Guedda Gabler’ – a Play By Henrik Ibsen
One of the criticisms dealt in Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen is feminist criticism “Feminist criticism is concerned with the ways in which literature (and other cultural productions) reinforce or undermine the economic, political, social, and psychological oppression of women”. Feminism has proven to have a profound effect on the thinking of modern critics, and it has oppressed Hedda’s passion making her manipulative and hostile to herself and others.Hedda Gabler is a playwright that has been endlessly been performed, adapted, interpreted, and repeatedly translated since first published in 1890.
The play’s woman-centered narrative offers uniquely challenging opportunities for a female actor to portray a psychologically charged character. Hedda Gabler was written in the late 19th century, it’s evident that Victorian values where exercise during this time: women were meant to be married; their husbands were supposed to care of them; women were supposed to care for the children and maintain the household and, fun was strictly prohibited especially for women . These gender roles were a major part of the predicament Hedda faced.
During this period majority of women were left feeling stifled and angry; they were meant to follow this way of typical thinking making this a important part of the setting in the play.When Hedda is first introduced in the play, her character description indicates that her hair is, ‘a beautiful light brown, though not noticeably abundant”. This suggest that Hedda’s character will not be shaped to what society would anticipate of her, and that she is a tenacious and independent woman. She is perceived as condictritory of how women in the 1980s were strived to be. Critics have found Hedda to be obnoxious and unpalatable; Shawn a critic says Hedda has “no ideals”: that she has “no heart, no courage, no conviction she remains mean, envious, insolent, cruel” another critic Elizabeth hardwick, too condemns Hedda proclaiming her as “mean-spirited and petty in both large and small matters”.Hedda is exceedingly jealous and likes to dominate power over others; she is extremely manipulative. Women during the 1980s should be modest, compliant and affectionate towards their family, but Hedda is the opposite of these characteristics.
She is vile and is consistently planning ways to suffering and torment to others. In Ibsen’s play it proves, Hedda’s mean, and manipulative characteristics for example: “Hedda: True: there is. I want, for once in my life, to have power over a human being’s fate. Mrs. Elvsted: But haven’t you got that? Hedda: I have not. And never have had”. This proves that Hedda’s behavior in the play is moved by lust after power and her desire to manipulate anyone, nonetheless she insist she never has had power over anyone but what about Ejlert Lövborg,Brack, or her husband.In Hedda Gabler the protagonist struggles to appease her aspirations and independent intuition within the confined role society allows her. Incapable of being innovative in her own passions, Hedda’s desire become toxic both to herself and others.
The Concept of Goodness in Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler
According to Albert Einstein’s research, there is no such thing as cold. Cold is simply the absence of warmth. The same is true for darkness. Darkness is simply the absence of light, and like that, death is only the absence of life. In a continuation of his revelation, it could be inferred that evil, is only the absence of good. History shows that there are varying degrees of goodness in people. Mother Theresa is generally seen as someone who contains almost only goodness, whereas Hitler would be recognized as being almost if not completely vacant of all good. Similar to historical figures, fictional characters in literature can be looked at and judged by their goodness. Henrik Ibsen, author of Hedda Gabler, wrote his famous piece displaying characters with personalities that contrast each other greatly. Miss Tesman and Berte are two very kind characters that live to please and help others, while Hedda is a character with an atrocious personality, containing perhaps only a little more goodness in her than Hitler had in him. George Bernard Shaw commented on how difficult it would to play Hedda. Usually the protagonist is a person that the audience is inclined to build empathetic connections with. But whoever played Hedda was forced to carry her in a way that would attract scorn. Hedda’s character attracts only scorn. In the beginning of the play, Hedda seems rude and obstinate, as the play continued, a deeper look into her wickedness was given, until finally in the end, the reader is shown what a truly wicked and demented person Hedda is.
In the beginning scene Tesman, and Aunt Julle is talking. Tesman is finally home from a long honeymoon with his wife, Hedda. Hedda is accustomed to only the best things in life. In order to keep Hedda content, Tesman is forced into debt, and his two aunts, that raised him, are forced into taking some major financial risks. Hedda is not even appreciative. Miss Tesman buys an expensive bonnet so that Hedda will not be embarrassed to be seen with her. Tesman takes his aunt’s bonnet and lays it on the chair. When Hedda comes out from her room, she insults the hat, seeming to mistake it for the servant. She says: “[Pointing.] Look there! She has left her old bonnet lying about on a chair” (Hedda Gabler, Act 1.) Aunt Julle is more sad than offended. This reveals that Hedda’s is very particular about things. It reveals that she does not hesitate to be rude. But Hedda does appear to try to redeem herself by explaining that she didn’t look at it very closely. However, Hedda reveals her true feelings later in a conversation with Brack: “Oh, it was a little episode with Miss Tesman this morning. She had laid down her bonnet on the chair there—[Looks at him and smiles.]—and I pretended to think it was the servant’s” (Act 2.) Hedda begins to display her true wicked colors to the audience. This is only the beginning. Hedda continues to reveal her inner insanity to the audience, making it more difficult to connect with such a wicked person.
Purposely making an elderly lady feel bad is an awful thing to do. But Hedda continues to deeds much more despicable. Hedda pretends to befriend a poor naïve lady named Mrs. Elvisted. Mrs. Elvisted runs away from her husband who neglects her, to be with a man named Mr. Lovborg. Mrs. Elvisted and Mr. Lovborg write a book together. By a series of unfortunate evens, the only copy of the book falls into Hedda’s hands. Hedda, understanding how much the book means to both Mrs. Elvisted and Mr. Lovborg, throws it in her fireplace page by page. Mr. Lovoborg is knows Mrs. Elvisted is going to be heart broken. He cannot bear to tell her he lost it; so rather, he tells her he ripped it into a thousand pieces. He breaks off their relationship in shame. Mrs. Elvisted then leaves the scene, and Hedda and Loveborg are alone together. Further proving her cruel insanity, Hedda tells him that he should commit suicide. She gives him her pistol and tells him to kill himself beautifully. Loveborg goes in search of his book, and somehow gets shot. Ibsen did not make it clear who shot him though. Brack is able to trace the pistol back to Hedda. He promises Hedda that her wicked secret is safe. But she cannot bear the thought of being in the hands of someone else, and she too kills herself. Her evil mind drives her to ruin. It is almost impossible to feel sympathy for her.
Hedda is a person with very little good in her. None of her actions within the drama show any good. In the beginning Hedda is rude and arrogant. Her behavior continues to decline as the play continues. Hedda is a person who insults elderly women for enjoyment. That despicable act alone is evidence enough that she is not a good person. But more evilness is revealed when she burns the precious belonging of two people she pretendes to befriend. Finally she encourages her former friend into committing suicide. She tells him to do it beautifully. Her desire for his “beautiful” suicide is proof that she is obviously demented and sadistic. She finally takes her own life. She reveals how completely vacant of good she is, and she pulls herself away from any sympathy her audience would have normally given to a protagonist. Hedda was her own antagonist.
Image of Woman in Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen
In the 19th century, common people were considered inferior in society and they were not wealth to be part of literature except for Kings. In “Hedda Gabler” by Henrik Ibsen paint a realistic picture of gender, power, battle between rich and poor, where the Hedda’s action represent the social determinism in society. Although Hedda Gabler was written in the 19th century, nevertheless it portrays the reality of an average person in 21st century fight for freedom.
Ibsen’s usage of social determinism in the story as one of the reasons why Hedda committed suicide. Hedda is a daughter of a general form the upper class family which make her superior over others. “Tesman My old morning-shoes! … Tesman Yes, I missed them terribly.Now you shall see them, Hedda! Hedda. Going towards the stove. Thanks, I really don’t care about it” . Hedda shows her upper class personality by being disgusting her husband’s favorite embroidered slippers us useless and not wealth glance with her see. She even called Miss Tesman the aunty of George her husband new hat old. “Hedda, Look there! She has left her old bonnet lying about on a chair. Hedda Just fancy, if any one should come in and see it! Miss Tesman Yes, indeed it’s mine. And, what’s more, it’s not old, Madam Hedda” (Ibsen 860). Hedda was embrace about Miss Tesman hat being seen by other because in her opinion the new hat looks like a rack not suited for her living room. Hedda sees Miss Tesman and even her own husband as inferior because of their rank in wealth.
Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler portrays the role of gender and power as a female during the 19th century. Hedda is an example a few female characters who refutes the unconventional ways a woman should live. Since George isn’t able to a political figure for Hedda to gain power, she found pleasure in controlling other people’s lives. “Hedda Yes, I have. I want for once in my life to have power to shape a human destiny. Mrs. Elevsted Have you not the power? Hedda I have not and have never had it” . Hedda desire to control every individual and take part in the role of men. She enjoys the manipulating other people live like Lovborg and even her husband. Lovborg lost his life due to Hedda’s advice yet she would not stand Judge Brack exercising power over her she could not stand it. Hedda said “I am in your power nonetheless. Subject to your will and your demands. A slave, a slave then! No, I cannot endure the thought of that! Never”! Since Hedda’s father taught her how to ride and shoot although she was a woman.
During the 1890’s, women were not allowed to hold pistols because it was muscular. Hedda rebel against famine stereotypes that women can be more than getting married, caring for the children and doing domestic chores at home. Although Hedda was married, the title of the play is Hedda Gabler which in my understanding refers to unmarried women since she still carries her maiden name and is not willing to submit to her husband as the head of the family but as equals. And like Hedda, some women today refuse to change their maiden names to their husbands because they don’t want to lose their individualism or identity as their own person.
There story “Hedda Gabler” can be study as realism because Hedda represented upper class people and women in general for power to prove that they can exercise power like men do. In terms of upper class people Hedda portray the idea of middle class not being able to please his wife financial although I believe if she wanted an upper class for marriage she would have gotten one. Just as lower class people pay more taxes than the upper class even though they make the most money and still feed off the poor. Although we are not in the 19th century when this piece was written, nevertheless it touches on all the issues are happening now in the 21st century; where lower class are looked down upon, women fighting for equality which is impossible, and man wanting more power to rule over each other. That’s why this story has been the reality of that and it’s still a reality even today.
Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler as a Naturalistic Social Drama
Written in 1890, Hedda Gabler is a naturalistic social drama written by Henrik Ibsen. The play is recognised as a classic of realism nineteenth century theatre and a world drama since its first production in January 1891. Hedda Gabler follows main female protagonist Hedda Tesman (once Gabler), a manipulative housewife with destructive relationships with her husband Jörgen, old lover Ejlert Lövborg, Aunt in Law and many others. However the audience doesn’t see her manipulation until Lövborg become a threat to her financially due to his success; after this she persuades him to commit suicide in order to assist Jörgen’s work success. Judge, Mr Brack, reveals his knowledge of Lövborg’s death and informs her of his knowledge of the ownership of the pistol used and the consequences if she is caught. Due to her loss in power, Hedda shoots herself, however until her husband discovers her body it is thought that she uses the gun for leisure.
The first production of Hedda Gabler was 31st January 1891 at the Kongliches Residenztheater in Munich. Ibsen was displeased with Clara Heese’s interpretation of the role Hedda as he found it to be declamatory. However, despite this, following the production Ibsen gained an international following of the play. This consisted of various translations and productions in other countries soon after to the present day. Hedda Gabler has become a popular production, winning two Laurence Olivier Awards: in 1992 and Matthew Lloyd’s production played throughout Liverpool and Leeds in 2006.
In Joseph Wood Krutch’s Article ‘Modernism in Modern Drana: A Definition and an Estimate’ he makes a connection between Hedda Gabler and Freud. According to Krutch’s analysis Gabler is neither logical nor insane: “her aims and motives have a secret personal logic of their own”. Therefore Krutch concludes that Hedda is one of the first neurotic female characters in literature. (Joseph Wood Krutch, 1953)
Gender is a major theme that runs throughout Ibsen’s plays; including A Dolls House and Hedda Gabler. In Ibsen’s resolution of Lady from the Sea audiences notice that the whether female characters in the play are classed as humanity has been forgotten. “Critics that read the play “supernaturally” are similar to how men treat women in these type of plays; they are invisible” (Elinor Fuchs). Hedda Gabler originally takes place in Norway late 1800s where women were restricted t ownership of their lives. Therefore in my adaptation at The Everyman Theatre in Liverpool I will modernise the play to the 1950s. I decided this time period as women’s roles within society changed after soldiers came back from World War II. Most women became wives and mothers as men returned and took over the jobs, apart from women who remained teachers and nurses. Females who desired a higher education were encouraged to take specific course in order to prepare them for home life such as interior decoration and family finance (Nina Stoneham, 2008).
The theme of manipulation also occurs throughout the play; Hedda is known as a manipulative woman. Machinations become a game to Hedda as a way of escaping her boredom; since she can’t seek power within society she seeks it through controlling others (Patricia Meyer Spacks, 1962). This will be evident during the scene between Lövborg and Mrs Elvsted in Act Two. Once Mrs Elvsted enters Hedda will immediately walk towards her whilst the audience hear her breathe rapidly; similar to a prey fearing its predator. Hedda will them take Mrs Elvsted under her arm and crush her, tightening her grip if she tries to escape her embrace. Mrs Elvsted claims she is frightened of Hedda. One way Hedda will use this to manipulate her is the tone of voice she uses to address her; she will speak as though Mrs Elvsted is a child: “you come over here like a good girl”. All three characters will sit on a small sofa together for Mrs Elvsted to be uncomfortable; there is no escape. Hedda will remain monotonous and not break eye contact with the audience; as if she is disengaged. At the end of Act Two where Mrs Elvsted fears Hedda a dark spotlight will light up the characters where the audience can see nothing but red and black. I decided this to symbolise danger for Mrs Elvsted and fear of the unknown; Hedda will hold her with great force and explain how she would like to burn off her hair.
The character of Hedda is an attractive yet manipulative female, a “femme fatale”: “She is radiant, violent – borderline psychotic” (Kate Kellaway, 2010). Her costume will consist of a black silk nightdress with a silk red robe in order to enhance her beauty, which Tesman comments on frequently during the play. A characteristic of a femme fatale is using her phenomenal physique as a form of persuasion. Therefore when Hedda finds out that Tesman is in possession of Lövborg’s manuscript, in Act Three, she will slowly approach him untying her robe and revealing her body in order to persuade him to drop the manuscript onto the table. When this happens she will immediately snatch it and hold it close to her chest.
A pistol will also be visible inside Hedda’s robe pocket to illustrate her destructive persona she inflicts upon Lövborg and herself, a characteristic of a femme fatale type character. For example when she pulls out the gun and gives it to Lövborg with the line “Well……you use it now.” Hedda will also use her robe open in order to use her body as a form of persuasion. This will also remind Lövborg of what he is missing; their previous relationship, and a long pause will be used in order for Lövborg to consider his actions. Lövborg will also step forward and then suddenly back as if he was going to hold her like he desires to. A small yet noticeable tint of red lighting will also be used which the audience will need to interpret the meaning themselves; whether it is to symbolize the lust Hedda is communicating or the danger Lövborg is now in due to the pistol in his possession. In order to stereotypically communicate a rebel like character, Hedda will always be seen smoking a cigarette. However this will also be a statement against ownership; due to society women were unable to gain ownership of their lives yet Hedda will obtain ownership over her habit of smoking.
The play will be staged in a 1950s styled house consisting of a kitchen and a living room. Within this set there will be significant decoration to illustrate character’s emotion and relationships. For example: there will be several vases of dead flowers in order to communicate Hedda’s dead relationship with Tesman; she married unhappily. There will also be a record player along with 1950s styled furniture in order to represent the different time period the play will be set in. The furniture will be extravagant to communicate the couple’s wealth. However in order to represent the marriage between Hedda and Tesman the decoration will be dully coloured; illustrating the mundane marriage Hedda is trapped in.
During the opening scene the audience will be introduced to Hedda’s lifestyle and her cold relationships, particularly her husband and his family. Firstly a dull light will be used to light up the stage, giving an insight to Hedda’s thoughts; miserable in a marriage she finds mundane. Proxemics and the tone of Hedda’s voice will be used to subtly inform the audience of the relationships between characters; Miss Tesman and Jörgen will maintain a close proxemics with each other whilst Hedda will keep a great distance (Tim O’Sullivan, John Harltey, Danny Saunders, Martin Montgomery and John Fiske, 1994). However Hedda will decrease the distance between her and Jörgen when she asks him to draw the curtains. She will pull him into her embrace and force him to look at her physique as an attempt of persuasion, communicating her femme fatale style character, which will immediately stop once the job is completed. Hedda will maintain a stern and abrupt voice during the scene. This will be evident when Miss Tesman offers to help which will illustrate her desire for control over others. Hedda’s attitude when this isn’t successful will be shown when Miss Tesman refuses to take a seat. This will be shown will a long and cold stare from Hedda until she expresses her problem with the maid, as an attempt to assert her authority.
I desire that this will have an impact on the audience and cause the audience to feel sympathy for Hedda, especially when Tesman regards to her as “filled out”. This particular line is a hint to the audience that Hedda could be pregnant. From the representation of the marriage from the mis-en-scene and Hedda’s performance I intend to influence the audience into feeling sympathy for the character and not just view her as a manipulative character; she is even more trapped into the marriage due to this.
Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler: Describing a Loveless Marriage
There are several realistic hopes that individuals can have for marriage, however, these do not always get granted. As we can conclude from this playwright Hedda Gabbler, this is certainly the case. Many of her words and actions spoiled the relationship between her and Jorgen Tesman. However, I feel that both parties are responsible for the failed and loveless marriage. Hedda possesses no qualities that would link her to being a wife at all, she is certainly a mean, vulgar, and lazy woman. Her marriage with Mr. Tesman is nothing more than a signed document. Although, to some degree, this marriage showcases realities, it also reveals that these two were not madly in love with each other, and Hedda most likely would not have committed suicide if the two did not wed.
No marriage has perfect harmony, or consistent getting-along (Dr. Carol, N.D.). However, in the cases such as the ones described in this play, little to none harmony concluded in this marriage. Hedda approaches her husband with ignorance and sarcasm in nearly all conversations. One of the first cases of this is in front of her mother-in-law. The three are communicating about a dress, and Jorgen brings up that he, too has occasion. To which his wife, impatiently claims “Oh you don’t have occasions for anything” (Ibsen, p. 178, 2008). As we can see, she doesn’t life her husband up, rather brings him down. This scene takes place when the two just get back from a six-month long honeymoon. This extended trip should have Hedda in the best of moods, however, it is just the opposite. Another example where harmony in their marriage is missing is when her husband asks but a simple request. It is no secret that Hedda doesn’t necessarily care for Aunt Julle. Her husband asks if she could simply give his aunt a kiss, because she hasn’t been herself lately. To that, Hedda says: “Oh, don’t ask me, Tesman, for God’s sake. I’ve told you before, I just couldn’t. Ill try to call her Aunt. And she’ll have to be content with that (Ibsen, p. 180, 2008). When two people are truly in love, the other will do all that they can to harmonize their significant others family. Even if the family is difficult and they don’t really care for them, they will pretend to do so for the sake of their loved one. This relationship is lacking in many areas that showcase it is a loveless marriage.
Dr. Carol stated in her blog that friendship should be included in a healthy marriage. There are several things that are typical of a friendship, and one of those things is having fun together (Dr. Carol, N.D.). However, Hedda is extremely bored in this marriage, which is very noticeable. It is apparent that Jorgen promised Hedda a social life, however, she received far from that. Spending many hours at home. When her husband and her conversate about her boredom, he seems to be puzzled as to what she enjoys spending time doing. When he refuses to allow her to indulge in having her own horse, she states: “oh, well…I’ve got one thing at least that I can pass the time with” (Ibsen, p. 197, 2008). Jorgen is very confused, and asks what Hedda is talking about, and to that she says her pistols. When she states this to her husband, she does so with concealed contempt. The two have no social life together, and Hedda is quite bored in her marriage. No friendship is found between the two and they know little about one another. Hedda is not granted the same freedom as her husband, due to the era in which they are living in, which is extremely different from modern times.
According to Shmoop:“The point is, it’s the Victorian era. And for those of you who weren’t around to experience it personally, you should know that it was not a fun time to be a woman. Just look at your text for examples: Hedda isn’t allowed to hang out with a man unless a chaperone is present. She isn’t allowed to go to the Judge’s party. She has to be careful not to use the word “night” when referring to the time she spends with her husband, because that might imply sex (Shmoop, p. 1, 2008). As we can see, this marriage is nothing but restrictions and pure boredom. Although, certainly Hedda is not the only woman during this time to face such injustices, however, she is in a loveless marriage, making said sacrifices even more difficult.
There are many reasons as to why this relationship is spoiled. As we have discussed, Hedda’s communication with her husband is very bad. She constantly makes fun of him, and it appears that she is never satisfied. Not to mention, that they share no similarities, and have no legitimate friendship even. Hedda is very bored, and has little to no room to fulfill her goals and dreams. She is actually so bored, that being manipulative and messing with people’s lives is the only thing she really can do. Which may explain why she is so bitter and ill-mannered. In the end, Hedda commits suicide, which can most likely be due to her boredom. I feel that also, her husband is at fault, because he never gave her the life she wanted or deserved.
The Study Of Women in Hedda Gabler
During the time where Hedda Gabler was written, which was in the 19th century, women did not have the same equal rights as men. Women were not able to work, pursue an education, or anything that a man could do. The women during this time period were known to just be a housewife and mother. Women had to be fully dependent on the men in the household which mean they had no independence at all. Some women were at peace with depending on their men and others wanted their own independence, but different viewpoints from females were shown in this play about them being secondary to the males. Emptiness and unhappiness are the only two things in this play that the women have in common. The women in this play all seek to resolve one basic problem which is what to do with their lives.
Thea Elvsted was shown to be an easily controlled woman, but as the play kept going it was shown that she was fierce behind her own aspirations. In this play, Thea told Hedda how unhappy she was with her marriage and that she was leaving her husband. “I just can’t stand being with him. We don’t have a single thing in common” (Ibsen, 866). Thea was really leaving her husband because she found happiness in Loyborg, so she felt like that’s who she needed to be with. This shows that she will do anything to fulfill her own needs in life and make sure she is happy. This also shows despite her shyness she was truly a bold woman that would do anything for her own happiness no matter what no one else thought or had to say. After Lovborg died, Mrs. Elvsted was back on the search for love and happiness in the best way possible.
Juliane Tesman life was full of boredom, but she was a very caring person. Juliane was George Tesman’s aunt and after George’s parents died she continued to raise him. Aunt Julie used her caring for others to fill the void of being lonely in her life. Caring for people and making sure everyone around her was doing good seemed like the only thing Aunt Julie was living for. She would do anything for George even in the play she mentioned she would do anything for her dearest boy. She loved George as if he was truly her own son. Julianne Always put everyone needs and desires before her own. She was truly a good person at heart. The other women in the play thought more of themselves and what they felt was good for them but not Aunt Julie. She distracted herself from thinking about all the opportunities life could have had for her by always trying to care for someone or help someone consistently showed that she puts other people’s needs above her own. This is why she did not have time to think about things such as her own independence like the other women in the play done. She knew that tending to others was a great distraction for herself, and it also helped to keep her mind off all the possibilities of life that freedom could bring. Even after everything that happened, Julie just resumed to live her life caring for others and continued putting herself below everyone else.
Hedda Tesman, is George’s newly wedded wife, that is very unhappy with herself period. Hedda only married George thinking she would get some type of happiness in life, but it did not work out for her as planned. Hedda was more of a woman who cared about her freedom, but she knew her limitations as being a woman. She wanted to live this fantasy lifestyle that was full of fairy tales, but George really was fine with how he was living. Hedda wanted to be free so bad, but she just did not take the extra steps to accommodate her dreams. She knew she wanted to do something because was very bored and unhappy in her life and marriage. She tells Judge Brack that “I often think I have one talent in the world…boring the life right out of me” (Ibsen, 878). Tesman was a good husband and did everything he thought he could to please his wife, but nothing seemed to work. She was a desperate, manipulative woman. She only seemed happy with making others feel down. It seems that she wanted people to bow down and do things exactly how she wanted to do them. Hedda wanted more than just freedom because of the simple fact that she felt so happy manipulating other people. She wanted to be the ruler over everyone’s life. For one, it seemed that she wanted to be the president or ruler. She would not accept the fact she was pregnant, she hated the fact she was married, and she hated working. Hedda father could have had a lot to do with why she wanted so much freedom as a female because she was not taught like most females. Hedda was not a typical girl growing up playing with baby dolls and such but more of a shooting gun type of girl. Hedda was mean toward men and women. She saw no gender when it came to manipulating others for her own joy and pleasure. She tried to drive Loyborg crazy and make him kill himself, she used Mrs. Elvested sorrows against her, and she made both George and his aunt feel like they were not good enough to be in her presence or the same place as her. All them but one person she could not manipulate at all was Judge Brack because he had something he could use against her. He knew that Hedda played a part in Lovborg’s death. Hedda showed that she would rather kill herself than let someone have anything over her head. So she basically could not take in what she dished out to other people.
Hedda Gabler definitely showed how many women in the 19th century was trying to fill so many voids in their life. This play showed how unhappy women really were with their lives and still did much of nothing to make a difference. The different women in their life chose to live in the way they thought was good enough for them to get by regardless of the barriers they faced. Mrs. Elvested has done something many women were afraid to do during this period of time which was pursued her own happiness and desire despite what anyone else had to say. Juliane Tesman’s found joy in her life by doing what most women did not and still do not do and that’s showing care for other people, and putting other people needs above hers. Hedda’s desire for freedom and to be in a marriage showed how manipulative of a person she really was. Her life showed how a person that is unhappy really can be. This play showed how many women do not accept their place in society the way it is, but still chooses to live life in the best way they feel is possible.
Something Illusory and Contraversive in the play “Hedda Gabler”
Henrik Ibsen depicts Hedda Gabler as a woman who is trapped in her own life. Hedda has a thirst for life which she has not satisfied. She prefers a life filled with excitement, thrills and courageous situations: “There was something really beautiful and fascinating – and daring, it seems to me – about our secret closeness” (265). However, Hedda is reluctant to step outside her boundaries and experience the world the way she desperately wants to. Fantasy is the only way for Hedda to escape the realities of her life: “Of this beautiful illusion” 298). Ibsen uses Hedda as a vehicle to show that people need something in life to live for. Hedda Gabler’s “beautiful illusion” is a life where the mind and body can be set free to live a life which is meaningful, exciting, and distinct.
Hedda Gabler wants a meaning to her life. In her present situation, Hedda is not satisfied with her life: “I often think I have talent for only one thing in life… boring myself to death” (257). She is desperately searching for something that has meaning in her life, something to live for. Hedda discovers Mrs. Elvsted and Lovborg share a “child” between one another, something that is significant to the both of them. Even though Hedda and Tesman may have a child of their own, she does not see it as meaningful. Hedda is jealous of Mrs. Elvsted and Lovborg’s “child” because it is meaningful to the both of them. Mrs. Elvsted and Lovborg both live for their “child”. Hedda’s jealousy deprives them of their “child”: “Now I’m burning – I’m burning the child” (288). Hedda’s rash actions show that she has no meaning in her life. These actions show Hedda is willing to commit deeds that hurt and offend people, in an attempt to excite herself by seeing their reactions. This is Hedda’s way of creating a momentary situation to live for.
Hedda’s “beautiful illusion consists of a life with significance and meaning. However, she has no reality to base it on: “What you do is jump out – and stretch yourself a little” (252). Hedda believes she has no meaning in her life: “And the train goes on” (252). Her “beautiful illusion” is a way for her to free her mind, and give her hope that someday she may find a meaning in her life.
Hedda wants to live a life full of excitement. She wants to experience a life that is fun and intriguing. Hedda is unable to do this because she is afraid of being close to anything: “Oh-! Let me go” (231). She is even unwilling to be close to her own feelings: “Love? You are absurd!” (264). She is a coward who has to feel excitement through other people: “And the confessions I used to make – telling you things about myself that no one else knew of then” (265). Seeing other individuals live exciting lives is apart of her “beautiful illusion”. It gives her hope that one day she may also be able to live an exciting life, one that is on her own terms. The illusion of Lovborg dancing around with vine leaves in his hair is a major part of Hedda’s “beautiful illusion”. This illusion portrays Lovborg as living similar to the Greek god Dionysus. It shows Lovborg living a life full of excitement and without any restraints: “With vine leaves in his hair – fiery and bold” (271). This is the kind of life Hedda has a thirst for. Hedda’s illusion of Lovborg ties into her “beautiful illusion” of life because it shows an individual living a daring life full of excitement.
Hedda’s “beautiful illusion” consists of a unique path in life. Something that is out of the ordinary and has distinction. Hedda thinks her perfect life will always have something unique to talk about: “And can talk about all kinds of lively things” (252). Ibsen portrays Tesman as being a dull individual. In the play, Hedda ponders a unique career for her husband: “I was thinking – if I could get Tesman to go into politics” (256). The contrast of Tesman’s actual boring career with Hedda’s ideal career show Hedda’s “beautiful illusion” only has unique and exciting events within it. Events that are bold and distinct play a major part in Hedda’s “beautiful illusion”. Hedda likes things that stand out, and are distinct: “In the chest you say… Not the temple?” (296). Bold and unique events make Hedda’s “beautiful illusion” tick: “Of a world that – that she’s forbidden to know anything about” (265). The reason Hedda Gabler kills herself is because she realizes her “beautiful illusion” will never become a reality. Judge Brack deprives her of a unique and distinct life: “So I’m in your power, Judge. You have your hold over me from now on” (302). This deprivation proves that Hedda’s “beautiful illusion” must have distinction to it, because she is no longer willing to live a life that has no hope of being unique and not free.
Henrik Ibsen proves Hedda Gabler’s “beautiful illusion” consists of excitement, distinction and a will to have meaning in life. Hedda wants excitement and freedom in her illusion, this was shown by the way she was drawn towards Eilert Lovborg’s fascinating adventures: “And the confessions I used to make – telling you things about myself that no one else knew” (265). Hedda’s desire for something that is distinct and stands out was shown by the way she committed suicide: “Shot herself in the temple!… People don’t do such things!” (304). Ibsen shows Hedda Gabler’s “beautiful illusion” consists of a life with meaning, this was shown by Hedda’s search for something she could live for: “Is there nothing the two of you could use me for here?” (303). The purpose of the “beautiful illusion” enables Hedda to experience life the way she wants to: “It was the hunger for life in you!” (266).
Ibsen, Henrik. “Hedda Gabler.” Four Major Plays: Volume I. Translated with forward by Rolf Fjelde. Signet Classic: New York, 1965
Why the Sounds of Piano Are Crucial to the Play “Hedda Gabler”
In Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Lady Russell convinces Anne not to marry Frederick Wentworth as she finds him unworthy of Anne. Similarly, in Hedda Gabler, Hedda herself conceals her knowledge of and destroys Eilert’s manuscript in order to end his and Thea’s relationship. Involving oneself in other’s affairs can satisfy one’s desire for control. However, this behavior is often symptomatic of a disconnect between one’s personal consciousness and one’s personal and collective unconscious self. Henrik Ibsen masterfully uses the Tesman’s piano to symbolize Hedda’s personal and collective unconscious desire for control while acting as a vehicle to show her reconciliation with the two at the end.
Ibsen’s play, and particularly its symbolism, can be understood through reference to the psychology of Carl Jung, who divides the psyche into three major areas of analysis: the personal conscious, personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious. Jung credits the personal conscious with the creation of the “persona”. The persona envelops the constructed, outward appearance one shows the world. Whereas Jung only acknowledges one consciousness (the personal), he differentiates unconsciousness between the personal and collective. The personal unconscious differs within individuals, whereas the collective unconscious remains the same for every person due to the uniformity of the human psyche. The personal unconscious holds the “shadow.” The shadow encompasses the darker and more shameful urges one personally feels yet does not consciously acknowledge. The collective unconscious houses the “animus/anima” archetype. The animus refers to masculine traits in women that can either balance their femininity or overpower it. The anima refers to feminine traits in men. Jung believes to reach individuation one must reconcile the persona with the shadow and acknowledge one’s archetype. Individuation is the process of acknowledging one’s unconscious nature and incorporating it into the consciousness.
The appearance of the piano at the beginning of Act 1 shows the pressure others put on Hedda to lessen her masculine desire for control which she attempts to yield to but ultimately fails at. Although not explicitly dictated to her, Hedda feels immense pressure from society and familially to have a child. The expectation remains clear when Aunt Juliana quips with Tesman that he will “find some use for them [two empty rooms]—in the course of time.” (Ibsen 24). The pressure manifests physically upon the piano when Berta places Aunt Juliana’s bouquet on the piano and Hedda removes it. However, Hedda succumbs to softening her unconscious willfulness in certain situations, such as when she agrees to refer to Aunt Juliana by “Aunt” to appease Tesman. (38). She shows a degree of compromise when she states, “I’m only looking at my old piano. It doesn’t go at all well with all the other things…Suppose we put it there in the inner room…” (39). By placing the piano, the symbol for her masculine urge for control, deeper into the house, she represses the feeling rather than relinquishes it.
Hedda’s piano playing at the beginning of Act IV reveals how her control over Eilert has satisfied her desire for control for the time period. After the dramatic end of Act III Hedda plays the piano for the first time in the play, which the stage directions describe as “a few chords.”(174). At this point in the play, Hedda has effectively destroyed Eilert and Thea’s relationship by concealing her knowledge of the manuscript and then incinerating it. Hedda has felt control by acting as a catalyst for Eilert’s descent back into ill repute, but more importantly by intentionally inflicting pain upon Thea. Thea acts as an object of loathing and jealousy for Hedda, as well as a foil for her. Whereas Hedda’s allure lies in her assertive seductiveness, Thea’s depends on her ability to inspire creativity in and hold power over men through her meek femininity.
The leap from the meandering chords Hedda plays on the piano at the beginning of Act IV to the rousing song at the end shows Hedda’s use of individuation to take final control over her life. At the end of Act V after being blackmailed by Judge Brack, Hedda runs her fingers through Thea’s hair and retreats to the back room to play a “wild dance” on the piano before committing suicide. (207). The “wild dance” acts as her epitome or signaling of reaching individuation. The two major events that happen before Hedda’s exit allow Hedda to become aware of her personal and collective unconscious need for control and then act upon the knowledge. Judge Brack’s blackmail causes Hedda to weigh the value of life without control. She acknowledges her personal unconscious desire for control when stripped away from her explicitly and harshly.
Rather than experiencing subtle pressures exerting control, Hedda is faced wth a figure who lessens her, Hedda’s, control over the world of the play. Thea’s ability to use her overt femininity to gain control over Hedda’s husband causes Hedda to acknowledge her collective unconscious failing by her rule by her animus. Seeing no way to regain the control that has been recently stripped of her and no way to channel archetypal femininity, Hedda makes the decision to take her own life. The piano, thus, acts not only as an object physically affected by the world, like Hedda, but as a vehicle for the acknowledgment of her integral need for control.
Monstrous Characters in Frankenstein and Hedda Gabler
In Whale’s classic motion picture interpretation of Frankenstein, the Creature is nothing but a monster, a blight to humanity, from the moment of his creation. The inherently evil nature depicted in the movie comes as a direct result of the damaged condition of the Creature’s brain, representing the common theory of time that promoted the correlation between the brain structure and personality. Thus, the basic theme Whale exalts in the work is that monsters, and criminals in everyday society, are born, not made. The novel Frankenstein and the play Hedda Gabler also portray monstrous characters, though the origin of their malevolence deviates from Whale’s early twentieth century thought dramatically. Ibsen and Shelley both illustrate that monstrosity develops after one’s exalted ideal of humanity is disappointed, ultimately causing monsters to resort to self destruction. Hedda Gabler and Frankenstein’s Creature are both portrayed as monsters in that they deviate from standard human behavior toward excessive wickedness and cruelty. Hedda’s actions reveal a deep-seated hatred for her fellow man. In one instance, she lashes out intentionally against Aunt Julie, insulting her poor socioeconomic status. Hedda explains to Brack, “I pretended I thought [her hat] was the maid’s” (Ibsen 254). Aunt Julie, a mother-figure in the story, has no outstanding quarrel with Hedda, yet seems to live in fear of her. She mentions that the very hat which Hedda insulted she bought for the express purpose of pleasing her new niece-in-law, so that Hedda, “wouldn’t feel ashamed of [her]” (Ibsen 224). In a way, their new familial relationship adds to the power that Hedda holds over Aunt Julie; she certainly takes advantage of it at the same time that Julie feels greater need to shield herself from it. It is important to note that Hedda has no ulterior motive here other than to simply destroy Aunt Julie’s humanity in the same way she figuratively destroys the humanity of Mrs. Elvsted and Lovborg in burning the manuscript. As Hedda throws the pages into the stove, she says, “Now I’m burning your child, Thea! You, with your curly hair. Your child and Eilert Lovborg’s” (Ibsen 288). The manuscript is representative of both its ‘parents’ just as a human child is created from the flesh of both father and mother. Thus, in one fell act, Hedda destroys a part of both Mrs. Elvsted and Lovborg. The Creature of Frankenstein also seeks to attack humanity, specifically his creator, by aiming his malice at his family. The Creature tells Frankenstein directly that “your sufferings will satisfy my everlasting hatred,” and the surest way to bring about his suffering is to attack those he loves (Shelley 254). He kills William, but while this murder may seem obviously monstrous, the true monstrosity of the act comes not from the act itself, but from the intention behind it. The Creature himself says, “I gazed on my victim, and my heart swelled with exaltation and hellish triumph” (Shelley 170). Just like Hedda, his intention here is to bring about human misery, the true mission of a monster.Hedda and the Creature direct their cruelty toward humanity because society failed to live up to the ideal which they held it to. Hedda expresses her disappointment in the world, saying, “I want to be free of everything ugly” (Ibsen 279). Hedda expects beauty, excitement, honesty and romance from humanity. She anticipates Lovborg to return with ‘vine-leaves’ on his head, symbolizing an ideal human society where men and women are free to indulge in the goodness which the world has to offer. It is not physical ugliness from which Hedda seeks to disentangle herself, but the deformed and unsightly society which she nonetheless finds herself in. Her marriage to Tesman and her pregnancy bind her forever to participate fully in the humanity which so disgusts her. When asked by Brack why she consented to marriage, Hedda responds that, “it was certainly more than my other admirers were willing to do for me” (Ibsen 251). Hedda waited until the last possible, acceptable moment to be married by the standards of her time; the stage directions mention that she is very near thirty. She held out for beauty as long as she could, but in the end she realized that humanity would never live up to her ideal. This brutal realization causes the scathing viciousness of Hedda’s personality and prompts her to destructive action against her fellow man. As Hedda laments the loss of her former hope for happiness, she remarks to Tesman, “well, at least I have one thing left to amuse myself with…my pistols” (Ibsen 247). Hedda’s pistols not only symbolize her volatile personality, but also the monstrosity which she has resorted to. She speaks of this violence as if it is all she has left to comfort her in a world without joy. Not only will Hedda strike out against society, but it will ‘amuse’ her; it will bring her a sort of grim satisfaction to crush those who have disappointed her vision of beauty. Hedda shares this destructive ecstasy with the Creature of Frankenstein, who was born with and initially reveled in a glorious opinion of man. After he has observed the DeLacey family for a time, the Creature remarks, “as yet I looked upon crime as a distant evil; benevolence and generosity were ever present before me, inciting within me a desire to become an actor in the busy scene where so many admirable qualities were called forth and displayed” (Shelley 150). The excellent behavior and relationships exhibited by the DeLacey family inspire in the Creature a triumphant and honorable conception of humanity. Although he reads about murder, crime and pain in books, he cannot believe they exist when such an example of beauty is his only real experience. The Creature becomes dependent on this ideal, and when it fails to hold true, he resorts to violence for compensation. He says, “feelings of revenge and hatred filled my bosom, and I did not strive to control them; but allowing myself to be borne away by the stream, I bent my mind toward injury and death” (Shelley 164). The Creature has put all of his faith in the DeLacey family and in the exalted picture of humanity that they gave him; consequently, when they cruelly spurn him, he has nowhere to direct his anger but back at humanity. With no one to turn to in his despair and anger, the only option is to allow his hatred to dictate what would become a series of monstrous actions, for he says, “I will revenge my injuries; if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear” (Shelley 173). It is his determination that if humanity cannot accept his love, if it cannot live up to the ideal which the DeLacey’s laid out, then it deserves nothing more than his derision and hatred. With the realization that humanity cannot be changed, Hedda and the Creature seek to remove themselves from it. After Hedda’s final attempt to manifest her ideal in the real world with the death of Eilert Lovborg fails, she realizes that nothing she ever does will be enough to overcome the gross society which surrounds her. Upon hearing of the sordid details of his death, she exclaims, “what is it, this – this curse – that everything I touch turns ridiculous and vile?” (Ibsen 299). The anguish which stems from her disappointment in humanity knows no bounds, and her monstrous tirade against it can in no way serve as sufficient compensation. Brack makes the hopelessness of her situation abundantly clear, to which Hedda proudly proclaims, “I’d rather die” (Ibsen 301). Since she cannot stomach a ‘ridiculous and vile’ society, the only choice that remains to Hedda is to remove herself from it completely. Her last act is a slap in the face of ugliness, for she performs her suicide just as she envisioned Eilert Lovborg’s: beautifully. Hedda had come to rely on monstrosity as a source of comfort in a disappointing world, and when even that proved ineffectual, when society continued to win, the only out left to her was death. The Creature shared this poignant sentiment; he expresses that “there was but one means to overcome the sensation of pain, and that was death” (Shelley 141). Like Hedda, the Creature can only find temporary solace in his monstrosity, quickly realizing that nothing he does will ever change the way humanity acts towards him. He speaks of his decision to die, saying, “I shall no longer feel the agonies which now consume me, or be the prey of feelings yet unsatisfied, yet unquenched” (Shelley 274). Violence failed to satisfy those needs of the Creature which could only be quenched by love, and without the chance of ever fulfilling those needs, he chooses to eradicate them. For both characters, death is the only escape from a world that would never be enough for them. The monsters portrayed in these works of fiction became such out of good intention, wishing only to live at the highest level that man could achieve. It was not this goal that truly drove them to destruction, but rather their utter dependency on it. When it failed, they ultimately had nowhere to turn but toward violence and death. Society cannot be judged on a pass or fail basis; individuals must be willing to help change it by becoming a part of it rather than lashing out monstrously against it.Works CitedFrankenstein. Dir. James Whale. Universal, 1931.Ibsen, Henrik. Four Major Plays: Volume 1. New York: New American Library, 1992. pp 221 – 304.
Escaping through Manipulation
In Henrik Ibsen’s acclaimed play Hedda Gabler, the main female character, Hedda Gabler, is a modern woman striving to attain her desires through manipulation. She persistently endeavors to create a world that matches her masculine character by exploiting the people around her. Gabler also accomplishes her task by p a character’s will, giving her subtle and deceptive control. Through Gabler’s exceptional skills as a manipulator, the play scrutinizes the feminine role and what defines a woman. Through manipulation, Gabler discovers joy and a sense of power not often felt by women during her time. She takes advantage of her ability by constantly interfering in the lives of other characters, easily shaping their wills to meet her desires. Gabler admits this in her conversation with Mrs. Elvsted in Act 3. Mrs. Elvsted states, “You have some hidden motive in this, Hedda!” to which Gabler replies, “Yes, I have. I want for once in my life to have power to mould a human destiny”. Gabler is able to do so because she is surrounded by individuals who function solely on the basis of society’s values, rendering their actions predictable. Gabler refers to individuals that she can manipulate as “specialists”, saying to Judge Brack in Act One, “Tesman is–a specialist, my dear Judge.” Judge Brack assumes that Gabler means Tesman is a specialist of his subject. Yer her definition also implies the narrow vision on life and living that often comes along with specializing in just one thing. This broader definition of a specialist is confirmed later when Gabler reveals to Judge Brack that he too is a specialist. By manipulating “specialists” and setting herself apart from them, Gabler creates her own world that runs parallel to the puppet stage of society. She is able to temporarily escape the social norms that she considers others to be trapped in. A primary social norm that Gabler refuses to conform to is the traditional role of a submissive wife. In a sense, subjecting herself to the role of a wife and mother is the ultimate sign of failure to Gabler. Thus, when many try to gain knowledge about her role as a wife or potential mother, Gabler quickly dismisses the topic. For example, when Brack questions her about motherhood in Act 1, Gabler responds, “Be quiet! Nothing of that sort will ever happen!”. When questioned again by Judge Brack about her prospective parental role, Gabler replies, “I have no turn for anything of the sort, Judge Brack. No responsibilities for me!” Gabler especially feels the pressures of conforming to a feminine role with Aunt Tesman, who questions her about her weight and her stomach, almost hinting about the potential for children. In reality, Gabler defies the definition of a conventional woman. She is not at all submissive; she manipulates people, especially men, for her own power; she absolutely refuses to take on the role of a wife and mother or even address it. The reason behind her defiance is that in Gabler’s mind, submitting to the role of society is to submit to the role of a wife and mother–and to submit to the role of a wife and mother is to lose power and freedom to pursue one’s own interests. Throughout the play, Gabler repeatedly rebels against most aspects of being traditionally “feminine.” In the beginning of the play, Aunt Tesman comes over to check up on the married couple. Despite her new aunt’s kindness towards her, Gabler dislikes Aunt Tesman because Aunt Tesman reminds her that she is married and expected to soon bear a child. Gabler dislikes the idea of being pregnant. Thus, so as not to dwell on it any further, she makes a nasty comment about Aunt Tesman’s new hat. However, Aunt Tesman does not leave and the threatening subject of potential children arises, like Gabler feared it would. The conflict arises when Tesman says in Act 1, “Yes, but have you noticed what splendid condition she is in? How she has filled out on the journey?” His insinuation of his wife’s pregnancy is quickly dissolved when his aunt replies, “Oh, do be quiet—!”. However, Aunt Tesman picks the matter up further by clarifying Tesman’s statement with a question, “Filled out?”. The conversation serves as a reminder to Gabler of her forthcoming doom. Hence, she dislikes Tesman and Aunt Tesman for reminding her that pregnancy is what is expected from her as a wife, and not her own choice. Mrs. Elvsted is also the kind of figure disliked by Gabler, because she is the embodiment of all that is considered womanly. This consideration is based on how Gabler interacts with Mrs. Elvsted, which is not at all kindly unless there is something to gain by being kind, another manipulative aspect Gabler utilizes. Even when the two were in school together, Gabler disliked Mrs. Elvsted. As Mrs. Elvstead reminds Gabler in Act 1, “when we met on the stairs you used always to pull my hair”. This utter dislike of Mrs. Elvstead is not only relegated to the past. In Act 3, Gabler muses to Mrs. Elvstead, “I think I must burn your hair off after all.” Thus, Gabler defies the feminine role by defying the individual who is the epitome of this role. She accomplishes this by manipulating Mrs. Elvstead to release information to her in the beginning of the play about Lovborg. Later, when she has no reason to be nice, Gabler treats her harshly. Another example of Gabler’s unwillingness to conform to the feminine role is conveyed through the manipulation of Lovborg and the burning of his manuscript. A prime example of Gabler’s masterful manipulation of Lovburg is in Act 3, when she is able to persuade Lovborg to take her pistol and end his life “beautifully”. Also, while burning the novel towards the end of Act 3, Gabler cries, “Now I am burning your child, Thea!–Burning it, curly-locks! Your child and Eilert Lovborg’s. I am burning–I am burning your child.” The burning of the book as a substitute of a child is Gabler’s way of freeing herself from the chains of child-bearing. She physically refuses to submit to the roles of a mother and wife not only by refusing to be impregnated but by also burning the symbolic figure of a child. Her actions reveal the extremes of what she will do in order to not be caged in by society’s outlook on a female. Her desperation becomes so extreme that Gabler believes her only true escape from the constrictive roles of womanhood is through death. When it is discovered in the final act that Gabler commits suicide, Judge Barack’s closing line is, “Good God!–people don’t do such things”. Thus, Gabler is finally able to escape the roles of femininity by doing the thing that “people don’t do”. In sum, Henrik Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” reveals one woman’s persistent effort to fight off the pressures of assuming a traditional feminine role. Through her tactful manipulation of others, the play “Hedda Gabler” serves as a whole to question the social chains of femininity and what makes a woman. Despite Gabler’s efforts to have control over her life and the lives of others as well, she still cannot obtain the true control over her life that she wants. Hence, she shoots herself as the ultimate escape from the social roles of a woman–and in doing so, she manages to break the chains of society from around her.