Who is Popova in The Bear: A Joke in One Act?

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Elena Ivanovna Popova, the female lead in Anton Chekhov's The Bear: a Joke in One Act, is the driving force of the play. The play is set on the seventh-month anniversary of her husband's death. Although her late husband was a serial philanderer, Elena has held on to the romantic notion of everlasting faithfulness and has kept herself in a state of perpetual mourning for him. She refuses to speak to anyone except her faithful servant, Luka. As she tells him, "My life is already at an end. He is in his grave, and I have buried myself between four walls. We are both dead."

We witness Elena's true personality when the character of Smirnov enters intending to collect on her husband's debt. They get into a fiery argument which is enough to win Smirnov's affections as he is clearly attracted to a woman who does not put up with anyone else's nonsense. The play ends with her acceptance of Smirnov's marriage proposal. This may seem an odd reversal of character. However, Chekhov is showing us that we are all subject to basic human needs for companionship.

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Popova is the female protagonist of The Bear: A Joke in One Act, a play by Anton Chekhov that premiered on October 28, 1888 in Moscow, Russia. The play is one of Chekhov's lighter comedies, verging on farce, and was created in part as vehicle for the actor Nikolai Nikolaevich Solovtsov, a childhood friend of Chekhov who played the character of Smirnov, the male lead, in the original production.

The play is set in the house of Elena Ivanovna Popova, a recently widowed but still relatively young and attractive woman. As she mourns the death of her philandering husband, swearing that she will remain a recluse, living alone and speaking to no one other than her servant Luka, Gregorii Stepanovich Smirnov forces his way into her presence demanding money her dead husband owed him. When she prevaricates, he challenges her to a duel and she agrees to it. She brings out her husband's set of dueling pistols. Impressed by her fiery nature, Smirnov falls in love with her, and they kiss as the curtain falls. 

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