Anton Chekhov is the most eminent playwright who is universally regarded as the greatest Russian storyteller and dramatist of modern times. “The Bear” is one of his highly cherished comic works. This one–act play is written with the purpose of exposing the hypocrisy, pretension, falsity and artificiality of the contemporary feudal class of his country. It is light heartedly presented to set focus on a deep social trend. The title is ironic. The heroine of the play rebukes the hero and calls him, “a coarse bear, a bourbon! a monster. But at the end she accepts his love and is driven into his arms forgetting all her claims of love for her late husband and her proposed aversion for Smirnov… the bear. Smirnov is insolent but a very passionate man. Popova is a young window. She is in mourning and is wearing black dress. She has shunned every relation with the outside world and is confined to the supposed four-walled grave of her room. She has a servant named Luka. Luka is very sincere to his mistress and has deep concern for her welfare. As the play starts in Popova’s drawing room, Luka is trying to convince his mistress to abandon her prolonged mourning and come out of her cocoon of so-called grief. He tries to make her realize that she is wasting her life in a futile way. He rightly says that one cannot die with the dead. People come and go but life goes on. He tells her that she is still young and beautiful and could easily settle down in her life by marrying a young officer. So she should take interest in life and its pleasures. These words of Luka produce a very irritating effect on Popova and she asks him not to talk to her in that way because she can never think of leaving her husband’s memory and she would remain true even to his grave. All these claims of Popova prove flimsy and they collapse as soon as the very first man knocks at the door of her heart. While talking to her servant, Luka, she reveals her views about her late husband. She says that he has been a disloyal and treacherous husband who had love affairs with many other ladies. After his death she has discovered a whole drawer full of love letters. She says that he betrayed her, made fun of her feelings by making love to other woman. She is in mourning only to show that unlike him, she is a faithful wife who is loyal to her husband even after his death. Her late husband had been in the farm business and used to buy oats from a man called Smirnov. Smirnov is a retired army officer and a respectable landowner of a neighbouring village. He comes to Popova’s house to get his money that he has lent to her late husband. Now he desperately needs money because he has to pay the installments on his mortgaged land.
He visits all his creditors but can’t get anything. Then finally he travells seventy miles from his home to a place where he is confronted with Nicola’s widow, Popova, who does not want to pay him anything. There arises such an exchange of bitter and cynical remarks that ironically concludes at their decision of getting married. In course of their discussion, they start arguing about the character of ladies and men in general. Popova holds the view that all the men are scoundrels and they exploit ladies for their own purposes. She cites the instance of her own late husband who has been cruel and disloyal. In response, Smirnov badly ridicules ladies and their ways. He says that ladies are false and artificial… they hook a man by nose to fulfill their vested interests. He tells that he himself has a great experience with ladies and knows their true nature. The ladies only make an outward show of their affection and never love anyone truly. In his view ladies easily shift their affection from one person to another. He further says that ladies behave like crocodiles and they shed tears to attract and trap a man. They can love a lap dog but not a man. They are soft outwardly but from inside they are very cunning, wicked and cruel. He even goes further and criticizes Popova herself and makes fun of her mourning dress and her make up. He also laughs at her for being locked up in her home. They both abuse each other in a harsh way. Smirnov makes fun of Popova and the ladies in general while Popova condemns men. He feels like breaking her head and she calls him very offensive names. They decide even to shoot each other but…without any forewarning, Smirnov falls in love. He expresses his love in his natural insolent style and proposes her. On the other side Popova is in a conflict…she doesn’t want to lose Smirnov but at the same time she doesn’t want to shun her ostentatious image of a faithful widow. She oscillates between “yes” and “no” asking him to go at once and then shouting, “Where are you going”. Finally she turns away from her pretension and is driven into his arms……. Quite unexpectedly they accept each other as life partners.