Henrik Ibsen’s play “Hedda Gabler” shows the unity of time and space, a common mechanism used in playwriting in which the fable happens in a limited place and in a short time.
The main character has the same name as the novel. The story follows Hedda Gabler’s tragic life that, because of her own dissatisfaction with losing aristocratic privileges after marring into a bourgeoisie family, creates plots and manipulates people’s lives.
Hedda Gabler’s tragedy isn’t just in her suicide but in the inability to change as a person and adjust to a new lifestyle without falling into a melancholic state in which she takes out her anger at other people. She thinks that all lives are ugly and can’t satisfy anyone and she expresses her opinion when she tells Lövoborg to have a nice death.
Her life emptiness is also shown in the fact that she forbids Tesman to use word “us” and “we” when he talks about them, even though they are married. Hedda also gets pregnant but she ignores that and just focuses on enjoying Tesmans struggles to satisfy her every wish and need. Also she uses her pregnancy as a tool to manipulate her husband.
Hedda measures life in aristocratic esthetic of beauty and money and not moral that means almost nothing for her. All of the men are actually in love with her because she is beautiful and she takes great advantage of that.
Brack, despite his flaws, wants to be her friend. Tesman wants her true love but all of those whishes are nothing for her because Hedda felt superior that them. Because of her popularity amongst men she gets a great deal of social power that allows her to manipulate other characters for her own entertainment. We can conclude that she had such an enormous power over everyone that her suicide led to everybody else’s destruction.
The plot is settled in Tesman’s living room and in a smaller room nearby. Tesman and Hedda are newlyweds that came back from their 6 months long honeymoon. Hedda is from aristocratic origins and has a taste for expensive things. In the beginning we find out that Hedda is pregnant. In the beginning of act one Tesmans’ aunt Julle comes to visit. She raised up Tesman and helped him financially because they were very close. Hedda, on the other side, didn’t care much for Julle and Tesman asked her to be politer towards her but it is obvious that Hedda doesn’t pay attention to his desires.
Mrs. Elvsted came bringin news about Tesman’s academic opponent Lövoborg coming back to town. Lövoborg used to be brilliant but he gave in to alcohol and Elvsted said he kicked the habit but even she doesn’t believe that. Hedda makes Tesman leave the room so that she could get the truth about Lövoborg out of Elvsted. She explains to Hedda that she is scared about Lövoborg falling into his old habits and that she visited him without her husband knowing about it because he still believes that Lövoborg is a drunk. Mrs. Elvsted left after that.
Judge Brack came with gossips about Lövoborg’s alleged success and a job offering at a university that Tesman also wanted. Brack left and Tesman confided in Hedda that they will how to cut back on their spending if he doesn’t get the job.
In act two Brack came back and found Hedda playing with guns out of boredom. They talk and come to an agreement that they should be good friends because they have similar characters. Hedda said to Brack that she was bored at her honeymoon and that she doesn’t really like the house Tesman bought for her. Soon Tesman came back so they switched the conversation to the bachelor party that was being organized later on by Brack. Unexpectedly Lövoborg showed up and talked to Hedda while Tesman and Brack were drinking together. Mrs. Elvsted came again and Hedda pointed out to Lövoborg that he should talk to her because she is afraid that he’ll start drinking again. On the mention of that Lövoborg decides to join Tesman and Brack in their drinking in the next room and he attends the bachelor party with them. Mrs. Elvsted is upset and she feels guilty but Lövoborg promises that he’ll be back in couple of hours to walk her home.
Act three occurs a bit before dawn. Mrs. Elvsted was sitting in the livingroom waiting for Lövoborg and Hedda slept on the couch. Tesman came and told Hedda that he has in his possession Lövoborg’s literary work that he dropped when he was going home drunk. He decided to give it back to him but he was invited to his aunt Rina’s house because she was on her death bed.
Brack came back and told Hedda that Tesman left right before Lövoborg got into trouble and also got arrested. Brack left and Lövoborg appeared. He found Hedda in the living room and he tells her that he destroyed his literary work but in the end he admits he lost it while he was wandering drunk and that he wants to kill himself because of it. Hedda didn’t say she has his work in her house. Instead of the truth she wished him a nice death and handed him one of the guns. When he left Hedda burned his work and called it Elvsted’s and Lövoborg’s child and she hated both of them.
Act four started in the dark Tesman’s living room with the arrival of aunt Julle. Everybody was wearing black. Through their dialogues we find out that Rina died. Julle was crushed and then Mrs. Elvsted came and announced to everyone that Lövoborg is in the hospital. Soon after Brack came and confirmed her statement but also added that he is dead. He shot himself in the chest. Tesman and Mrs. Elvsted decided to assemble his work back together by following his notes kept safe by Mrs. Elvsted. When Elvsted left Temsan told Hedda that Lövoborg’s death was an accident because the shot was fired by accident but that he knows for a fact that the gun belongs to Hedda. He suspects that she gave it to him.
Hedda left the living room and plays piano for a while after which she shots herself with the gun she had left.
Time: one day and night
Place: Tesman’s living room and a room nearby
Characters: Hedda Gabler, Jurgen Tesma, Julle Tesman, judge Brack, Lövoborg, Mrs. Elvsted, aunt Rina, Berte…
Hedda Gabler – aristocratic daughter from General Gabler and she was used luxury. She is married to Tesman, an academic for whom the society predicted a big future, but he had no money to live the lifestyle Hedda was used to. She was a young, intelligent, unpredictable, mean and unfair woman that enjoyed manipulating people.
Jurgen Tesman – a nice, friendly man ready to do anything to please his wife. He idolizes her and doesn’t even see she is manipulative and in the play he often comes off as naïve and a bit foolish. He was hoping to get a job as a professor at a university but he has to compete with his former opponent Lövoborg. He actually gets happy when he finds out that Lövoborg destroyed himself with alcohol and that it won’t be hard for him to get the job. He was raised by his aunt Julle.
Julle Tesman – or aunt Julle is an elderly, kind woman with a high level of empathy because of which she is always trying to help everyone around her. After the death of Tesman’s parents she raised him up as her own child and she always tried to convince Hedda and Tesman that they should have a baby because it would change their life for the better but Hedda doesn’t seem interested in being a mother. Julle tries to like her in spite of her coldness but their differences are too big for them to find a common subject to talk about. Julle lived with another aunt named Rina but she was sick and in the end she died which upset Julle a lot.
Judge Brack – he is on a relatively low position in court but likes to show off his title. He is Tesman’s family friend and he often comes to visit. He has many connections and friends in high positions so he always knows the newest gossips and that is why he tells Tesman how big of a shot he has in getting the job he wanted. Brack likes high society and likes manipulation so he becames close to Hedda. He is a cynical man with a big mouth and stops at nothing to make his egocentric plans reality.
Lövoborg – genius with a tendency to drink a lot. He was Tesmans biggest opponent but after a series of scandal, drunkenness and fights he was shut out of the public life and no one wanted to talk to him. Lövoborg manages to get back on his feet and write a book with which he comes back to the society where everyone praises him because of his talent. After many positive reviews he wrote another book but he lost it when he was wandering drunk. Despite his intelligence and kindness Lövoborg had no limit because of which Mrs. Elvsted helped him with his writing. He used to have a relationship with Hedda but we don’t know whether it was love or just friendship.
Mrs. Elvsted – nice, naïve, passive and an optimistic women. She and her husband hired Lövoborg as their children’s teacher so they became good friends and she helped him with his academic career. He recovered from his alcoholism on her estate because he didn’t come near town where he used to make troubles. As soon as he came back to the city Mrs. Elvstad asked the Tesman’s to take care of him because she was afraid he’ll fall back into his old vice. Her motives are friendship but in the end her actions sort of cost Lövoborg his life. She used to go to school with Hedda and she remembers how Hedda used to harass her because of made up reasons.
Berte – in reality it’s George and she was Tesman’s maid that used to work for Julle. She tries to please Hedda and it’s mission impossible because Hedda keeps on harassing her.
Aunt Rina – Tesman’s and Julle’s family that is ill in the beginning of the play and in the end she dies. She does not show up in the play but from the dialogues we find out that she helped Julle rise up Tesman.
About the author: Henrik Ibsen