The names of the actions are conditional.
Action 1. Ranevskaya returns from France to her ruined estate
May, it has begun to dawn, and it is still cold in the cherry blossom orchard. Lopakhin and the maid enter the room of the old manor.
Lopakhin came here to meet the mistress of the estate, Ranevskaya, who had lived in France for five years.
Lopakhin was the son of a merchant in the village shop, a former serf. Feeling sorry for himself, he began to remember how one day his drunken father hit him and smashed his nose bloody, and Ranevskaya, who was present, helped him wash his face. Lopakhin became a successful merchant. He loved and respected Ranevskaya.
Finally, there was a clatter of wheels, and Ranevskaya entered the room with her daughter Anya, her brother Gaev, and other greeters.
At the manor, the hosts were met by Varya, who had been running the household all along.
Ranevskaya rejoiced at her return home and was moved to tears as she walked through the half-remembered rooms.
A tired Anya told Varya how hard life was for her mother in France. She had to sell the house on the Côte d'Azur and move to Paris, to an apartment building. Ranevskaya didn't seem to realize that she was completely broke - she ordered the most expensive champagne, gave generous tips, and barely scraped together enough to get home.
Anya asked if the interest on the mortgage on the estate had been paid. Varya replied that there was no money, and that the estate would go under the hammer in August.
Lopakhin came into the room and disappeared. Anya asked whether he had proposed to Varya, since everyone had long considered them bride and groom. Varya sadly replied that Lopakhin was a busy man, he had no time for her. It was hard for Varya to see him, she dreamed of marrying Anya off to a rich man and going to holy places.
Varya reported that Trofimov came to the estate.
He was the teacher of Anya's seven-year-old brother, who drowned in the river a month after his father's death. Ranevskaya had not yet been informed of his arrival - they did not want to open wounds.
Anya went to bed. Meanwhile, Lopakhin informed Ranevskaya that on August 22 the estate would be sold for debt, and he suggested a way out - to cut down the cherry orchard, divide the land into plots and rent it out to holiday-makers. Lopakhin swore that there would be a good return and was ready to invest the money, but Ranevskaya was against it - she cared too much for the old orchard.
Lopakhin asked to think about it and left, and Ranevskaya and Gayev looked at the blooming garden for a long time, remembering their childhood.
All, all white! O my garden! After the dark, rainy autumn and the cold winter you are young again, full of happiness, the angels of heaven have not left you...
Trofimov came in and called out to Ranevskaya, who hardly recognized him, but then she hugged him and cried, remembering her dead son. Trofimov grew old and emaciated, but he still remained a student, for which he was often teased by Lopakhin.
Ranevskaya went to rest, and Gaev shared with Vary the plans to save the estate. He hoped either to marry Anya off profitably or to take money from his rich aunt the Countess. Once Ranevskaya married a mere court official, her aunt did not approve of this marriage and stopped communicating with her. Gayev condemned his sister not only because of the unequal marriage, but also because of her vicious behavior after her husband's death.
Anya, who woke up, scolded her uncle for these words. Gaev assured her that he would not allow the estate to be sold and left. Varya took sleepy Anya into the bedroom. Trofimov, who saw them, tenderly called the girl his sunshine and spring.
Action 2. Ranevskaya talks about her past and her daughter Anya thinks about the future
Ranevskaya, Guev and Lopakhin were strolling by a small abandoned chapel behind the cherry orchard. Lopakhin again began to persuade Ranevskaya to rent the orchard. Ranevskaya did not answer. She had gone to town for lunch and again spent too much. And now she dropped her purse, gold coins scattered on the ground.
Gaius supported his sister, hoping for help from his rich aunt. Lopakhin was angry at the frivolity of people who were about to lose everything, but did not want to change anything. In response to his entreaties and pleas, Ranevskaya replied that "dachas and summer cottages are so vulgar." Gayev agreed with her. Angered Lopakhin wanted to leave, but Ranevskaya kept him - "with you, after all, more fun.
Ranevskaya complained of bad feelings. It seemed to her that she sinned too much and because of this her life will soon collapse. She always embezzled money, after the death of her husband met with one, then the other. Her first punishment was the death of her son.
After that she could not stay on the estate, left for France with her last lover. He was sick for a long time, Ranevskaya nursed him. Then he cheated Ranevskaya - ran away to another with all the money. Now he sends telegrams, writes that he is sick, begs to return.
Then the conversation began about Lopakhin, who called himself a rude, dark man. Ranevskaya thought that he should marry Varya. Lopakhin was not against it.
Gayev said that he was offered a position in the bank, but Ranevskaya was skeptical - her brother was not capable of work, his old lackey still cared for him like a child.
Trofimov, Anya and Varya appeared. Lopakhin immediately began to tease the eternal student. Trofimov was not left in debt, calling the future millionaire Lopakhin a useful predator. The student and Ranevskaya then continued their conversation about the proud man of yesterday. Trofimov thought that such people did not exist.
...man is physiologically unimportant if in his vast majority he is rude, unintelligent, deeply unhappy. One should stop admiring oneself. One should just work.
Trofimov believed that most of the Russian intelligentsia is incapable of work. They philosophize, and meanwhile semi-literate people drown in filth, vulgarity and Asianness.
A passerby appeared and asked for alms. For want of silver, Ranevskaya gave him gold. Varya reproached her - she had nothing to eat and gave such a large sum to a stranger.
All left. Trofimov and Anya were left alone. Varya followed him, afraid that they would fall in love, but Trofimov considered himself above love. He urged Anya to give up everything, to free herself from her property, and to leave for a brighter future. All of Anya's ancestors owned living souls, and this, according to Trofimov, has reborn her and Ranevskaya, they no longer notice that they live at someone else's expense.
Trofimov invited Anya to leave with him and plant a new garden. Anya agrees.
Action 3. Ranevskaya throws a ball and Lopakhin buys a cherry orchard
August 22, Manor Drawing Room. Ranevskaya threw a ball and gathered her neighbors and acquaintances. The auction was to be held that day, and Ranevskaya waited for Gayev with news. Her aunt the Countess gave money, and Ranevskaya hoped it would be enough to buy the estate.
Trofimov began teasing Varya as "Madame Lopakhina." Ranevskaya felt that the girl should marry the merchant, she was not against it either, but Lopakhin had been stalling the proposal for two years.
Ranevskaya was worried, Trofimov tried to console her by saying that the cherry orchard is in the past, but she felt that he had not had time to "suffer" and does not understand how much the old estate means to her:
...without the cherry orchard I don't understand my life, and if you have to sell it, sell me along with the orchard, too.
Ranevskaya said that she was not against marrying off her Anya to Trofimov, but for that he must finish his studies. Then she showed the student a telegram - her lover fell ill and called her to Paris. Ranevskaya still loved him.
Trofimov called her lover a scoundrel, a thief and a nobody. Ranevskaya became angry and said that Trofimov was "a purebred, a ridiculous freak, a freak" who cannot love, but then she asked his forgiveness and danced with him.
Lopakhin and Gayev returned from the auction. Gayev's money was not enough, his bid was outbid by a certain gentleman, but Lopakhin bid even more and bought the estate, not wanting it to go to an outsider.
I bought an estate where my grandfather and father were slaves, where they were not even allowed into the kitchen. I'm dreaming, I'm only dreaming, I'm only imagining...
Varya took the keys to the estate from her belt, threw them on the floor, and left. Stunned Ranevskaya cried. Anya began to console her mother; she called her to come with her, promising to "plant a new garden, more luxurious than this one."
Act 4. The owners leave the sold-out estate and the cherry orchard begins to be cut down
It is May again. The estate is deserted; the furniture, paintings and curtains have disappeared; there are knots and suitcases in the corners. Ranevskaya is getting ready to leave. Saying goodbye to the men, she gave them her purse. Gaev, Lopakhin and Trofimov saw her off.
Trofimov was going to go to Moscow to continue his studies. Lopakhin tried to give him money for the journey, but he refused, considering himself a free man, able to do without the help of others. Together with the rest of humanity he goes "to a higher truth," and if he does not reach it, he will show the way to others.
At parting Trofimov advised Lopakhin to be less hand-waving, because cutting down the cherry orchard is also excessive.
Gaev intends to stay, he "accepted a place in the bank. Ranevskaya will go to Paris, where she will live on the money sent by her aunt, the Countess. They will not last long, and she will return to Russia, to Moscow, where Anya will be waiting for her. She decides to go to Moscow with Trofimov and enroll in the gymnasium. She is content - a new life awaits her.
Ranevskaya is left with one concern - Varya. She tried to persuade Lopakhin to propose to her, leaving them alone, but the merchant still does not dare to ask the girl to marry him. There was nothing left for Varya but to go and work as a housekeeper for a neighbor.
Ranevskaya and Gayev say goodbye to their home for a long time.
Oh my dear, my tender, beautiful garden! My life, my youth, my happiness, farewell! Farewell!
Finally, everyone left and the "thud of the axe on the tree" was heard - it was the beginning of cutting down the cherry orchard. A sickly old man, Gaev's lackey, is left in the deserted house, and everyone has forgotten all about him.