The tone of The Bear is humorous and satirical.
Tone is the author’s attitude toward a subject. In The Bear, Chekov uses a vaudeville-like format to tell a story of a widow, a lonely landowner, and a servant. The play is certainly very humorous, but it also has a satirical bite to it. The woman, Elena, has vowed not to leave her house now that her husband is dead. Six months later Smirnov, a man who lent money to her husband, shows up and won’t leave until he gets his money.
Some lines are bitingly satirical, both toward Elena and Smirnov.
Elena plays the part of the devoted widow, but that is all it is—a part.
I shall never go out.... Why should I? My life is already at an end. He is in his grave, and I have buried myself between four walls.... We are both dead.
She certainly gives up her pious devotion easily enough when he kisses her.
Smirnov is a loud and arrogant man, whom Elena calls a “bear.”
I want the money desperately. I rode out yesterday, early in the morning, and called on all my debtors, and not a single one of them paid up!
However, Smirnov is polite until she doesn’t give him the money, and he clearly is desperate since he needs to pay someone himself.
The comedy is evident in lines like this.
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."
However, we also see the truth behind it. Smirnov is falling for her.
It is this combination of tones, humor and satire, that make the play engaging. Depsite its goofiness, there are some real issues there. It is a play about sacrifice, love, and life.