The Seagull

by

Anton Chekhov

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Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the W. W. Norton & Company edition of The Seagull published in 2010.
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Act 1 Quotes

TREPLYOV: New forms are what we need. New forms are what we need, and if there aren’t any, then we’re better off with nothing. (Looks at his watch.) I love my mother, love her deeply; but she smokes, drinks, lives openly with that novelist, her name constantly in the papers—it gets me down. Sometimes it’s just my plain human ego talking; it’s a shame my mother is a famous actress, because I think if she were an ordinary woman, I might be happier.

Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

TREPLYOV: Are you excited?

NINA: Yes, very. Your Mama doesn’t count. I’m not afraid of her, but then there’s Trigorin… Acting with him in the audience frights and embarrasses me… A famous writer… Is he young?

TREPLYOV: Yes.

NINA: His stories are so wonderful!

TREPLYOV: (coldly) I wouldn’t know, I haven’t read them.

NINA: It isn’t easy to act in your play. There are no living characters in it.

Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

MASHA: Help me. Help me, or I’ll do something stupid, I’ll mess up my life, wreck it… I can’t stand it anymore…

DORN: What do you mean? Help you how?

MASHA: I’m in pain. Nobody, nobody knows how much pain I’m in. (Lays her head on his chest, quietly.) I love Konstantin.

DRON: They’re all so high-strung! They’re all so high-strung! And all this love… Oh, spellbinding lake! (Tenderly.) But what can I do, my child? What? What?

Related Characters: Masha (speaker), Evgeny Sergeevich Dorn (speaker)
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2 Quotes

ARKADINA: Tell me, what’s the matter with my son? How come he’s so tiresome and surly? He spends whole days on the lake, and I almost never see him.

MASHA: He’s sick at heart. (To Nina, shyly.) Please, do recite something from his play!

NINA: (Shrugs.) You want me to? It’s so uninteresting!

Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

NINA: I thought that famous people were proud, inaccessible, that they despised the public and their own fame, their celebrity was a kind of revenge for blue blood and wealth being considered more respectable… But here they are crying, fishing, playing cards, laughing, and losing their tempers like anybody else…

Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

TREPLYOV: (Enters bare-headed, carrying a rifle and a slain gull.) You’re alone here?

NINA: Alone. (TREPLYOV lays the gull at her feet.) What does this mean?

TREPLYOV: I did something nasty, I killed this gull today. I lay it at your feet.

NINA: What’s wrong with you? (Picks up the gull and stares at it.)

TREPLYOV: (After a pause) I’ll soon kill myself the very same way.

Related Characters: Nina Mikhailovna Zarechnaya (speaker), Konstantin Gavrilovich Treplyov (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Gull
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

TREPLYOV: You say you’re too ordinary to understand me. Oh, what’s there to understand? You didn’t like my play, you despise my ideas, you’ve started thinking of me as a mediocrity, a nobody, like all the rest… (Stamping his foot.) That’s something I understand, oh, I understand all right! There’s a kind of spike stuck in my brain, damn it and damn my vanity, which sucks my blood, sucks it like a snake…

Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

TRIGORIN: I know no peace, and I feel that I’m devouring my own life, that to give away honey to somebody out there in space I’m robbing my finest flowers of their pollen, tearing up all these flowers and trampling on their roots.

Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:

NINA: For the joy of being a writer or an actress, I would put up with my family disowning me, poverty, disappointment; I would live in a garret and eat nothing but black bread, suffer dissatisfaction with myself and realize my own imperfection, but in return I would insist on fame… real, resounding fame…

Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:

TRIGORIN: Just jotting down a note… A subject came to mind… (Putting away the notebook.) Subject for a short story: on the shores of a lake a young girl grows up, just like you; loves the lake, like a gull, is happy and free, like a gull. But by chance a man comes along, sees her, and, having nothing better to do, destroys her, just like this gull here.

Related Symbols: The Gull
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 3 Quotes

ARKADINA: Now I’ve got to go and I still don’t know how come Konstantin took a shot at himself. I suppose the main reason was jealousy, so the sooner I take Trigorin away from here, the better.

SORIN: How can I put this? There were other reasons too. Take my word for it, a man who’s young, intelligent, living in the country, in the sticks, with no money, no position, no future. Nothing to keep him occupied. Gets ashamed of himself and alarmed by his own idleness.

Page Number: 123
Explanation and Analysis:

ARKADINA: That’s jealousy. People with no talent but plenty of pretentions have nothing better to do than criticize really talented people. It’s a comfort to them, I’m sure!

TREPLYOV: (Sarcastically.) Really talented people! (Angrily.) I’m more talented than the lot of you put together, if it comes to that! (Tears the bandage off his head.) You dreary hacks hog the front-row seats in the arts and assume that the only legitimate and genuine things are what you do yourselves, so you suppress and stile the rest! […]

ARKADINA: Mr. Avant-garde!

[…]

TREPLYOV: You skinflint!

ARKADINA: You scarecrow! (TREPLYOV sits down and weeps quietly.) You nobody!

Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:

ARKADINA: You want to do something reckless, but I won’t have it, I won’t let you… (Laughs.) You’re mine… You’re mine… […] You’re all mine. You’re so talented, clever, our greatest living writer, you’re Russia’s only hope… You’ve got so much sincerity, clarity, originality, wholesome humor... With a single stroke you can pinpoint the most vital feature in a person or a landscape, your characters are so alive. Oh, no one can read you without going into ecstasy! […] Am I lying? […] Do I look like a liar? There, you see, I’m the only one who knows how to appreciate you; I’m the only one who tells you the truth, my darling, marvelous man…

Related Characters: Irina Nikolaevna Arkadina (speaker), Boris Alekseevich Trigorin
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 4 Quotes

MEDVEDENKO: It’s dark outside. Somebody should tell them to pull down that stage in the garden. It stands there bare, unsightly, like a skeleton, and the scene curtain flaps in the wind. When I was going by last night, I thought somebody was on it, crying…

Related Characters: Semyon Semyonovich Medvedenko (speaker), Masha
Page Number: 138
Explanation and Analysis:

MASHA: It’s all nonsense. Unrequited love—that’s only in novels. Really silly. Just mustn’t lose control or go on waiting for something, waiting for your ship to come in… If love ever burrows into your heart, you’ve got to get rid of it. They’ve just promised to transfer my husband to another school district. Once we’ve moved there—I’ll forget all about it… I’ll rip it out of my heart by the roots.

Page Number: 140-141
Explanation and Analysis:

TREPLYOV: [Nina] made her debut outside Moscow at a summer theater, then toured the provinces. In those days I was keeping track of her and for a while wherever she was, I was there too. She would tackle the big roles, but her acting was crude, tasteless, her voice singsong and her gestures wooden. There were moments when she showed some talent at screaming or dying, but they were only moments.

Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

DORN: Well, I have faith in Konstantin Gavrilovich. There’s something there! There’s something there! He thinks in images, his stories are colorful, striking, and I have a real fondness for them. […] Irina Nikolaevna, are you glad your son’s a writer?

ARKADINA: Imagine, I still haven’t read him. Never any time.

Page Number: 153
Explanation and Analysis:

SHAMRAEV: (To Trigorin.) Hey, Boris Alekseevich, that thing of yours is still here.

TRIGORIN: What thing?

SHAMRAEV: A while back Konstantin Gavrilovich shot a gull, and you asked me to have it stuffed.

TRIGORIN: Don’t remember. (Thinking about it.) Don’t remember!

Related Symbols: The Gull
Page Number: 153-154
Explanation and Analysis:

NINA: And so, now you’re a writer. You’re a writer, I’m an actress… We’ve both fallen into the maelstrom… I used to live joyously, like a child—wake up in the morning and start to sing; I loved you, dreamed of fame, and now? First thing tomorrow morning I go to Yelets, third class… traveling with peasants… […] A sordid kind of life!

Page Number: 157-158
Explanation and Analysis:

NINA: You can’t imagine what that’s like, when you realize your acting is terrible. I’m a gull. No, that’s wrong… Remember when you shot down a gull? By chance a man comes along, sees, and with nothing better to do destroys… Subject for a short story. That’s wrong… (Rubs her forehead.) What was I saying?... I was talking about the stage. I’m not like that now… Now I’m a real actress… […] Now I know, understand, Kostya, that in our work—it doesn’t matter whether we act or we write—the main thing isn’t fame, glamour, the things I dreamed about, it’s knowing how to endure.

Related Symbols: The Gull
Page Number: 159-160
Explanation and Analysis:
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