The Princess

Chekhov, Anton

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Apr-21-2004


Princess Vera Gavrilovna visits a monastery on her way to a friend's house. She loves to share the beauty of her presence with the monks, and to have a day or two of peace and quiet. She encounters the doctor who cares for the monks. He is polite, but cool and distant.

When she begs him to explain her "mistake," he goes into a lengthy diatribe describing how vain and selfish she is, and how heartless to her servants. In fact, many years before she had fired the doctor for no reason. The accusations offend her and she begins to cry. The doctor withdraws. The next morning, as she leaves the monastery, the doctor comes up to her and abjectly apologizes for being carried away by "an evil, vindictive feeling."


The Princess is obviously every bit as vain and selfish as the doctor describes her. Even worse, she has deluded herself into thinking that she is generous and kindly. The doctor's words mean nothing to her--why should the man say such cruel things? Surprisingly, the doctor apologizes--first, when he sees her tears, then more effusively the next morning.

What does this mean? Is he such a kindly man himself, he does not wish to be the cause of her suffering? Or does he apologize out of deference to her class or rank? Does the Christian spirit of the monastery make any difference?


First published: 1886. Translated by Constance Garnett.

Primary Source

The Tales of Chekhov, Vol. 2: The Duel and Other Stories



Place Published

New York