At the dinner, Pierre is sitting across from Nikolai, Denisov, and Dolokhov. Honestly, who was putting these place cards together? Didn’t the Rostovs get the memo that Dolokhov was having an affair with Pierre’s wife? That’s some terrible hosting right there.
Pierre is stressed out sitting there, trying to figure out if the rumors about his wife are true. He apparently got an anonymous letter about it that morning. He’s going back and forth, but things look bad, considering how much time his wife is spending with the guy.
Also, Pierre is a little scared of Dolokhov, who has a reputation for dueling and killing guys and generally being a tough customer.
Pierre is thinking about all of this and zoning out from the dinner to the point that he misses raising his glass to a toast to the emperor. Nikolai, emperor-lover that he is, yells at Pierre for it.
Dolokhov shoots Pierre a nasty glare and drinks a toast to “the health of beautiful women, and of their lovers” (18.104.22.168). OK, now, to be fair, Shmoop has to point out that back in the day, the word “lover” didn’t necessarily mean “sex partner.” It could just be, you know, someone who loves something. Like how nowadays we can call someone a “lover of poetry” without imagining some kind of weird fetish. But still, that’s pretty cold, Dolokhov.
Pierre is starting to see red.
When the lyrics to a song are handed out, Pierre gets a copy first. Dolokhov grabs it out of his hand, and Pierre totally loses it. He demands Dolokhov give it back, and then, when Dolokhov won’t give it up, Pierre snaps and challenges him...to a duel.
At that moment Pierre realizes that all the rumors about his wife are true and that he hates her. He decides to leave her.
Dolokhov is totally chill about the duel the next day. Nikolai asks him about it, and Dolokhov is all, I’m just psyched to go out there and kill someone, bro.
Meanwhile, Pierre tosses and turns all night. He knows his wife is guilty, but then he kind of thinks that maybe Dolokhov isn’t. Wait a minute, what? Pierre decides that maybe he’d have done the same thing if some hot woman were throwing herself at him.
The next day Dolokhov and Pierre’s seconds (their backups in the duel) half-heartedly try to get each of them to apologize and call the whole thing off. But no dice.