A monologue from the play by Anton Chekhov

  • NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Two Plays of Tchekhof. Trans. George Calderon. London: Grant Richards Ltd., 1912.
  • NINA: Men and lions, eagles and partridges, antlered deer, geese, spiders, the silent fishes dwelling in the water, star-fish and tiny creatures invisible to the eye--these and every form of life, ay, every form of life, have ended their melancholy round and become extinct.... Thousands of centuries have passed since this earth bore any living being on its bosom. All in vain does yon pale moon light her lamp. No longer do the cranes wake and cry in the meadows; the hum of the cockchafers is silent in the linden groves. All is cold, cold, cold. Empty, empty, empty. Terrible, terrible, terrible. [A pause] The bodies of living beings have vanished into dust; the Eternal Matter has converted them into stones, into water, into clouds; and all their spirits are merged in one. I am that spirit, the universal spirit of the world. In me is the spirit of Alexander the Great, of Caesar, of Shakespeare, of Napoleon, and the meanest of the leeches. In me the consciousness of men is merged with the instinct of animals; I remember everything, everything, everything, and in myself relive each individual life. I am alone. Once in a hundred years I open my lips to speak, and my voice echoes sadly in this emptiness and no one hears.... You too, pale fires, you hear me not.... The corruption of the marsh engenders you towards morning, and you wander till the dawn, but without thought, without will, without throb of life. Fearing lest life should arise in you, the father of Eternal Matter, the Devil, effects in you, as in stones and water, a perpetual mutation of atoms; you change unceasingly. In all the universe spirit alone remains constant and unchanging. [A pause] Like a captive flung into a deep empty well, I know not where I am nor what awaits me. One thing only is revealed to me, that in the cruel and stubborn struggle with the Devil, the principle of material forces, it is fated that I shall be victorious; and thereafter, spirit and matter are to merge together in exquisite harmony and the reign of Universal Will is to begin. But that cannot be till, little by little, after a long, long series of centuries, the moon, the shining dog-star and the earth are turned to dust.... Till then there shall be horror and desolation.... Behold, my mighty antagonist, the Devil, approaches. I see his awful, blood-red eyes ...