As Levin and Kitty’s wedding date is set, Levin remains in his blissful daze. He performs all the duties expected of him but is almost mad with joy. Stiva reminds Levin that he must go to confession before his wedding. Levin meets with the priest and confesses that he doubts everything, including the existence of God. The priest sternly warns Levin that the Christianity of his future offspring is at stake. Later, Levin enjoys a bachelor party with his brother Sergei and Sergei’s university friend, Katavasov. The bachelors ask Levin if he is prepared to give up his freedom for the constraints of marriage. Levin, feeling insecure and wondering why Kitty should ever love him at all, asks Kitty whether she wants to go through with the wedding. They have a brief argument but are reconciled.
That evening, the wedding guests await the groom in the church. Levin is late because a mix-up involving his clothes has left him without a proper shirt to wear. The ceremony is delayed and the guests become impatient, but Levin finally arrives at the church. Kitty cannot understand the priest’s words as she hears them, for she is swept away by love. Levin cries during the ceremony. The wedding concludes majestically, and Levin and Kitty leave for his country estate.
Vronsky and Anna, meanwhile, travel in Italy for three months together and settle down and rent a palazzo. Vronsky, seeking distraction, is delighted to meet an old school friend, Golenishchev. Golenishchev and Anna get along well. Vronsky listens as Golenishchev expounds on the book he is writing, and Anna tells Golenishchev that Vronsky has taken up painting.
Anna, for her part, has been very happy. Far from Russia, she feels no more disgrace. Vronsky is less contented, however: all his desires are satisfied, so he misses desire itself. He begins to paint a portrait of Anna. Hearing of a Russian painter named Mikhailov who lives in their town, Vronsky reflects on the new generation of Russian intellectuals who have talent but lack education. Anna, intrigued, proposes visiting Mikhailov.
When Vronsky and Anna arrive at Mikhailov’s studio, the artist is flattered to receive attention from wealthy Russians. He shows them a painting in progress, a scene from the life of Jesus Christ. Anna and Vronsky praise Mikhailov’s rendering of Pontius Pilate, and Anna delights in the expression of pity on Jesus’ face. The visitors enjoy even more a landscape painting of Russian boys relaxing by a river. Vronsky asks whether the latter painting is for sale and hires Mikhailov to paint Anna’s portrait. Vronsky abandons his own portrait of Anna and becomes dissatisfied with their Italian life.
Levin slowly adjusts to married life. He imagines that Kitty needs only to be loved, forgetting that she has desires and aspirations of her own. Kitty throws herself into housekeeping with gusto in a way that initially annoys Levin but then pleases him. Quarrels occasionally erupt. One day, Levin gets lost on the way home from the fields, and Kitty is jealous and suspicious of where he has been. He is offended but then forgives her.