The Brute

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The drama essay “The Brute” by Anton Chekhov is typically referred to that subgenre of comedy known as the farce. What separates a farce from the more pedestrian and commonplace "comedy" is that it is infused with a sense of whimsy as well as a detachment from reality that, paradoxically, should serve to make it all the more realistic. In the case of The Bear the farcical elements are utilized to heighten the emotional intensity that is under normal circumstances subject to far too much control and restraint to allow it freedom in a work of drama as short as this play. The revelation that love and the realization of love is enough to make Smirnoff undergo the series of truly bizarre and unexpected changes in register could probably only be accomplished in a farce. The arguments that take place between Mrs. Popov and Smirnov serve both to provide the comic material for the play and as a foundation upon which to build Smirnov's growing realization that he succumbing to the ultimate debt of love. Popov has retained her commitment to her husband long after his death has released her from that debt. Smirnov is a landowner who had lent money to Mr. Popov's husband before his death and who has now shown up to demand repayment because he, in turn, is facing down his own creditors. The cyclical nature of debt and repayment serves as a metaphor for relationships between men and women. The play proceeds from a point of Popov's refusal and Smirnov's reactions. It is the evolution of Smirnov's reactions that is the key to understanding his character. The progression of the play is through dialogue rather than action and the progression of the dialogue of Smirnov is one of self-assuredness-almost cockiness-to a sense of losing control, which ultimately leads Smirnov to realize he has fallen in love. Smirnov boasts that he has "refused twelve women and nine have refused" him. These are the words of a man still secure in his independence before a woman; an insecure man never...
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