I shall begin. [A pause] Ladies and gentlemen, I have invited you here to announce that an inspector general is coming to visit us -- Joking aside, I do have something serious to say. I want to ask you for your assistance and advice, and knowing your unfailing amiability I think I can count on both. I am a book-worm and a scholar, and am unfamiliar with practical affairs. I cannot, I find, dispense with the help of well-informed people such as you, Ivan, and you, Telegin, and you, mother. The truth is, manet omnes una nox, that is to say, our lives are in the hands of God, and as I am old and ill, I realise that the time has come for me to dispose of my property in regard to the interests of my family. My life is nearly over, and I am not thinking of myself, but I have a young wife and unmarried daughter. [A pause] I cannot continue to live in the country; we were not made for country life, and yet we cannot afford to live in town on the income derived from this estate. We might sell the woods, but that would be an expedient we could not resort to every year. We must find some means of guaranteeing to ourselves a certain more or less fixed yearly income. With this object in view, a plan has occurred to me which I now have the honour of presenting to you for your consideration. I shall only give you a rough outline, avoiding all details. Our estate does not pay on an average more than two per cent on the money invested in it. I propose to sell it. If we then invest our capital in bonds, it will earn us four to five per cent, and we should probably have a surplus of several thousand roubles, with which we could buy a summer cottage in Finland --

VOYNITSKY. Hold on! Repeat what you just said; I don't think I heard you quite right.

SEREBRYAKOV. I said we would invest the money in bonds and buy a cottage in Finland with the surplus.

VOYNITSKY. No, not Finland -- you said something else.

SEREBRYAKOV. I propose to sell this place.

VOYNITSKY. Aha! That was it! So you're going to sell the place? Wonderful. That's a brilliant idea. And what do you propose to do with my old mother and me and with Sonya here?

SEREBRYAKOV. That will be decided in due time. We can't do everything at once.

VOYNITSKY. Wait! It's clear that until this moment I have never had a grain of sense in my head. I've always been stupid enough to think that the estate belonged to Sonya. My father bought it as a wedding present for my sister, and I foolishly imagined that as our laws were made for Russians and not Turks, my sister's estate would come down to her child.

SEREBRYAKOV. Of course the estate is Sonya's. Has any one denied it? I don't want to sell it without Sonya's consent; on the contrary, what I am doing is for Sonya's good.

VOYNITSKY. This is absolutely incomprehensible. Either I have gone mad or -- or --

MME. VOYNITSKAYA. Jean, don't contradict Alexander. Trust to him; he knows better than we do what is right and what is wrong.

VOYNITSKY. I won't. Give me some water. [He drinks] Go ahead! Say anything you please -- anything!

SEREBRYAKOV. I can't imagine why you are so upset. I don't pretend that my scheme is an ideal one, and if you all object to it I shall not insist. [A pause.]

TELEGIN. [With embarrassment] I not only nourish feelings of respect toward learning, your Excellency, but I am also drawn to it by family ties. My brother Gregory's wife's brother, whom you may know; his name is Konstantin Lakedemonov, and he used to be a master of arts --

VOYNITSKY. Stop, Waffles. This is business; wait a bit, we will talk of that later. [To SEREBRYAKOV] There now, ask him what he thinks; this estate was bought from his uncle.

SEREBRYAKOV. Ah! Why should I ask questions? What good would it do?

VOYNITSKY. The price was ninety-five thousand roubles. My father paid seventy and left a debt of twenty-five. Now listen! This place could never have been bought had I not renounced my inheritance in favour of my sister, whom I deeply loved -- and what's more, I worked for ten years like an ox, and paid off the debt.

SEREBRYAKOV. I regret ever having started this conversation.

VOYNITSKY. Thanks entirely to my own personal efforts, the place is entirely clear of debts, and now, when I have grown old, you want to throw me out, neck and crop!

SEREBRYAKOV. I can't imagine what you are driving at.

VOYNITSKY. For twenty-five years I've managed this place, and have sent you the returns from it like the most honest of servants, and you've never given me one single word of thanks for my work, not one -- neither in my youth nor now. You allowed me a meagre salary of five hundred roubles a year, a beggar's pittance, and have never even thought of adding a rouble to it.

SEREBRYAKOV. What did I know about such things, Ivan? I am not a practical man and don't understand them. You might have helped yourself to all you wanted.

VOYNITSKY. Yes, why didn't I steal? Don't you all despise me for not stealing, when it would have been only justice? And I should not now have been a beggar!

MME. VOYNITSKAYA. [Sternly] Jean!

TELEGIN. [Agitated] Vanya, old man, don't talk in that way. Why spoil such pleasant relations? [He embraces him] Do stop!

VOYNITSKY. For twenty-five years I've been sitting here with my mother like a mole in a burrow. Our every thought and hope was yours and yours only. By day we talked with pride of you and your work, and spoke your name with veneration; our nights we wasted reading the books and papers which my soul now loathes.

TELEGIN. Don't, Vanya, don't. I can't stand it.

SEREBRYAKOV. [Wrathfully] What under heaven do you want, anyway? I don't understand!

VOYNITSKY. I used to think of you as a superior being and knew your articles by heart; but now the scales have fallen from my eyes and I see you as you are! You write on art without knowing anything about it. Those books of yours which I used to admire are not worth one copper kopeck. You've made fools of us all!

SEREBRYAKOV. Can't any one make him stop? I am going!

HELENA. Ivan, I command you to stop this instant! Do you hear me?

VOYNITSKY. I refuse! [SEREBRYAKOV tries to get out of the room, but VOYNITSKY bars the door] Wait! I haven't done yet! You've wrecked my life. I've never lived. My best years have gone for nothing, have been ruined, thanks to you. You're my most bitter enemy!

TELEGIN. I can't stand it; I can't stand it. I am going. [He goes out in great excitement.]

SEREBRYAKOV. But what do you want? What earthly right have you to use such language to me? Nonentity! If this estate is yours, then take it, I don't want it!

HELENA. I'm going away out of this hell this minute. [Shrieks] This is too much!

VOYNITSKY. My life has been a failure. I'm clever and brave and strong. If I had lived a normal life I might have become another Schopenhauer or Dostoyevsky. I'm losing my head! I'm going crazy! Mother, I'm in despair! Oh, mother!

MME. VOYNITSKAYA. [Sternly] Listen to Alexander!

SONYA falls on her knees beside MARINA and nestles against her.

SONYA. Oh, Nanny, Nanny!

VOYNITSKY. Mama! What shall I do? But no, don't speak! I know what to do. [To SEREBRYAKOV] And you will understand me!

He goes out through the door in the centre of the room and MME. VOYNITSKAYA follows him.

SEREBRYAKOV. Tell me, what on earth is the matter? Take this lunatic out of my sight! I cannot possibly live under the same roof with him. His room [He points to the centre door] is almost next door to mine. Let him take himself off into the village or into a cottage on the estate, or I shall leave here at once. I cannot stay in the same house with him.

HELENA. [To her husband] We're leaving today; we must get ready right now for our departure.

SEREBRYAKOV. What a perfectly dreadful man!

SONYA. [On her knees beside MARINA and turning to her father. She speaks through tears] You must be kind to us, papa. Uncle Vanya and I are so unhappy! [Controlling her despair] Have pity on us. Remember how Uncle Vanya and Granny used to copy and translate your books for you every night -- every, every night. Uncle Vanya and I have toiled without rest; he would never spend a penny on us, we sent it all to you. We've not eaten the bread of idleness. I'm not saying this as I should like to, but you must understand us, papa, you must show some sympathy.

HELENA. [Very upset, to her husband] For heaven's sake, Alexander, go and have a talk with him -- explain! Please!

SEREBRYAKOV. Very well, I shall have a talk with him, but I won't apologise for a thing. I am not angry with him, but you must confess that his behaviour has been strange, to say the least. Excuse me, I shall go to him.

[He goes out through the centre door.]

HELENA. Be gentle with him; try to quiet him. [She follows him out.]

SONYA. [Nestling nearer to MARINA] Nanny, oh, Nanny!

MARINA. It's all right, my baby. When the geese have cackled they will be still again. First they cackle and then they stop.

SONYA. Nanny!

MARINA. [Strokes her hair] You're trembling all over, as if you were freezing. There, there, little motherless child, God is merciful. A little lime-flower tea, and it'll all pass away. Don't cry, my sweetest. [Looking angrily at the door in the centre of the room] See, the geese have all gone now. The devil take them!

A shot is heard. HELENA screams behind the scenes. SONYA shudders.

MARINA. Oh, a curse on you!

SEREBRYAKOV. [Comes in reeling with terror] Stop him! stop him! He's gone mad!

HELENA and VOYNITSKY are seen struggling in the doorway.

HELENA. [Trying to wrest the revolver from him] Give it to me; give it to me, I tell you!

VOYNITSKY. Let me go, Helena, let me go! [He frees himself and rushes in, looking everywhere for SEREBRYAKOV] Where is he? Ah, there he is! [He shoots at him. A pause] I didn't get him? I missed again? [Furiously] Damnation! Damnation! To hell with him!

He flings the revolver on the floor, and drops helpless into a chair. SEREBRYAKOV stands as if stupefied. HELENA leans against the wall, almost fainting.

HELENA. Take me away! Take me away! I can't stay here -- I don't care if you kill me, but I can't stay here --

VOYNITSKY. [In despair] Oh, what am I doing? What am I doing?

SONYA. [Softly] Oh, Nanny, Nanny!

The curtain falls.



at the Conservatory: Helena must have been a very good musician to study at the world-famous St. Petersburg Conservatory

forget myself: This is a difficult speech, as Astrov is unconsciously making love to Helena, while Helena's feelings must obviously be in great conflict. At the same time, the whole speech is ironical with its pretensions to art and nature and painting of Russian history.

an inspector general is coming: Russian audiences would immediately recognize the joking reference to Gogol's satirical play "The Inspector General"

manet omnes una nox: "Night awaits us all," from Horace, Odes, I, 28, 15

summer cottage in Finland: a dacha, a vacation home (at the time of the play Finland was part of Russia)

and not Turks: In the 19th century, Turkish law allowed a husband to retain the dowry even if his wife died

Schopenhauer or Dostoyevsky: Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was a German philosopher and F. M. Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) was a great Russian novelist. (A bit of comic irony here, because each was a great pessimist about success in this world.)

Oh, Nanny, Nanny!: Oh, Nyanechka, Nyanechka, another pet name for a nanny

Mama! What should I do?: The word translated as Mama is Matushka, an old-fashioned word for mother

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