The Cherry Orchard

The Cherry Orchard Chekhov's Death

Chekhov's death on July 2, 1904, a few months after the opening of "The Cherry Orchard" in Moscow, was described in a letter by his wife Olga Knipper:

"Chekhov sat up... and in a loud, emphatic voice said to the doctor in German (of which he knew very little): 'Ich sterbe...' Then he picked up the glass, turned to me, smiled his wonderful smile and said: 'It's been such a long time since I've had champagne.' He drank it all to the last drop, quietly lay on his left side and was soon silent forever. The awful stillness of the night was broken only by a huge nocturnal moth which kept crashing painfully into the light bulbs and darting about the room. The doctor left and in the stillness and heat of the night the cork flew out of the half-empty champagne bottle with a tremendous noise" (Michael Henry Heim and Simon Karlinsky, 475).

Though the truth of the description has been questioned by many, the mysterious Chekhovian scene surrounding his death seems apropos. The omen of the dark moth, the electric lights, and the surprise of the champagne bottle popping, signal that, in spite of his passing, life goes on and remains cause for celebration.