The presiding judge tells Ivan that he’s not under oath and should provide testimony “in good conscience.” Ivan listens and looks at the judge “dully.” The judge asks if he’s well. Ivan assures him that he’s well enough. When questioning begins, he replies reluctantly, “with exaggerated brevity,” and even with disgust. To some questions, he pleads ignorance. He then asks the presiding judge to let him go because he’s feeling unwell. Before stepping down without permission, he pulls out a wad of money, saying it was the same that was in the envelope. The judge asks how he could’ve gotten that same money. Ivan says that he got it from Smerdyakov the day before. He then says that it was the lackey who killed Fyodor, on Ivan’s instructions.
Ivan is clearly ill during his testimony, succumbing further to brain fever. His curt answers are likely the results of both his illness and his irritation with the trial. Not being in his right mind, Ivan didn’t consider that the court would find his presentation of the three thousand roubles as inadmissible, because the money could have come from anywhere. Ivan is trying to do what he set out to do—make it clear to the public that Smerdyakov is the true killer and schemer—but his efforts are fruitless. Ivan also admits his own guilt here, making the same claim that Smerdyakov accused him and saying that he instructed the lackey to murder Fyodor. This is an important personal step for him, though it means little to the public.
No one believes him. Alexei jumps up and says that he’s delirious and shouldn’t be believed. The presiding judge tells Ivan that his testimony is “incomprehensible.” If he actually has something to say, he should calm himself and say it. Also, he asks, how can Ivan confirm what he’s saying? Ivan says the trouble is that he has no witnesses, and that Smerdyakov won’t send any “evidence from the other world…in an envelope.” Ivan has only one witness, but the judge would find him “inadmissible.”
Alexei tries to defend Ivan, but it’s unnecessary because nothing that Ivan says makes sense to anyone in the courtroom. When Ivan makes reference to the envelope, he’s indicating that the unknown will not be revealed in court because Smerdyakov didn’t testify. The only other person who knows the truth is the Gentleman, and he is of course “inadmissible.” Ivan is stuck in his own head, and so he comes across as a completely incoherent and untrustworthy witness.
Turmoil ensues in court. Katerina Ivanovna goes into hysterics. Suddenly, she offers a piece of evidence. She demands that they take her letter, the one Dmitri wrote at the tavern, which, she says, proves that he’s the murderer. She then says that she gave Dmitri the three thousand roubles, saying it was for her sister, but she knew that he would take it and run off with Grushenka. She says that the debt tormented him. He also needed money for “that creature,” so he killed his father. Dmitri acknowledges the letter as his. Katerina says that she lied before to save Dmitri. She also says that, for two months, Ivan drove himself mad over how to save his brother, “the monster and murderer.”
Katerina Ivanovna acts quickly in her desire to help Ivan and to save him from further tormenting himself on Dmitri’s behalf. By doing this, she proves that she loves Ivan and not Dmitri. At the same time, she still resents Grushenka for supposedly taking Dmitri away from her. In her anger and panic she lashes out at both Grushenka and Dmitri, and in the process seems to seal Dmitri’s fate with the jury.
Grushenka rushes to Dmitri and says to the court that Katerina Ivanovna has revealed herself to be a snake. The guards try to remove her from the courtroom, but she fights and strains to reach Dmitri. He, too, is seized. The spectacle is a rich one for the public. The letter is added to material evidence. At eight o’clock in the evening, Ippolit Kirillovich begins his statement for the prosecution.
The court relishes the sight of the romantic rivalry between the women, as well as Katerina Ivanovna’s hysterical “confession.” The trial really is turning into a piece of entertainment, despite the morbid act that it hinges upon.