YALTA, September 30, 1899.
At your command I hasten to answer your letter in which you ask me about Astrov’s last scene with Elena.
You write that Astrov addresses Elena in that scene like the most ardent lover, “clutches at his feeling like a drowning man at a straw.”
But that’s not right, not right at all! Astrov likes Elena, she attracts him by her beauty; but in the last act he knows already that nothing will come of it, and he talks to her in that scene in the same tone as of the heat in Africa, and kisses her quite casually, to pass the time. If Astrov takes that scene violently, the whole mood of the fourth act — quiet and despondent — is lost. . . .
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