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Hedda Gabler Summary (Saad)

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
He was also awarded with medals by The Kings of Sweden and Denmark.
He died in 1906 at the age of 78.
• 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
• 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
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.