An old lady known as Mdm. Voynitsky, who is the mother of the professor’s first
wife enters and complains that since the professor and his wife have arrived,
their world has gone topsy turvy. They now sleep, eat and drink at odd hours.
She wonders how much longer this will continue.
Just then Professor Alexander Serebryakov, who is now retired and is the
owner of the estate and house enters along with his second and beautiful wife
Helena, his daughter Sonya from his previous marriage and Telegin, who is
an impoverished land owner, all of them praise the beautiful scenery and then go
into the house. The doctor asks Mdm. Voynitsk’s son Vanya for some news but
Vanya says that he has now grown old and can’t do much except chatter like his
mother. He goes on to complain how conceited the professor really is. He is the
son of an ordinary Deacon who becomes a professor and has the luck of marrying a
senator’s daughter. He lives on the estate of his deceased wife, writes articles
on art though in reality he knows nothing of it. Inspite of all this he has
delusions of being an important man and struts about the earth like a demi-god.
He also confesses that he is very jealous of the professor because he has always
had great luck with women. His first wife and Vanya’s sister was a beautiful and
pure woman who absolutely adored him and his mother Mdm. Voynitsky still dotes
on him. He now has an exceptionally pretty second wife who seems to be just as
faithful as the first and has surrendered all her love and youth to him even
though he is an old man now. He feels it is even more unnatural that she is
faithful to the professor and feels that it is unnatural for such a beautiful
woman to be faithful to an old and hateful man. Telegin says it is incorrect to
speak thus because even his wife had run away with a more attractive man but he
still remained faithful to her and her children. By doing so he kept his pride.
She on the other hand had nothing now since she was old and ugly and even her
lover was dead.
Helena and Sonya enter. The doctor tells Helena that she had asked him to
come and check up on her husband and he had ridden a long way just to find that
the professor was fit and healthy. Helena invites the doctor to stay the night
in their house and join them for dinner. Just then workman comes to fetch
the doctor and Astrov has no choice but to accompany him. Before leaving
he invites Helena and Sonya to visit his small but interesting estate
surrounded by government forests which he personally supervises. Helena wonders
how a forest full of trees can interest such a young man but Sonya tells her
that he is a very clever man and has already set out new forests, which he
believes are essential for the well-being of mankind. For this effort he has
already received a diploma and a bronze medal. Vanya goes on being irritating
and says he will continue using wood for his stove and furniture. Astrov
explains to the callous Vanya how cutting down of forests has harmed the
planet’s ecology and climate. Planting more tress and preserving forests gives
him great pride and happiness.
After he leaves, Helena chides Voynitsky for his rude and sarcastic behavior with
everyone. He tells her that he feels sorry for her because her life is so
boring. Helena retorts by saying that Voynitsky is a jealous and destructive
man. Voynitsky confesses that he is behaving in this manner because he loves
her. He begs that he only wants her to allow him to look at her and speak to her
of his love. Helena is disgusted by his behavior and saying that she is in
agony, they both go into the house, thus ending the first act.
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