Charlotta is musing about her unconventional life. She doesn't know how old she is. Her parents were performers and, when they died, a German lady took her in. She became a governess. Now she's alone.
Epikhodov plays on a guitar. He's trying to get Dunyasha's attention, but she's not having it. Her eye is on Yasha.
When Epikhodov shows off a revolver, Charlotta decides she's had enough of these people. She takes off.
Epikhodov is full of dissatisfaction, too. He feels wronged by fate. He'd like a private word with Dunyasha, but she sends him on an errand.
Dunyasha intimates to Yasha what a lady she is, and that he better not treat her badly.
He kisses her. Then tells her to behave. When Lubov approaches, Yasha asks Dunyasha to get lost. It would look bad for them to be seen together.
Lubov enters with Gaev and Lopakhin. Lopakhin is on his pet subject: will they rent the cherry orchard for villas?
Lubov and Gaev totally ignore him. Lubov seems to be in a bad mood. She drops her coins and blames herself for spending money on lunch when Varya is feeding the peasants peas. She also scolds her brother for eating so much, drinking so much, talking so much.
Yasha is teasing Gaev, who can't stand it. It's either him or me, Gaev says. Lubov dismisses Yasha.
Lopakhin informs them that a rich man from town plans to buy their estate. When Lubov counters that their aunt will loan them money – maybe ten thousand rubles – Lopakhin is beside himself. It's not going to be enough. They have to rent the cherry orchard out for vacation villas.
But it's so vulgar! protests Lubov.
Lopakhin threatens to leave, but Lubov apologizes. She feels she's led a sinful life, wasting money, marrying a good-for-nothing drunk. She thinks her son died as a punishment. After he died, she took up with another good-for-nothing, who fell ill and drained her emotionally and financially. He just sent her another telegram, which she tears up.
A Jewish band can be heard. Lubov wants to have them over.
On the subject of entertainment, Lopakhin saw a play last night. Lubov says he should spend time looking at his own life instead of plays. And he should get married. To Varya.
Lopakhin is noncommittal.
Gaev has been offered a job in a bank. Fiers enters with Gaev's overcoat, scolding him.
Fiers talks about the emancipation – he didn't agree with it. He stayed in service even after being freed.
Anya and Varya enter with Trofimov. Lopakhin teases him for always being with the ladies. And still being a student.
Trofimov has heard it before, but still gets riled.
They make fun of him, but they enjoy hearing Trofimov's opinions. He believes in work and progress. He loathes the intellectuals who still treat their servants like animals.
Lopakhin picks up on the thread, reflecting on how small and petty people are, when they should really be giants.
Epikhodov enters with his guitar. Everyone's feeling pensive.
Gaev can't help himself. He sees the sunset and delivers an ode to Nature. Anya and Varya hush him.
Everyone is silent for a moment, then a distant sound like a breaking string is heard. It disturbs them.
Soon after, a drunken vagrant enters, begging for money. Varya screams; Lubov gives him a gold piece. Varya can't believe Lubov gave him so much.
When Lubov brings up marriage, Lopakhin makes some bad nun jokes in Varya's direction. Everyone exits, aside from Trofimov and Anya.
They are relieved to be alone.
Trofimov is annoyed that Varya keeps monitoring them. She's afraid they'll fall in love, he says. But they have higher things in mind.
Anya is under his spell. He's made her see the cherry orchard totally differently. She doesn't love it like she used to.
Of course she doesn't love it, says Trofimov. It's a symbol of slavery. Her ancestors owned serfs, whose souls haunt the trees. They have to escape the past.
Anya will start with leaving the house. Trofimov is all for it.
Epikhodov's guitar is heard, and Varya, calling for them.