What causes Mrs. Popova to call Smirnov "a bear, a brute, a monster" in Anton Chekov's "The Bear?"
In Anton Chekov's play, "The Bear," Popova calls Smirnov a "bear" because he has accused her of being insincere—he has a poor opinion of women in general, but he regards her as a beautiful woman who plays games to get attention. He accuses her of dressing in mourning in order to impress those who pass by her window.
Popova is furious because Smirnov lumps her into the category of being insincere as many women are. Smirnov says to her:
You have the misfortune to be a woman, you know from yourself what is the nature of woman.
She hates him because he makes fun of the very noble mourning she is observing, even while her dead husband does not deserve it.
[When...] some tame poet goes past your windows he'll think: "There lives the mysterious Tamara who, for the love of her husband, buried herself between four walls.
And she is frustrated because her husband was a brute, and here is the angry Smirnov (because he is unable to pay his debts) trying to tell her she a fake, while he acts like her husband—rude and offensive, just as her spouse was.
POPOVA. You don't know how to behave before women!
SMIRNOV. No, I do know how to behave before women!
POPOVA. No, you don't! You're a rude, ill-bred man! Decent people don't talk to a woman like that!
Later Popova tells Smirnov another way in which her husband wounded her:
...he...made fun of my feelings....
Finally, Popova cannot stand it any longer and she lashes out at Smirnov with the same fire and fury he has been unleashing on her. Ironically, whereas it might seem this would only further enrage him, Smirnov finds her entrancing, passionate and irresistible. By the end of the fight, the two have fallen in love.