Saturday, June 25, 2016
Impossibility of Certainty
What separates Hamlet from other revenge plays (and maybe from every play written before it) is that the action we expect to see, particularly from Hamlet himself, is continually postponed while Hamlet tries to obtain more certain knowledge about what he is doing. This play poses many questions that other plays would simply take for granted. Can we have certain knowledge about ghosts? Is the ghost what it appears to be, or is it really a misleading fiend? Does the ghost have reliable knowledge about its own death, or is the ghost itself deluded? Moving to more earthly matters: How can we know for certain the facts about a crime that has no witnesses? Can Hamlet know the state of Claudius’s soul by watching his behavior? If so, can he know the facts of what Claudius did by observing the state of his soul? Can Claudius (or the audience) know the state of Hamlet’s mind by observing his behavior and listening to his speech? Can we know whether our actions will have the consequences we want them to have? Can we know anything about the afterlife?
Many people have seen Hamlet as a play about indecisiveness, and thus about Hamlet’s failure to act appropriately. It might be more interesting to consider that the play shows us how many uncertainties our lives are built upon, how many unknown quantities are taken for granted when people act or when they evaluate one another’s actions.
Complexity of Action
Directly related to the theme of certainty is the theme of action. How is it possible to take reasonable, effective, purposeful action? In Hamlet, the question of how to act is affected not only by rational considerations, such as the need for certainty, but also by emotional, ethical, and psychological factors. Hamlet himself appears to distrust the idea that it’s even possible to act in a controlled, purposeful way. When he does act, he prefers to do it blindly, recklessly, and violently. The other characters obviously think much less about “action” in the abstract than Hamlet does, and are therefore less troubled about the possibility of acting effectively. They simply act as they feel is appropriate. But in some sense they prove that Hamlet is right, because all of their actions miscarry. Claudius possesses himself of queen and crown through bold action, but his conscience torments him, and he is beset by threats to his authority (and, of course, he dies). Laertes resolves that nothing will distract him from acting out his revenge, but he is easily influenced and manipulated into serving Claudius’s ends, and his poisoned rapier is turned back upon himself.
Mystery of Death
In the aftermath of his father’s murder, Hamlet is obsessed with the idea of death, and over the course of the play he considers death from a great many perspectives. He ponders both the spiritual aftermath of death, embodied in the ghost, and the physical remainders of the dead, such as by Yorick’s skull and the decaying corpses in the cemetery. Throughout, the idea of death is closely tied to the themes of spirituality, truth, and uncertainty in that death may bring the answers to Hamlet’s deepest questions, ending once and for all the problem of trying to determine truth in an ambiguous world. And, since death is both the cause and the consequence of revenge, it is intimately tied to the theme of revenge and justice—Claudius’s murder of King Hamlet initiates Hamlet’s quest for revenge, and Claudius’s death is the end of that quest.
The question of his own death plagues Hamlet as well, as he repeatedly contemplates whether or not suicide is a morally legitimate action in an unbearably painful world. Hamlet’s grief and misery is such that he frequently longs for death to end his suffering, but he fears that if he commits suicide, he will be consigned to eternal suffering in hell because of the Christian religion’s prohibition of suicide. In his famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy (III.i), Hamlet philosophically concludes that no one would choose to endure the pain of life if he or she were not afraid of what will come after death, and that it is this fear which causes complex moral considerations to interfere with the capacity for action.
Nation as a Diseased Body
Everything is connected in Hamlet, including the welfare of the royal family and the health of the state as a whole. The play’s early scenes explore the sense of anxiety and dread that surrounds the transfer of power from one ruler to the next. Throughout the play, characters draw explicit connections between the moral legitimacy of a ruler and the health of the nation. Denmark is frequently described as a physical body made ill by the moral corruption of Claudius and Gertrude, and many observers interpret the presence of the ghost as a supernatural omen indicating that “[s]omething is rotten in the state of Denmark” (I.iv.67). The dead King Hamlet is portrayed as a strong, forthright ruler under whose guard the state was in good health, while Claudius, a wicked politician, has corrupted and compromised Denmark to satisfy his own appetites. At the end of the play, the rise to power of the upright Fortinbras suggests that Denmark will be strengthened once again.
Incest and Incestuous Desire
The motif of incest runs throughout the play and is frequently alluded to by Hamlet and the ghost, most obviously in conversations about Gertrude and Claudius, the former brother-in-law and sister-in-law who are now married. A subtle motif of incestuous desire can be found in the relationship of Laertes and Ophelia, as Laertes sometimes speaks to his sister in suggestively sexual terms and, at her funeral, leaps into her grave to hold her in his arms. However, the strongest overtones of incestuous desire arise in the relationship of Hamlet and Gertrude, in Hamlet’s fixation on Gertrude’s sex life with Claudius and his preoccupation with her in general.
Shattered by his mother’s decision to marry Claudius so soon after her husband’s death, Hamlet becomes cynical about women in general, showing a particular obsession with what he perceives to be a connection between female sexuality and moral corruption. This motif of misogyny, or hatred of women, occurs sporadically throughout the play, but it is an important inhibiting factor in Hamlet’s relationships with Ophelia and Gertrude. He urges Ophelia to go to a nunnery rather than experience the corruptions of sexuality and exclaims of Gertrude, “Frailty, thy name is woman” (I.ii.146).
Ears and Hearing
One facet of Hamlet’s exploration of the difficulty of attaining true knowledge is slipperiness of language. Words are used to communicate ideas, but they can also be used to distort the truth, manipulate other people, and serve as tools in corrupt quests for power. Claudius, the shrewd politician, is the most obvious example of a man who manipulates words to enhance his own power. The sinister uses of words are represented by images of ears and hearing, from Claudius’s murder of the king by pouring poison into his ear to Hamlet’s claim to Horatio that “I have words to speak in thine ear will make thee dumb” (IV.vi.21). The poison poured in the king’s ear by Claudius is used by the ghost to symbolize the corrosive effect of Claudius’s dishonesty on the health of Denmark. Declaring that the story that he was killed by a snake is a lie, he says that “the whole ear of Denmark” is “Rankly abused. . . .” (I.v.36–38).
In Hamlet, physical objects are rarely used to represent thematic ideas. One important exception is Yorick’s skull, which Hamlet discovers in the graveyard in the first scene of Act V. As Hamlet speaks to the skull and about the skull of the king’s former jester, he fixates on death’s inevitability and the disintegration of the body. He urges the skull to “get you to my lady’s chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favor she must come”—no one can avoid death (V.i.178–179). He traces the skull’s mouth and says, “Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft,” indicating his fascination with the physical consequences of death (V.i.174–175). This latter idea is an important motif throughout the play, as Hamlet frequently makes comments referring to every human body’s eventual decay, noting that Polonius will be eaten by worms, that even kings are eaten by worms, and that dust from the decayed body of Alexander the Great might be used to stop a hole in a beer barrel.
The son of Old Hamlet and Gertrude, thus Prince of Denmark. The ghost of Old Hamlet charges him with the task of killing his uncle, Claudius, for killing him and usurping the throne of Denmark. Hamlet is a moody, theatrical, witty, brilliant young man, perpetually fascinated and tormented by doubts and introspection. It is famously difficult to pin down his true thoughts and feelings -- does he love Ophelia, and does he really intend to kill Claudius? In fact, it often seems as though Hamlet pursues lines of thought and emotion merely for their experimental value, testing this or that idea without any interest in applying his resolutions in the practical world. The variety of his moods, from manic to somber, seems to cover much of the range of human possibility.
The former King of Denmark. Old Hamlet appears as a ghost and exhorts his son to kill Claudius, whom he claims has killed him in order to secure the throne and the queen of Denmark. Hamlet fears (or at least says he fears) that the ghost is an imposter, an evil spirit sent to lure him to hell. Old Hamlet's ghost reappears in Act Three of the play when Hamlet goes too far in berating his mother. After this second appearance, we hear and see no more of him.
Old Hamlet's brother, Hamlet's uncle, and Gertrude's newlywed husband. He murdered his brother in order to seize the throne and subsequently married Gertrude, his erstwhile sister-in-law. Claudius appears to be a rather dull man who is fond of the pleasures of the flesh, sex and drinking. Only as the play goes on do we become certain that he is indeed guilty of murder and usurpation. Claudius is the only character aside from Hamlet to have a soliloquy in the play. When he is convinced that Hamlet has found him out, Claudius eventually schemes to have his nephew-cum-son murdered.
Old Hamlet's widow and Claudius' wife. She seems unaware that Claudius killed her former husband. Gertrude loves Hamlet tremendously, while Hamlet has very mixed feelings about her for marrying the (in his eyes) inferior Claudius after her first husband's death. Hamlet attributes this need for a husband to her lustiness. Gertrude figures prominently in many of the major scenes in the play, including the killing of Polonius and the death of Ophelia.
Hamlet's closest friend. They know each other from the University of Wittenberg, where they are both students. Horatio is presented as a studious, skeptical young man, perhaps more serious and less ingenious than Hamlet but more than capable of trading witticisms with his good friend. In a moving tribute just before the play-within-the-play begins, in Act Two scene two, Hamlet praises Horatio as his soul's choice and declares that he loves Horatio because he is "not passion's slave" but is rather good-humored and philosophical through all of life's buffets. At the end of the play, Hamlet charges Horatio with the task of explaining the pile of bodies to the confused onlookers in court.
The father of Ophelia and Laertes and the chief adviser to the throne of Denmark. Polonius is a windy, pedantic, interfering, suspicious, silly old man, a "rash, intruding fool," in Hamlet's phrase. Polonius is forever fomenting intrigue and hiding behind tapestries to spy. He hatches the theory that Ophelia caused Hamlet to go mad by rejecting him. Polonius' demise is fitting to his flaws. Hamlet accidentally kills the old man while he eavesdrops behind an arras in Gertrude's bedroom. Polonius' death causes his daughter to go mad.
The daughter of Polonius and sister of Laertes. Ophelia has received several tributes of love from Hamlet but rejects him after her father orders her to do so. In general, Ophelia is controlled by the men in her life, moved around like a pawn in their scheme to discover Hamlet's distemper. Moreover, Ophelia is regularly mocked by Hamlet and lectured by her father and brother about her sexuality. She goes mad after Hamlet murders Polonius. She later drowns.
Polonius' son and Ophelia's brother. Laertes is an impetuous young man who lives primarily in Paris, France. We see him at the beginning of the play at the celebration of Claudius and Gertrude's wedding. He then returns to Paris, only to return in Act Four with an angry entourage after his father's death at Hamlet's hands. He and Claudius conspire to kill Hamlet in the course of a duel between Laertes and the prince.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
Friends of Hamlet's from the University of Wittenberg. Claudius invites them to court in order to spy on Hamlet. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are often treated as comic relief; they are sycophantic, vaguely absurd fellows. After Hamlet kills Polonius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are assigned to accompany Hamlet to England. They carry a letter from Claudius asking the English king to kill Hamlet upon his arrival. Hamlet discovers this plot and alters the letter so that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are put to death instead. We learn that they have indeed been executed at the very close of the play.
The Prince of Norway. In many ways his story is parallel to Hamlet's: he too has lost his father by violence (Old Hamlet killed Old Fortinbras in single combat); he too is impeded from ascending the throne by an interfering uncle. But despite their biographical similarities, Fortinbras and Hamlet are constitutional opposites. Where Hamlet is pensive and mercurial, Fortinbras is all action. He leads an army through Denmark in order to attack disputed territory in Poland. At the end of the play, and with Hamlet's dying assent, Fortinbras assumes the crown of Denmark.
The ludicrous, flowery, stupid courtier who invites Hamlet to fence with Laertes, then serves as referee during the contest.
Two "clowns" (roles played by comic actors), a principal gravedigger and his assistant. They figure only in one scene -- Act Five scene one -- yet never fail to make a big impression on readers and audience members. The primary gravedigger is a very witty man, macabre and intelligent, who is the only character in the play capable of trading barbs with Hamlet. They are the only speaking representatives of the lower classes in the play and their perspective is a remarkable contrast to that of the nobles.
A group of (presumably English) actors who arrive in Denmark. Hamlet knows this company well and listens, enraptured, while the chief player recites a long speech about the death of Priam and the wrath of Hecuba. Hamlet uses the players to stage an adaptation of "The Death of Gonzago" which he calls "The Mousetrap" -- a play that reprises almost perfectly the account of Old Hamlet's death as told by the ghost -- in order to be sure of Claudius' guilt.
Charged with performing the rites at Ophelia's funeral. Because of the doubtful circumstances of Ophelia's death, the priest refuses to do more than the bare minimum as she is interred.
Polonius' servant, sent to check on Laertes in Paris. He receives absurdly detailed instructions in espionage from his master.
A soldier who is among the first to see the ghost of Old Hamlet.
A soldier who is among the first to see the ghost of Old Hamlet.
A captain in Fortinbras' army who speaks briefly with Hamlet.
Ambassadors from England who arrive at the play's close to announce that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.
Hamlet - The Prince of Denmark, the title character, and the protagonist. About thirty years old at the start of the play, Hamlet is the son of Queen Gertrude and the late King Hamlet, and the nephew of the present king, Claudius. Hamlet is melancholy, bitter, and cynical, full of hatred for his uncle’s scheming and disgust for his mother’s sexuality. A reflective and thoughtful young man who has studied at the University of Wittenberg, Hamlet is often indecisive and hesitant, but at other times prone to rash and impulsive acts.
Claudius - The King of Denmark, Hamlet’s uncle, and the play’s antagonist. The villain of the play, Claudius is a calculating, ambitious politician, driven by his sexual appetites and his lust for power, but he occasionally shows signs of guilt and human feeling—his love for Gertrude, for instance, seems sincere.
Gertrude - The Queen of Denmark, Hamlet’s mother, recently married to Claudius. Gertrude loves Hamlet deeply, but she is a shallow, weak woman who seeks affection and status more urgently than moral rectitude or truth.
Polonius - The Lord Chamberlain of Claudius’s court, a pompous, conniving old man. Polonius is the father of Laertes and Ophelia.
Horatio - Hamlet’s close friend, who studied with the prince at the university in Wittenberg. Horatio is loyal and helpful to Hamlet throughout the play. After Hamlet’s death, Horatio remains alive to tell Hamlet’s story.
Ophelia - Polonius’s daughter, a beautiful young woman with whom Hamlet has been in love. Ophelia is a sweet and innocent young girl, who obeys her father and her brother, Laertes. Dependent on men to tell her how to behave, she gives in to Polonius’s schemes to spy on Hamlet. Even in her lapse into madness and death, she remains maidenly, singing songs about flowers and finally drowning in the river amid the flower garlands she had gathered.
Laertes - Polonius’s son and Ophelia’s brother, a young man who spends much of the play in France. Passionate and quick to action, Laertes is clearly a foil for the reflective Hamlet.
Fortinbras - The young Prince of Norway, whose father the king (also named Fortinbras) was killed by Hamlet’s father (also named Hamlet). Now Fortinbras wishes to attack Denmark to avenge his father’s honor, making him another foil for Prince Hamlet.
The Ghost - The specter of Hamlet’s recently deceased father. The ghost, who claims to have been murdered by Claudius, calls upon Hamlet to avenge him. However, it is not entirely certain whether the ghost is what it appears to be, or whether it is something else. Hamlet speculates that the ghost might be a devil sent to deceive him and tempt him into murder, and the question of what the ghost is or where it comes from is never definitively resolved.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern - Two slightly bumbling courtiers, former friends of Hamlet from Wittenberg, who are summoned by Claudius and Gertrude to discover the cause of Hamlet’s strange behavior.
Voltimand and Cornelius - Courtiers whom Claudius sends to Norway to persuade the king to prevent Fortinbras from attacking.
Marcellus and Bernardo - The officers who first see the ghost walking the ramparts of Elsinore and who summon Horatio to witness it. Marcellus is present when Hamlet first encounters the ghost.
Hamlet has fascinated audiences and readers for centuries, and the first thing to point out about him is that he is enigmatic. There is always more to him than the other characters in the play can figure out; even the most careful and clever readers come away with the sense that they don’t know everything there is to know about this character. Hamlet actually tells other characters that there is more to him than meets the eye—notably, his mother, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern—but his fascination involves much more than this. When he speaks, he sounds as if there’s something important he’s not saying, maybe something even he is not aware of. The ability to write soliloquies and dialogues that create this effect is one of Shakespeare’s most impressive achievements.
A university student whose studies are interrupted by his father’s death, Hamlet is extremely philosophical and contemplative. He is particularly drawn to difficult questions or questions that cannot be answered with any certainty. Faced with evidence that his uncle murdered his father, evidence that any other character in a play would believe, Hamlet becomes obsessed with proving his uncle’s guilt before trying to act. The standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” is simply unacceptable to him. He is equally plagued with questions about the afterlife, about the wisdom of suicide, about what happens to bodies after they die—the list is extensive.
But even though he is thoughtful to the point of obsession, Hamlet also behaves rashly and impulsively. When he does act, it is with surprising swiftness and little or no premeditation, as when he stabs Polonius through a curtain without even checking to see who he is. He seems to step very easily into the role of a madman, behaving erratically and upsetting the other characters with his wild speech and pointed innuendos.
It is also important to note that Hamlet is extremely melancholy and discontented with the state of affairs in Denmark and in his own family—indeed, in the world at large. He is extremely disappointed with his mother for marrying his uncle so quickly, and he repudiates Ophelia, a woman he once claimed to love, in the harshest terms. His words often indicate his disgust with and distrust of women in general. At a number of points in the play, he contemplates his own death and even the option of suicide.
But, despite all of the things with which Hamlet professes dissatisfaction, it is remarkable that the prince and heir apparent of Denmark should think about these problems only in personal and philosophical terms. He spends relatively little time thinking about the threats to Denmark’s national security from without or the threats to its stability from within (some of which he helps to create through his own carelessness).
Hamlet’s major antagonist is a shrewd, lustful, conniving king who contrasts sharply with the other male characters in the play. Whereas most of the other important men in Hamlet are preoccupied with ideas of justice, revenge, and moral balance, Claudius is bent upon maintaining his own power. The old King Hamlet was apparently a stern warrior, but Claudius is a corrupt politician whose main weapon is his ability to manipulate others through his skillful use of language. Claudius’s speech is compared to poison being poured in the ear—the method he used to murder Hamlet’s father. Claudius’s love for Gertrude may be sincere, but it also seems likely that he married her as a strategic move, to help him win the throne away from Hamlet after the death of the king. As the play progresses, Claudius’s mounting fear of Hamlet’s insanity leads him to ever greater self-preoccupation; when Gertrude tells him that Hamlet has killed Polonius, Claudius does not remark that Gertrude might have been in danger, but only that he would have been in danger had he been in the room. He tells Laertes the same thing as he attempts to soothe the young man’s anger after his father’s death. Claudius is ultimately too crafty for his own good. In Act V, scene ii, rather than allowing Laertes only two methods of killing Hamlet, the sharpened sword and the poison on the blade, Claudius insists on a third, the poisoned goblet. When Gertrude inadvertently drinks the poison and dies, Hamlet is at last able to bring himself to kill Claudius, and the king is felled by his own cowardly machination.
Few Shakespearean characters have caused as much uncertainty as Gertrude, the beautiful Queen of Denmark. The play seems to raise more questions about Gertrude than it answers, including: Was she involved with Claudius before the death of her husband? Did she love her husband? Did she know about Claudius’s plan to commit the murder? Did she love Claudius, or did she marry him simply to keep her high station in Denmark? Does she believe Hamlet when he insists that he is not mad, or does she pretend to believe him simply to protect herself? Does she intentionally betray Hamlet to Claudius, or does she believe that she is protecting her son’s secret?
These questions can be answered in numerous ways, depending upon one’s reading of the play. The Gertrude who does emerge clearly in Hamlet is a woman defined by her desire for station and affection, as well as by her tendency to use men to fulfill her instinct for self-preservation—which, of course, makes her extremely dependent upon the men in her life. Hamlet’s most famous comment about Gertrude is his furious condemnation of women in general: “Frailty, thy name is woman!” (I.ii.146). This comment is as much indicative of Hamlet’s agonized state of mind as of anything else, but to a great extent Gertrude does seem morally frail. She never exhibits the ability to think critically about her situation, but seems merely to move instinctively toward seemingly safe choices, as when she immediately runs to Claudius after her confrontation with Hamlet. She is at her best in social situations (I.ii and V.ii), when her natural grace and charm seem to indicate a rich, rounded personality. At times it seems that her grace and charm are her onlycharacteristics, and her reliance on men appears to be her sole way of capitalizing on her abilities.
Prince Hamlet’s student friend, Horatio, goes to the battlements of Denmark’s Elsinore castle late at night to meet the guards. They tell him about a ghost they have seen that resembles the late king, Hamlet. It reappears and they decide to tell the prince. Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius, having become king, has now married Hamlet’s widowed mother, Gertrude.
Monday, June 13, 2016
The play “The Bear” is a farce. It is full of many absurd situations and remarks. There are three main characters in the play and they all make us laugh with their absurd behavior and comments.
Popova is a widow. Her husband died seven months ago, but she is still in mourning. Her servant, Luka advises her to give up her mourning. He advises her to see her neighbors, but she says that she will keep on mourning until her death.
In the meanwhile, Smirnov comes to take 1200 roubles from Popova. Her husband used to buy oat from him. Popova tells him that her steward is out and she will pay him the day after tomorrow.
However, Smirnov insists on taking the money that day. He behaves rudely. He even makes fun of Popova’s mourning and her state of mind. Popova also becomes rude. They speak against each other’s sex and use insulting words. Smirnov thinks that he has been insulted. He challenges Popova to fight a duel.
Popova accepts the challenge and brings her husband’s revolver. However, she does not know how to fire. She asks Smirnov to teach her how to fire. The situation changes and Smirnov is impressed by her boldness and beauty. He says that he does not want to fight the duel. He expresses his love for her. He offers her his hand.
First, she insists on fighting, but then asks him to go. She changes her decision repeatedly and then decides to marry him. When Luka returns with other servants to beat Smirnov, he is surprised to see them touching each other.
1. Describe the reasons behind the marriage of Popova and Smirnov.
Both Popova and Smirnov had their own reasons of marriage. We shall discuss them one by one.
Popova had been mourning the death of her husband for the last seven months. She had been leading a lonely and sad life since then. Seven months was a long period. Now time had conquered her grief. Inwardly, she wanted some change in her life. She did not want to continue this mourning any more. Besides, it is human psychology that man gets sick and tired of doing the same thing for a long period.
The second reason may be the advice of her servant Luka. He shocked her by making her understand that in ten years’ time, she would not be beautiful anymore and no man would look at her. It was shocking for Popova.
The third reason was that Popova had a very romantic nature. Her mourning the death of her husband for seven months shows this. However, when Smirnov assured her of his love, she was greatly moved. It was very romantic that a man was on his knees, was offering her his hand, and was speaking very romantic dialogues. Smirnov said, “…I’m on my knees like a fool, offering you my hand…” It was all according to her romantic nature. She could not resist it and accepted the proposal.
Smirnov decided to marry Popova because he fell in love with her. He was greatly impressed by her beauty and boldness. He said, “But what a woman!” and, “That’s the sort I can understand!” He further says, “I’ve never in my life seen one like her!” He also says, “I love you as I’ve never loved before!”
Therefore, these were the reasons behind the marriage of Popova and Smirnov. (289)
2. What was the main issue or conflict between Smirnov and Popova?
When we go through the play “The Bear”, we find that at first, the main conflict between them was money, but later this conflict changed into another conflict – insult.
Popova’s late husband was to pay some money to Smirnov. He used to buy oats for his horses. However, before paying the money he died. Seven months had passed. Now Smirnov and come to Popova to take his money. Unfortunately, Popova’s steward was not present. Therefore, she was unable to pay his money that day. She plainly told Smirnov about this situation. She promised that she would pay his money the day after tomorrow. However, Smirnov insisted on taking the money on that day. Smirnov talked to her rudely and in an uncivilized manner. He made fun of her mourning. Popova also made fun of him. She even abuses him and calls him a bear. She said, “You’re a boor! A coarse bear! A bourbon! A monster!”
Smirnov thought that Popova had insulted him. On the other hand, Popova thought that Smirnov did not know how to behave before women. She wanted to kill him for that. This was the second main conflict between them. This conflict between them grew serious and they decided to fight a duel. Popova brought her late husband’s revolver.
Therefore, we can say that at first the main conflict between them was money. However, later this conflict changed into another conflict – insult. Both of them thought that they had been insulted. Luckily, these conflicts did not bring any serious consequences. (254)
3. The play “The Bear” is a farce (ridiculous situation). Discuss.
Describe the comic elements of the play “The Bear”.
When we go through the play “The Bear”, we find that it is a farce. A farce is full of many absurd situations and remarks. These situations and remarks make the readers laugh. There are three main characters in the play and they all make us laugh with their absurd comments. There are also many absurd situations. When the play starts, we see that Luka is advising Popova to leave her mourning and go out to see her neighbours. However, his way of advising her is very absurd. He gives the examples of cats, midges, and spiders. We simply laugh at these examples. Popova looks at the photograph of her husband and calls him a ‘bad child’. The word ‘bad child’ makes us laugh.
When Popova refuses to give Smirnov the money, he says, “I have not the pleasure of being either your husband or your finance, so please don’t make scenes.” These remarks are very funny and absurd and we laugh at them. When Popova accepts the challenge of duel from Smirnov, he says that he will bring her down like a chicken. The word ‘chicken’ is very funny.
We find the most comic and absurd situation in the play when Popova brings her husband’s revolvers and asks Smirnov to teach her how to fire. This is very absurd that she asks her enemy to teach her how to fire. It is also very absurd that Smirnov starts teaching her. What a funny and absurd situation it is! He not only teaches her how to fire, but he also tells her the prices of different revolvers. Another situation is very funny when Popova changes her mind repeatedly. At one time, she asks him to leave and at another asks him to stay.
From the above discussion, we can conclude that it is a farce and there are many comic and absurd elements in the play. The writer has created comedy through funny comments and absurd situations. (327)
4. Discuss the title of the play “The Bear”.
The title of the play “The Bear” is quite justified. This title suggests the attitude of Smirnov who is just like a bear. In everyday language, we call ‘bear’ to a person who is rude, bad mannered and bad tempered.
When we go through the play, we find that Smirnov is bad-tempered and rude. On his first appearance in the play, he calls Luka, the servant of Popova, fool and ass. Popova tells him that her steward is not present and so she cannot pay the money that day but Smirnov does not listen to her. When Popova tells him that she is in a state of mind, Smirnov makes fun of her state of mind. He even makes fun of her mourning. He makes fun of her wearing lipstick and powdering her face.
Then he talks against women. Popova is right when she says that he does not know how to behave before women. When Luka asks him to leave, he gets angry and threatens him. He says, “Shut up! Who are you talking to? I’ll chop you into pieces!” these words spoken by Smirnov clearly show how bad-tempered he is.
He is so rude that he challenges Popova to fight a duel. Now it is very rude to challenge a woman to fight a duel. He is ready to kill her and says, “I’ll bring her down like a chicken! I’m not a little boy or a sentimental puppy; I don’t care about this “softer sex.”
Therefore, from the above discussion we can conclude that the title of the play is quite justified. It suggests the attitude of Smirnov who is just like a bear in his attitude. (280)
5. Justify the end of the play “The Bear”.
No doubt, the end of the play “The Bear” is very sudden and unexpected. We see that both Smirnov and Popova have revolvers in their hands. They are going to fight a duel and to kill each other but suddenly they decide to marry. This is unexpected. However, when we go through the play, we find that this sudden and unexpected end has many reasons. We shall discuss them one by one.
The reason of Popova’s change of mind was that Popova had been mourning the death of her husband for the last seven months. She had been leading a lonely and sad life since then. Seven months was a long period. Now time had conquered her grief. Inwardly, she wanted some change in her life. She did not want to continue this mourning any more. Besides, it is human psychology that man gets sick and tired of doing the same thing for a long time.
The second reason may be the advice of Luka, her servant. He shocked her by telling her that in ten year’s time, she would not be beautiful anymore and no man would look at her. It was shocking for Popova. The third reason was that Popova had a very romantic nature. When Smirnov assured her of his love, she was greatly moved. It was all according to her romantic nature.
Smirnov decide to marry Popova because he fell in love with her. He was greatly impressed by her beauty. When Popova accepted his challenge of fighting a duel, he was greatly impressed by her boldness too. So, he changed his mind and decided to marry her.
The most important point in that it is a comedy and the end of a comedy cannot be serious. Its end must be funny and pleasant.
Therefore, we can conclude that although the end of the play is sudden and unexpected, yet it is quite justified. (318)
6. Both Smirnov and Popova have the same qualities of character. Discuss.
Both Popova and Smirnov are the chips off the same block. Discuss.
It is quite right to say that both Smirnov and Popova have the same qualities of character.
When we go through the play “The Bear” carefully, we find that both are rude, romantic, quarrelsome and hot-tempered. Both swear not to marry all their lives, but they change their decision.
When the play starts, we see that Smirnov comes right in without getting any permission. He calls Luka fool and ass. Later, he makes fun of Popova’s mourning and her state of mind. He speaks against women and uses insulting words. It is also very rude to challenge a woman to fight a duel. He threatens that he will chop Luka into pieces. He is romantic by nature. He falls in love with Popova. He tells Popova that he had fought duels three times because of women. He changes his decision and decides to marry Popova.
Popova is also just like Smirnov. She is rude too. She abuses Smirnov. She talks against men. When Smirnov challenges her to fight a duel, she at once accepts the challenge. She goes and brings revolvers. Smirnov wants to avoid the duel, but she insists on fighting it. This shows how quarrelsome and hot-tempered she is.
She is romantic by nature. She mourns the death of her husband for seven months. She talks to his photograph and promises to continue mourning until her death. This is romantic but she also changes her decision of mourning until her death and decides to marry Smirnov.
Therefore, we can conclude that both Smirnov and Popova are the chips off the same block and they have the same qualities of character. (272)