The Bear is a comedy play. It has two main characters. Popova and Smirnov. Popova is a young lady whose husband is dead; but she is still mourning at his death. She does not leave the house and meet any one and she is wearing a black dress to prove that she loves her husband even after seven years of his death. Although he was so unkind and faithless to her yet she is and will be true to him for ever. Her servant, Luka, is reassuring and telling her that she is young and should forget her dead husband now. He says there are many good people around and she should get married again but she is so attached to her husband’s memories that she does not agree with him.
A young man, named Smirnov, comes to Popova to get his debt back that Popova’s husband had borrowed from him because he used to buy oats for his horse, Toby. He tells Luka that he wants to see Popova but she refuses to see him. He pushes his way in and sits in the drawing room. Luka goes to tell Popova that the devil has come in forcibly. Popova sees Smirnov and tells him that she is in a state of mind that she cannot pay attention to money matters. She also says that he will get his money when her steward comes back from town; but Smirnov says that he wants the money now because he has to pay the interest and if he does not do that the creditors will take his estate and give him a hard time. At this Popova says that since she does not have money at the moment, she cannot pay.
Smirnov becomes angry because he has been calling on his debtors; but none of them has paid him and here he is met by Popova in a state of mind. This really annoys Smirnov and he says, “Madam, you have buried yourself within the four walls of your house; but you haven’t forgotten to powdered your face yet.” Smirnov behaves awkwardly and rudely and says, “You cannot get round me with your dimpled cheeks and weeds. I have refused
twelve women and nine have refused me. I have fought duels three times on account of women.” He calls all women insincere, selfish, faithless, and trivial to the marrow of their backbone. Popova also calls him a bear three times. This leads both of them to a fight, which may decide whether only men need pay for their insults or women must also pay, as they want emancipation. Luka becomes afraid and goes to call gardener and other servants to stop these people from fighting. Popova brings pistols; but she does not know how to fire. Smirnov teaches her. The process of asking for debt and Popova’s stylish attitude makes him fall in love with her. He madly loves her like a student. Popova also begins to like him. Instead of fighting, they are drawn close to each other. When Luka, returns with gardener and other servants, he finds both of them in happy union and Popova says, “Tell them in the stables that Toby is not to have any oats at all today.”
The Bear is a farce. The boisterous situations make it a complete farce. It is a direct criticism on hypocrisy of the people of Russian society that how their states of mind change and how they behave differently from their actual nature.