HEDDA GABLER BY HENRIK IBSEN SAAD ULLAH HENRIK IBSEN • Henrik Ibsen was born on March 20, 1828, in Skien, Norway. • At the failure of his early plays, he felt that his country had humiliated him and the theater in Norway had not recognized his merit; he therefore left Norway and put himself in self-imposed exile. • He tasted success in 1864 with his play Brand which paved way for his successful plays to come, such as A doll’s House, Hedda Gabler and When We Dead Awaken. • It was on his seventieth birthday that he received praise from the group of English admirers, which included the likes of G.B Shaw, Thomas Hardy and a young James Joyes. • He was also awarded with medals by The Kings of Sweden and Denmark. • He died in 1906 at the age of 78. SUMMARY • The play opens with Aunt Juliana and Bertha, the housemaid, entering the house of George Tesman and his new bride, Hedda. Berta tells Aunt Juliana that the couple just returned from their six-month honeymoon the night before, and that she's anxious about whether she will be able to please the new mistress of the house, since she seems "terrible grand." Bertha also feels guilty that she's leaving the house of Aunt Juliana and Aunt Rena, especially since Rina's health is declining so precipitously. Aunt Juliana comforts her, implying that the new Mrs. Tesman is a great catch for her nephew. She also says that he's been given the title of "Doctor", and might have an even grander title coming his way in the near future. • Tesman enters the room and joyously greets his aunt. He compliments her on her new hat, and they discuss the research he did on his honeymoon and Aunt Rena’s failing health. • They hint at the extravagance of the honeymoon and the expense of appeasing a lady of the aristocratic background like Hedda. In fact aunt Juliana announces that she has mortgaged her annuity to provide security on the expensive new house. She also mentions that Eilert Lovborg has published a new book; this is a surprise to Tesman, as Lovborg has had a decidedly difficult few years. • Hedda enters, and promptly complains that the maid has opened the windows. Within minutes, she manages to insult Tesman's favorite slippers, remark on the ugliness of Aunt Juliana's bonnet, and coldly rebuff her husband's attempts to make conversation. When Tesman remarks that Hedda has "filled out" on their honeymoon, Hedda replies that she hasn't changed at all since the day they left. • Aunt Juliana leaves, and Tesman asks Hedda to try to be nicer to her, they agree to have her over again later that day.Tesman, happy at this seemingly conciliatory response, asks Hedda to start calling Julie "Auntie", but Hedda refuses. • Mrs. Elvstead, a pretty, delicate woman, arrives at the house, having left some flowers and a calling card there earlier. It is immediately apparent that she is distraught, but is hesitant to reveal the source of her dismay. Finally, she reveals that she is at her wit's end because Eilert Lovborg has recently arrived in town, and that she fears the town will be full of "temptations" for him. Lovborg used to be the tutor to Mrs. Elvsted's step-children, and recently wrote a bestselling book. He was a model of sobriety while he was living with the Elvsteds, but Mrs. Elvsted is concerned that living in the city will prove too much for him. She begs Tesman to keep an eye on Lovborg, as he will certainly seek out his old friend. Hedda tells Tesman that he should invite Lovborg over to visit (and urges him to write a "long" letter), and Tesman goes out of the room to compose the invitation. • As soon as Tesman leaves, Hedda tells Mrs. Elvsted to explain what's really happening. Mrs. Elvsted is reluctant, saying that Hedda used to torment her viciously at school, but Hedda dismisses the incidents as mere childhood play. She treats Mrs. Elvstead with remarkable affection, urging her to call her "Hedda" and looking at her with compassion in her eyes. Slowly, Mrs. Evlsted opens up and reveals that she never had a happy marriage - indeed, that her husband is "repellant" to her - and that when Eilert Lovborg began to tutor her husband's children, they developed a close relationship. Mrs. Elvsted claims she saved him from vice, and that in return, Lovborg taught her a great many things. She also says that they worked on his book together. But Mrs. Elvsted adds that she's afraid there's another woman in his heart a woman he only spoke of once. She recalls that Lovborg said that when he and this woman parted, the woman threatened to shoot him with a pistol. • Mrs. Elvsted leaves, and Judge Brack enters the house. Brack and Tesman sit down to talk, and Brack promptly brings up the subject of Lovborg's return. Brack subtly implies that because of Lovborg's influence in the town, he may receive the professorship that Tesman's been expecting. Brack leaves, and Tesman tells Hedda that since the professorship is in doubt, they need to be more frugal. Hedda drolly replies that she at least has one thing left to amuse her - her father's pistols. As Hedda leaves the room, Tesman runs after her, pleading with her to leave the dangerous weapons alone. • Hedda tells Brack that her honeymoon was deathly boring: Tesman worked all day, and there was no one from their circle to entertain her. She also says that she found it "intolerable being everlastingly in the company of one and the same person." When Brack asks her whether she loves her husband, she tells him not to use the word "love" and says that she married him because her "time was up" - it was time to get married, and Tesman seemed poised for success. Now, however, Hedda isn't so sure that she made the right decision. Brack suggests that he would like to be in a "triangular friendship" with the couple, free to come and go as he pleases. Hedda says that it would be a relief to have someone around to engage her in conversation, but it is obvious that Brack would like to provide much more. • Tesman arrives carrying his scholarly tomes, including Eilert Lovborg's new book, which he is quite impressed by. Tesman tells Hedda that she'll be alone that night, because Aunt Juliana won't be visiting - likely the result of the hat incident, which left her deeply offended. Tesman exits to get ready for the stag party that he and Brack will attend that night, and Hedda reveals to Brack that she had known all along that the hat was Aunt Julia's, and that she had behaved so mischievously because she couldn't help doing so; sometimes "irresistible impulses" come over her. Hedda then expresses how deeply bored she is, and Brack suggests that she find a vocation. Hedda says that she wishes Tesman would go into politics to allay her boredom, even though Brack laughs off the suggestion, as Tesman is so ill-suited to the political world. Brack then makes an allusion to the fact that Hedda might have a "new responsibility" on the way. When Hedda tries to avoid the subject, Brack says that having a child depend on her is a woman's greatest talent. Hedda replies that her only talent is boring herself to death. • Eilert Lovborg arrives at the house, having been invited by Tesman via note. When the group compliments him on the success of his book, he produces his new handwritten manuscript - a sequel to the earlier book that presents his predictions for the culture of the future. The subject of the professorship comes up, and Eilert says he doesn't have any plans to compete with Tesman, as what he wants is fame. Tesman is relieved, but Hedda seems more irritated by the news than happy about it. • When Lovborg suggests that he read some of his book that evening, Tesman tries to tell him that he and Brack are off to a party, but is afraid to invite Lovborg because of his alcoholic past. While Tesman and Brack go to enjoy some punch before leaving, Hedda and Lovborg quietly discuss their past, and it becomes clear that Hedda is the "other woman" that Mrs. Elvsted was so afraid of - it was Hedda who threatened to shoot Lovborg with her pistol when their relationship "grew too close." When Lovborg tells Hedda that she should have shot him - that he doesn't understand why she didn't - Hedda replies simply, "The scandal." • Mrs. Elvsted appears and discovers that Brack and Tesman are going out to a drinking party. When Lovborg refuses punch and declines the invitation to the party, Hedda points out to Mrs. Elvsted in front of Lovborg that her concerns were unwarranted - that Lovborg is "a man of principle." Mrs. Elvsted is horrified that Hedda has said this in front of Lovborg, and Lovborg is equally enraged at Mrs. Elvsted's belief that he would suddenly start drinking again the moment he returned to town. Lovborg downs two successive drinks to torment Mrs. Elvsted. • Lovborg then decides to accompany Brack and Tesman to the party and takes his manuscript with him, hoping to read some of it at Brack's house. He promises to return later to take Mrs. Elvsted home, and the three men leave. Mrs. Elvsted is concerned that Lovborg will have a relapse, but Hedda tells her to stay and have tea, and assures her that soon enough Lovborg will return "with vine leaves in his hair." • Mrs. Elvsted and Hedda sleep in the living room, waiting for Tesman, Brack and Lovborg to return. Bertha enters, giving Mrs. Elvsted false hope that the men have arrived home, but she is only carrying a letter for Tesman. Hedda is irritated that the men still aren't there, but theorizes that the men simply stayed at Judge Brack's house out of consideration, so that they wouldn't wake the women. Hedda convinces Mrs. Elvsted to go try and sleep, saying that she'll continue waiting for the men. Mrs. Elvsted goes to Hedda's room. • Hedda reprimands Bertha for having allowed the room to become so cold, but the doorbell rings and Hedda bids her to answer it, saying she'll tend to the fire herself. A moment later, Tesman enters. Tesman tells Hedda that they had arrived at the party an hour too early, and so Eilert had passed the time by reading to him from his new book. He remarks that he was just dazzled by it, but Hedda replies that she "doesn't care" about the book; what she's interested in is the goings-on of the previous night. Tesman tells her that Lovborg began to drink, and once he was intoxicated he began making speeches about his "muse" - the unnamed woman who inspired his work. Hedda asks Tesman if Lovborg named this woman, but Tesman says that although he did not, he assumes that he was referring to Mrs. Elvsted. The men escorted Lovborg home, but on the way, he dropped his new manuscript, which Tesman picked up and has brought home with him. • Hedda's interest is piqued by this turn of events. She asks Tesman whether anyone knows that he has the manuscript, and he replies that no one does. He says that for Lovborg's sake he didn't tell a soul, and simply plans to return it in the morning. Hedda is clearly conjuring some sort of plan, but she distracts Tesman by handing over the letter that arrived earlier. Tesman opens the letter and learns that Aunt Rena is "at death's door" and that he must come immediately to the house. He begs Hedda to come with him, but Hedda is repulsed by the very idea of being in the presence of death. Bertha enters and announces that Brack has arrived, so Tesman makes a hasty exit to avoid him. Just before he leaves, Hedda convinces her husband to give her Lovborg's manuscript for safekeeping. • When Brack arrives, Hedda immediately pesters him for details about the previous night's events. After leaving Tesman, she learns, the "inspired" Lovborg visited Mademoiselle Diana's "boisterous soiree" - an exclusive party to which he had been invited but had promised Brack and Tesman he would not go to because he had "turned over a new leaf." At the party, however, Lovborg's mood turned from merriment to fury when he discovered that his manuscript was gone. He began assaulting the women at the party, and the police soon arrived to break up the fracas. Lovborg resisted arrest, attacked one of the policemen, and ended up at the station. • Brack tells Hedda that Lovborg might use the Tesmans as a haven if he is shunned by the town, and encourages Hedda to close her doors to him. Brack also implies that he doesn't want Lovborg joining their new "triangle"; he fears that he will find himself "homeless" if Hedda allows Lovborg to take refuge with her. Hedda says that she feels as though Brack is threatening her, but Brack replies that he is not, he is merely saying that the "triangle ought to be spontaneously constructed." Brack exits, and moments later Eilert Lovborg arrives. • Hedda offers Lovborg no clues that she knows what happened the night before, but he seems extremely distraught. Mrs. Elvsted enters the room, and Lovborg tells her that their "ways must part" because he has abandoned his book and she can thus no longer be of "service" to him. Mrs. Elvsted is aghast and insists that she will not leave his side, but Lovborg is adamant. Lovborg says that he shredded the manuscript because he shredded his life to pieces, so it was only natural he should shred his work as well. Mrs. Elvsted leaves, devastated, realizing that she and Lovborg cannot have a future now: his reputation is ruined, and the possibility that his book could save it is now gone. • Hedda is left alone with Lovborg, who reveals the truth to her - that he's lost the manuscript. Lovborg implies that now he must kill himself, and Hedda encourages him to "make it beautiful." She tells him never to return again, and gives him one of her pistols "as a memento." He says that he recognizes the pistol - it was the same one she pointed at him years before - and says that she should have used it on him then, but she replies that he can use it now. Lovborg leaves, fully intending to commit suicide. Upon his exit, Hedda sits down by the fire and burns Lovborg's manuscript. • Act IV opens with Bertha, her eyes rimmed with red, lighting a lamp against the evening gloom. Aunt Juliana comes to the house and tells Hedda that Aunt Rena has died. She laments the passing of her beloved sister, but says that the old woman died peacefully. Hedda asks Juliana if there is anything she can help her with, but Juliana protests, saying that she wouldn't think of it. She also makes yet another reference to Hedda's supposed pregnancy, saying that it is not the time for her to be bringing "misery" into Hedda's house. When Tesman asks Juliana what she plans to do next, she says that she might move another sick person into Rena's vacated room. Juliana also implies that she may move in with her and Tesman once Hedda's child is born. Hedda reacts to the idea with revulsion, and Aunt Juliana exits. • Once alone with Tesman, Hedda remarks that his aunt's death seems to be affecting him even more deeply than it is Aunt Juliana. Tesman, however, tells her that he is simply preoccupied - he went over to Eilert's house to tell him that the manuscript was safe and sound, but Lovborg was nowhere to be found. He then ran into Mrs. Elvsted, who told him that Lovborg had been to their house in the morning, and had said that he had torn the manuscript to shreds. Tesman asks Hedda if she told Lovborg that she had the manuscript, but Hedda replies that she did not. Tesman says that he must return the manuscript immediately, but Hedda reveals that she herself has burned the pages. Tesman screams out in horror, asking his wife how she could have committed such a blatant crime. Hedda tells him that she did it because she knew he was jealous of the work, and she didn't want anyone to overshadow her husband. Tesman becomes ecstatic at the idea that his wife might love him after all, and is also overjoyed when Hedda refers to him as "George" - presumably she rarely calls him by his first name. Hedda, for her own part, is utterly repulsed by his happiness, and says in despair, "I can't stand this." • Mrs. Elvsted arrives, terribly distressed, and tells the Tesmans that Lovborg never returned to the boarding house. She has heard some strange rumors, and she is afraid that something terrible might have happened to him. Brack enters and says that he heard about Rena's death, but that he has more "sad" news for them. Lovborg, he says, shot himself in the chest with a pistol and is lying "at the point of death." Mrs. Elvsted breaks down in despair, but Hedda merely questions Brack about the circumstances: where, she wants to know, did it happen, and is he certain that Lovborg shot himself in the chest, and not in the temple? Brack replies that he did indeed shoot himself in the breast, to which Hedda replies, "That's a good place too." Hedda then states that there is beauty in the act, shocking everyone. Hedda goes on: "Eilert Lovborg has closed his account with himself. Had the courage to do...what had to be done." • Mrs. Elvsted then reveals that Lovborg's book has been destroyed, which Brack finds suspicious. Mrs. Elvsted cries out that she wishes there was some way the book could be reconstructed, but then realizes that there is a way: it seems she still has in her possession all of the original notes. Tesman and Mrs. Elvsted announce that they will reconstruct the book together, and Tesman says that he will dedicate his life to the task. They both exit triumphantly. • Left alone with Brack, Hedda reveals that Lovborg's death has shown her that they are truly free, "because I know it's still possible to choose. Freewill! Still possible, and beautiful." Brack, however, tells Hedda in confidence that Lovborg didn't shoot himself: he was shot in Mademoiselle Diana's boudoir, and he is already dead. Hedda is stunned that he went back, but Brack adds that he entered Diana's raving about his "lost child" - which Brack assumes is a reference to his pocketbook, since Lovborg presumably tore his manuscript to pieces. Brack adds that Lovborg was fatally shot. • Brack then tells Hedda that the pistol with which Lovborg shot himself was Hedda's. He says that there will be an inquiry since the police are now in possession of the pistol, but as long as Brack doesn't say anything there is no way they will be able to trace it back to her. If he were to hint that the pistol might have been stolen, however, Hedda would be implicated in a terrible scandal and would have to appear in court to defend herself. Hedda, it appears, is wholly in Brack's power. "You...own me," she tells him, and exits the room to go lie down. A few moments later, a pistol goes off in the back room. Tesman runs in and calls out that Hedda has shot herself.