Three Sisters | Study Guide

Anton Chekhov

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Three Sisters | Quotes


I don't know why I'm so happy ... What beautiful thoughts I had, what thoughts!

Irina, Act 1

At the opening of the play Irina is young, beautiful, and full of hope for her future. Her character changes the most as she slowly gives in to life's suffering and realizes she is destined for dissatisfaction, just like everyone around her.


I'm beginning to forget her face. We'll be forgotten in just the same way.

Masha, Act 1

While trying to remember what her mother looked like, Masha realizes the meaninglessness of her own life. In time she will die and be forgotten, so what is the point of living?


Andrey isn't in love. After all he has taste.

Masha, Act 1

This short quote highlights the social hierarchy of the time. Coming from a middle-class, educated family, Masha (and likely the other sisters) believe themselves to be better than villagers like Natasha. Their family represents the dying aristocracy, however, and by the end of the play they must work to survive, toiling in dissatisfaction.


The doctor says you must eat sour milk and nothing else, or you won't get thin.

Natasha, Act 2

Natasha's comment about Andrey's weight shows audiences that Andrey has started to give up on his dreams and is "letting himself go." It also helps characterize Natasha as vain and manipulative. Although she's talking about cultured milk (i.e., yogurt), the idea of an unrelenting diet of sour, uninteresting food is particularly evocative for a family so stagnant and lacking in pleasure.


If you listen to [any man], whether civilian or military, he will tell you that he's sick of his wife, sick of his house, sick of his estate, sick of his horses.

Vershinin, Act 2

Vershinin suggests everyone, everywhere suffers in their lives because suffering is an inevitability of the human condition. While the sisters still cling to the naïve hope that their lives will improve in Moscow, Vershinin knows their suffering will just follow them there.


There is no happiness for us ... there should not and cannot be.

Vershinin, Act 2

Again, Vershinin suggests dissatisfaction is a fact of life, inescapable no matter who you are, where you live, or what you do. He has completely resigned himself to the dissatisfaction of his life, so much so that he suggests he "should not" be happy.


A meaning ... Now the snow is falling. What meaning?

Tuzenbach, Act 2

In direct contrast to Vershinin, Tuzenbach recognizes the meaningless of life but believes one should embrace snatches of happiness when they present themselves, even if they don't amount to a happy life. He holds on to hope longer than any other character in the play and is shot to death as a result.


There can be no happiness for us, it exists only in our wishes.

Vershinin, Act 2

This line underscores the crux of Chekhov's view of the human condition: longing, most notably for something unobtainable. This, Chekhov argues throughout the entire play, is what makes us human.


To Moscow! Moscow! Moscow!

Irina, Act 2

Moscow symbolizes unfulfilled desire. When the sisters lament the loss of their hometown, they nostalgically wish to return to their easy childhood lives. As adults they never take the initiative to actually return home, condemning themselves to live in suffering.


Perhaps I'm not really a man, and am only pretending.

Chebutykin, Act 3

Happiness is an illusion. Chebutykin acknowledges this after accidentally killing a patient by giving her too much medication. Overwhelmed with grief, Chebutykin questions the meaninglessness of his unhappy life.


Where has everything gone? Where is it all? Oh my God, my God! I've forgotten everything.

Irina, Act 3

Like Chebutykin, Irina questions the meaning of her life when her education—a key characteristic of her identity—slips away. Losing her status, as Chebutykin lost his patient, is as devastating as losing her possessions in a fire.


When you take your happiness in little bits ... you gradually get coarser, more bitter.

Masha, Act 4

With Vershinin leaving, Masha knows her heart is about to break. Little snatches of happiness are nice in the moment, but perhaps her life would be better if she carried on without hope, and therefore without disappointment.


What beautiful trees, and really, how beautiful life ought to be under them!

Tuzenbach, Act 4

Tuzenbach is moments away from facing Solyoni in a duel, so in many ways this quotation is his goodbye to Irina. Tuzenbach has made his own peace with his unrequited love for Irina and has found happiness in the act of loving her, but the other characters are oblivious to the potential for beauty and happiness around them. While Tuzenbach, facing death, is able to look and see beauty, to imagine the wonderful life he will never have, he leaves behind a cast of characters who will go on living without recognizing and appreciating the actual circumstances of their lives.


Time will pass on, and we shall depart for ever, we shall be forgotten.

Olga, Act 4

Much like Masha's quote from Act 1, Olga acknowledges the meaningless of life now that their last vestiges of hope—returning to Moscow, finding love with Vershinin, and marrying Tuzenbach, have been taken away.


If only we could know, if only we could know!

Olga, Act 4

The final line of the play questions the meaning of suffering. Will it create a better world for future generations, or is it meaningless? The sisters have lost everything and resigned themselves to lives of dissatisfaction.

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