Reading Chekhov — “A Chorus Girl”

Quarantine reading and writing

A chorus girl, Pasha, is in her dressing room watching her lover Kolpakov lounge around in his slippers (clearly, he’s there often). The weather is hot outside, they’re waiting for the day to end to go for a walk.

Suddenly there’s knocking at the door. Kolpakov hides and Pasha answers the door.

A beautiful woman is at the door. She is upset and embarrassed. She tells Pasha she is looking for Kolpakov — has he been there? Of course not, Pasha lies.

The beautiful woman tells Pasha she is Kolpakov’s wife! And Kolpakov is about to be arrested because he’s embezzled money to pay for gifts for Pasha.

She’s crying, begging. She knows he is seeing her.

Pasha is horrified, humiliated, doesn’t know what to do. She sees herself as the beautiful woman sees her, a horrible person.

900 rubles is all the woman needs — can’t she please just return the gifts that her husband has given Pasha — that will cover it.

But Kolpakov hasn’t given Pasha anything! And she says as much to the upset wife.

The wife doesn’t believe Pasha. Pasha is ashamed, humiliated, the woman is begging — she starts going through her rings, bracelets, brooches, gives them to the woman.

Finally, after she’s given the wife enough, the other womanleaves. Pasha has given his practically everything worth any money that she owns, now she has nothing.

Kolpakov slinks out from the back room. Pasha tells him, I gave your wife everything — do you have presents for me, worth all that money — where are they?

But Kolpakov is staring at the door. He ignores Pasha, says out loud to himself, my wife was so magnificent, coming here, begging, putting aside her pride to save her family. I must have been insane to waste my time with a chorus girl. He’s seen himself and this ‘wench’ for who they are. He’s ashamed of himself. He leaves without a word to Pasha. Maybe his wife will take him back.

Pasha falls back, stunned. She gave everything away, like a fool. She remembers three years ago when a man beat her for no reason at all, it feels like that. She screams with emotional pain and fear and how the world has revealed itself to her.

NOTE the class differences are writ large here. The problems of the well off, solved by coming in and stripping someone just getting by of all their possessions, then they end up with each other — and she really wasn’t much involved with the man, not in the way his wife thought.

More Neanderthal DNA markers than 95 % of 23andMe customers. Don’t give me your pro-Cro-Magnon propaganda.