Literature Annotations


Chekhov, Anton P.
The Bear


Genre Play
KeywordsDisability, Grief, Humor and Illness/Disability, Loneliness, Love, Mourning, Ordinary Life, Society
Summary

Popova is still in deep mourning seven months after her husband's death. She stays alone at her country house, refusing to go out or to see anybody. Suddenly, Smirnov arrives and rudely insists on seeing her. Popova's late husband owed him 1200 roubles and he demands the debt be paid at once because his creditors are after him.

Popova delays. Smirnov insists, makes light of Popova's mourning, and refuses to leave. They angrily vie with one another: "Men are rude and inconstant!" "Women are fickle and manipulative!" (It turns out that Popova's husband was actually a liar and cheat, but she remains true to his memory just to show him how faithful a woman can be.)

Smirnov challenges her to a duel for insulting him and Popova brings out her husband's pistols. At this point Smirnov realizes that he has fallen in love with this tough, spunky woman. Popova vacillates for a moment, but they end up in each other's arms. (All this in 12 pages.)

CommentaryThis is one of Chekhov's very short plays, an unquestionable comedy, as opposed to the author's full length dramas which he considered comedies, but which are certainly of a more serious ilk. The Bear condenses so much of human nature into this short, comical, bizarre, and ultimately triumphant act. Chekhov demonstrates how close (at times) is the relationship between anger and passion, and how strange and wonderful is the human condition.
SourceNine Plays of Chekhov
PublisherGrosset & Dunlap
Edition1946
Place PublishedNew York
MiscellaneousWritten in the late 1880's.
Annotated by Coulehan, Jack
Date of Entry 02/13/97
Last Revised 07/13/07