On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco
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The action takes place in a town hall. The main character has been told by his wife to give a lecture about "the harmful effects of tobacco" even though he himself is a smoker. He emphasizes that this will be a dry and boring lecture, but always postpones the actual subject by talking about his problems with his dominant wife.
"I must tell you, by the way, that my wife runs a boarding school. Well, not exactly a boarding school, but something in the nature of one. Just between us, my wife likes to complain about hard times, but she has put away a little nest egg... some forty or fifty thousand rubles. As for me, I haven't a kopek to my name, not a penny . . . "
He wants to stand up against his wife, he wants to run away, to forget and to be alone. He throws off his old, shabby waistcoat (it being a metaphor for himself), but suddenly picks it back up, because
"She is here. My wife is there in the wings waiting for me."
At the end of the monologue, he has hardly said anything relevant about the harmful effects of tobacco, but asks the audience not to betray him:
"If she asks you, please, I beg you, tell her that her scarecrow husband, I mean, the lecturer, me, behaved with dignity."
Originally published in 1886, Chekhov revised it later into the better-known 1902 version. The first English publication was in The Unknown Chekhov.1
- Schmidt Paul, The plays of Anton Chekhov, A New Translation, Harper Parennial ISBN 978-0-06-092875-9
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