The action of comedy takes place in Moscow, in the first years of the reign of Alexander II. The old important official, Aristarkh Vladimirovich Vyshnevsky, who goes out into the big “richly furnished hall” with his young wife Anna Pavlovna (both in the morning negligee) from her rooms, reproaches her in coldness, complains that her indifference can not overcome anything. Vishnevsky leaves for the office, and Vishnevskaya boy brings a letter, which turns out to be a love letter from an elderly man who has a beautiful wife. Indignant Vishnevskaya is going to laugh with her acquaintances over an unpleasant admirer and leaves.
Appeared to Vyshnevsky with the affairs of an employee in his department, an old experienced officer Yusov and passes into the office. Belogubov, a young subordinate of Yusov, enters. Appreciably important, comes from the chief Yusov and orders Belogubov to rewrite the paper more cleanly, informing him that Vishnevsky himself was pleased with his copyists, pleased with his handwriting. This causes Belogubov’s delight. He only complains that he is not strong in reading and for that he is laughed at by Zhadov, Vishnevsky’s nephew, who lives in his house on everything ready and who also serves under Yusov’s superiors. Belogubov asks for the place of the head clerk, who will be his “for life”, and explains the request for a desire to marry. Yusov favorably promises and
Vyshnevsky asks Yusov, whom his nephew is going to marry, learns that on one of the daughters of the poor widow of the official Kukushkina. Vishnevsky and instructs to warn the widow that she did not destroy her daughter, did not give “for this fool.” Left alone, Yusov scolded the new times when “the boys began to talk,” and admires the “genius” and scope of Vyshnevsky. However, he expresses his fear that he “is not quite firm in the law, from another department.”
The second action takes place in a poor living room in the house of the widow Kukushkina. Sisters Yulenka and Polina talk about their fiancees. It turns out that Yulenka does not like Belogubov (“terrible rubbish”), but she is glad-gladejka though for it or him to leave to get rid of vorotni and reproaches of mother. Polina says that she is in love with Zhadova. Appealing Kukushkina starts to saw Julia because Belogubov does not make offers for a long time. It turns out that Belogubov intends to get married as soon as he gets the place of the head clerk. Kukushkina is satisfied, but at the end of the conversation she says to the daughters: “Here’s my advice: do not give poultry to your husbands, so they are continually and sharpen to get money.”
Belogubov and Yusov come. Kukushkina, left alone with Yusov, asks for a place for Belogubov, he promises. Yusov warns Kukushkin about “unreliability” and “freethinking” of the groom of Polina Zhadova. But Kukushkina is sure that all the “vices” of Zhadov “from a bachelor life”, marry – will change. Zhadov appears, the elders leave the young people alone with the girls. Belogubov talks with Yulenka and promises that the wedding is just around the corner. From a conversation between Polina and Zhadov, it is clear that, unlike her sister, she sincerely loves Zhadova, honestly talks about her poverty, about the fact that they have “all the deception” at home. However, he asks Zhadov whether he has any familiar merchants who, according to Belogubov, will give them gifts. Zhadov explains that this will not happen and that he will reveal to her “the highest bliss to live by his work.”
The third action takes place in the tavern, about a year later. Enter Zhadov and his university friend Mykin, drink tea and ask each other about life. Mykin teaches, lives, “in accordance with the means,” the bachelor suffices. “Our brother does not marry a trace”, – he instructs Zhadova. Zhadov is justified by the fact that he very much fell in love with Pauline and “married for love.” He took the girl undeveloped, educated in public prejudices, “and the wife suffers from poverty,” sulks a little, and sometimes cries. ” Appeared Yusov, Belogubov and two young officials who came to buy on the occasion of a successful business that brought the “jackpot” to Belogubov, who treats the company. He good-naturedly tries to invite and “brother” of Zhadov (now they are relatives by their wives), but he sharply refuses. Yusov formulates the ethic of the bribe taker: “Live by the law, live so that the wolves are full and the sheep are whole.” Satisfied with his youth, Yusov starts dancing and makes a speech about his virtues: the father of the family, the mentor of youth, a benefactor who does not forget the poor. Before leaving Belogubov “in a relative way” Zhadova offers money, but he indignantly refuses. Officials leave. To Zhadov, the solicitor Dosuzhev is sitting down, ironically commenting on the scene seen. They are drinking. Remaining alone, drunk Jadov sings “Luchinushka”, the sexual escorts him with the words: “Come, sir! It’s not right, sir!” father of the family, mentor of youth, philanthropist, not forgetting and the poor. Before leaving Belogubov “in a relative way” Zhadova offers money, but he indignantly refuses. Officials leave. To Zhadov, the solicitor Dosuzhev is sitting down, ironically commenting on the scene seen. They are drinking. Remaining alone, drunk Jadov sings “Luchinushka”, the sexual escorts him with the words: “Come, sir! It’s not right, sir!” father of the family, mentor of youth, philanthropist, not forgetting and the poor. Before leaving Belogubov “in a relative way” Zhadova offers money, but he indignantly refuses. Officials leave. To Zhadov, the solicitor Dosuzhev is sitting down, ironically commenting on the scene seen. They are drinking. Remaining alone, drunk Jadov sings “Luchinushka”, the sexual escorts him with the words: “Come, sir! It’s not right, sir!” It’s not good! Disgustingly! ” It’s not good! Disgustingly! “
The fourth action is unfolding in the “very poor room” of Zhadov, where Polina is sitting alone by the window, complaining of boredom and singing. A sister comes, she tells how her husband’s business is doing, Belugubov spoils her, Julia feels sorry for Pauline, scolds Zhadova, indignant that he does not know “the present tone.” He should know that man is created for society. ” Julia gives her sister a hat and tells him to explain to Zhadov that his wife “will not love him for nothing”. Left alone, Polina admires the mind of her sister, rejoices the hat. Then comes Kukushkina. She scolds Polina that she does not demand money from Zhadov, considers her daughter to be “shameless” because she has “all tenderness in her mind,” praises Yulia, talks about the harm of clever men who believe that taking bribes is dishonorable. “What kind of a word is a bribe? They invented it themselves, to offend good people. Do not bribe, but thanks! “
Zhadov appears, Kukushkina starts scolding him, and Pauline assents her. There is a quarrel, Zhadov asks the mother-in-law to leave. He sits down to work, but Pauline, remembering the lessons of his relatives, takes it to saw for lack of money for pleasures and clothes, repeating the words of Julia. They quarrel, and Pauline leaves. Zhadov feels that he can not part with his wife, and sends a servant to catch up with Pauline. Returning Pauline demands that he go to his uncle to ask for a profitable place. Zhadov surrenders, sobbing, he sings a song of bribes from Kapnist’s comedy “Yabed.” Frightened Polina is ready to retreat, but Zhadov calls her to go to Vyshnevsky together.
The last action brings us back to Vyshnevsky’s house. Vishnevskaya alone reads the letter of her ridiculed admirer, who informs her that in retaliation for her deed with him, she will forward her husband to Vishnevskaya, who accidentally gets him letters to a young Lyubimov official. She is not even frightened, she is going to reproach her husband for buying it from relatives and breaking her life. At this time appears Yusov, muttering vague phrases about the vicissitudes of fate and the perniciousness of pride. Finally, it turns out that Vyshnevsky “for omissions” and “discovered shortcomings of the sums” are brought to court, and cautious Yusov says that he himself “is not subject to great responsibility,” although under current strictures he is likely to be dismissed. Appears Vyshnevsky. Furiously repelling the compassionate wife, he turns to Yusov: “Yusov! Why did I die? “” The vicissitudes… fate-with, “he replies.” Nonsense! What fate? Strong enemies – that’s the reason! “Vishnevsky retorts, then he gives Vishnevskaya letters sent to him to Lyubimov and calls her” a depraved woman. “Vishnevskaya denies the accusations in a vast monologue.
Then the Zhadovs appear. Reluctantly, Zhadov humbly asks for the sake of the wife of a profitable place. Struck Vishnevsky shows malicious delight from this turn of events. They Yusov mocking Zhadov and in his fall see the essence of the new generation. Zhadov came to his senses, speaks of his own weakness and that there are honest people in any generation, promises that he will never get out of the way again, and turning to his wife, he lets her go if she finds it hard to live in poverty, but Polina assures that she was not going to leave him, but only followed the advice of her family. The greed kisses and leaves, Vishnevskaya attends to their wish for happiness. Yusov rushes in with a message that Vyshnevsky has a stroke.