Hedda Gabler: General Gabler’s daughter, she is tied to societal norms and dares not risk a fight with society and do something as unconventional as marrying a dissipated rake like Loevborg, even though she is fascinated by him. Instead she marries Tesman, who represents stolidity and respectability.A life of conformity without faith leads her to boredom and emotional sterility. She is cruel and mean to Aunt Julia and Mrs. Elvsted and contracts an underhanded alliance with Brack. When Loevborg comes back into her life she tries to liberate him but fails, and in a fit of jealousy, she burns his manuscripts. She also gives him one of her pistols to commit suicide, begging him to “do it beautifully.” However, when she comes to know that he did not shoot himself in the temple, but was killed in a scuffle and shot in the bowels. She is disillusioned finding that she is completely in Brack’s power and fearing a scandal; she finally has the courage to shoot herself in the temple.
Hedda Gabler: A Neurotic Character
In 1950s, Joseph Wood Krutch thought that Hedda Gabler was an evil woman. However, more recent critics explain her behavior in terms of the restrictive social conditions of nineteenth century
This view is well presented by Caroline Mayerson:
...Hedda is a woman, not a monster; neurotic, but not psychotic. Thus she may be held accountable for her behavior. But she is spiritually sterile. Her yearning for self-realization through exercise of her natural endowments is in conflict with her enslavement to a narrow standard of conduct.
Unfortunately, Hedda never does understand the reality of her situation, nor does her death “prove” anything. Mayerson goes on to explain that Hedda:
...dies to escape a sordid situation that is largely of her own making; she will not face reality nor assume responsibility for the consequences of her acts. The pistols, having descended to a coward and a cheat, bring only death without honor.
We realize how cowardly Hedda is by her contrast to Thea, who is a brave woman and is willing to be cast out by respectable society in order to follow the man she loves and the dictates of her conscience.
A Dishonest Character
Hedda often tells two characters two very different things. For example, she tells Tesman that he ought to go write Eilert Loevborg a long letter but then immediately reveals to Mrs. Elvsted that she only did this to get rid of him. When talking to Judge Brack, Hedda says that she really does not care for the house Tesman has bought for her, yet she lets Tesman go on believing that the house is precious to her, even while it is a great financial burden for him. These examples not only illustrate Hedda’s tendency toward untruthfulness but also that she enjoys having people in her power. She likes Tesman to think that he is pleasing her, and she likes the fact that he goes to great lengths to do so. Such demonstrations prove her power over him. She controls him in other ways as well: after Tesman has learned that he might not get the position at the university, he says that he will not be able to buy Hedda everything that she wants. She quickly asks if this means she will not be able to have a pony. That is, she quickly invents an even bigger expense, so that Tesman can deny her that, feel as if he has controlled her, and, thus, having felt he has put her in her place, proceed to give her everything else she wants. Such verbal interactions in this play are never trivial; because plays contain only dialogue, one must be very careful to notice the ways in which characters are manipulating one another with words.
Hedda Gabler or Hedda Tesman
We begin by noting that both the main character and the play named after her are called “Hedda Gabler,” even though, as a married woman, she ought to be known as “Hedda Tesman.” For a woman to take her husband’s name at the time of marriage implies many changes in her life, including the acceptance of a new identity, a partial surrender of her former self to the demands of a shared existence. Hedda, however, seems fundamentally untouchable in her innermost being—utterly resistant to the power of marriage to alter its participants. Eilert Loevborg senses this when he meets Hedda for the first time after her wedding and, during their initial few moments alone together, repeats the name “Hedda Gabler” four times. He cannot come to terms with the idea that “for the rest of my life I have to teach myself not to say Hedda Gabler.”
Hedda’s permanent identity as “Hedda Gabler” is directly connected to her father’s exalted social rank. As a general, he would have occupied a position of great distinction, quasi-aristocratic in nature, both in the town and in
at large. His daughter would have shared this stature, and would thus have stood apart from—and well above—all but a few of the other young women of her generation. Hedda’s distance from others, her aloofness, her spiritual pride, the indelibility of her identity as a Gabler, all derive from this social eminence. Norway
Hedda: An Attractive Women
She is distinguished not only by her pedigree, but also by her looks and behavior. We have already seen how her beauty impresses Aunt Julia and Berta, and how her dashing appearance on horseback creates a profound impression among the lesser townsfolk. Had such a person been a man—well-born, high-spirited, intelligent, attractive—he would certainly have pursued an active and challenging career. As a late-Victorian woman, that possibility is closed to Hedda; it is only through the men in her life, at second hand, that she can achieve that kind of fulfillment. We see in her frustrated hopes for her husband’s success how she longs to participate in a life of action and achievement, if only vicariously:
Hedda: There’s every chance that, in time, he could still make a name for himself.
Brack: I thought you believed, like everyone else, that he was going to be quite famous some day.
Hedda: (wearily). Yes, so I did.
A Non-Conventional Character
Hedda cannot—like some women of her time—simply defy the convention of female domesticity to pursue her own desires, precisely because she is Hedda Gabler—the daughter of a general, and thus committed to uphold the social codes that simultaneously elevate and constrain her. Thus, to be the General’s daughter is a two-edged sword for Hedda: it confers on her the spiritual pride and self-regard that set her apart from the common herd; but it also requires her absolute conformity to the rules of propriety that she finds so stifling. And Ibsen makes it quite clear that for Hedda utter conformity is the price she is willing to pay—however grudgingly—for her social eminence.
Fear of Scandal
It is this bargain that accounts for Hedda’s overwhelming fear of scandal—a quality which she and others note frequently in the course of the play. To suffer scandal is to experience social disgrace as a result of behavior that violates the code of respectable conduct. To be the object of scandal would mean that Hedda could no longer occupy the exalted position that goes with being a general’s daughter; it would mean in some sense that she was separated from her identity as a Gabler—without which she fears she may be nothing. And yet, Hedda is powerfully driven by desires and ambitions that could destroy her reputation.
Her solution to this conflict between scandalous yearning and the need for absolute propriety is to live out her forbidden longings indirectly, through the experience of others— principally Eilert Loevborg. We saw how she did this before her marriage, when Eilert would visit her at her father’s house and, behind the General’s back, describe his sexual adventures; and we also saw how she drew the line—with her father’s pistols—at Eilert’s attempt to go beyond description and, scandalously, make real love to her. Then she married Tesman, and quickly discovered that her hope for excitement through his fame and power were not to be satisfied. She returns from her honeymoon oppressed by the knowledge that she must spend the rest of her life trapped in a boring marriage with a mediocre and conventional man—a spiritual affront for the proud-hearted daughter of a general. Worse still, her fear of scandal prohibits any open rebellion against this entrapment, as we learn from her sexual fencing-match with Judge Brack. Unable either to defy convention or to embrace it in good faith, she becomes that wretched creature who tells the Judge that she is capable of only one thing: boring herself to death.
Loevborg’s return gives Hedda one more chance to rise up against her empty existence without risking personal exposure. If she can wrest control of Loevborg from Thea, she will have recaptured a soul-mate—and pawn—in her shadow-life of whispered obscenity and transgression by proxy. And when Loevborg is wrecked by his scandalous conduct at Mademoiselle Diana’s, Hedda sees in his intended suicide an opportunity to appropriate for herself his grand, romantic gesture of social defiance and contempt.
Frightening Aspects of Her Character
Out of her frustrated desires for a full life of her own grow those impulses to deny and destroy the lives of others that are the most frightening aspects of her character. She repeatedly refuses to acknowledge that she is pregnant, because motherhood would be one more intolerable obligation binding her to marriage and Tesman. She is cold and cruel toward Aunt Julia, an unwanted relative acquired because of that marriage; and she flatly refuses to visit the dying Aunt Rina, likewise because of her contempt for Tesman’s family. Toward Loevborg her conduct is a strange combination of passion and exploitation. Although sexually stirred by him, she refuses his advances, choosing instead to satisfy herself by manipulating his weaknesses: she contrives his return to drink, she sends him off to Brack’s party, she withholds the information that his manuscript is safe, she puts the fatal pistol in his hand, and she burns his book—all to advance her desires for vicarious rebellion and transcendence. She loves what she can do through Loevborg, not Loevborg himself.
Finally, when she realizes that Brack has become her master, she is forced to do something in her own person to escape her misery. Her choice of suicide rather than rebellion or flight is the only logical option for this character, her final act of self-concealment: she dies leaving utter bafflement behind her, a stranger to Brack and Tesman who will never understand what she has done. Death confers on her ultimate immunity from exposure and scandal and absolute freedom from the control of husbands and would-be lovers.
Mrs. Thea Elvsted - Hedda’s schoolmate; she marries the District Magistrate Elvsted, but is unhappy. Eilert Loevborg is hired as a tutor to her stepchildren. She reforms him and also helps him write his book and follows him to
Christiania to keep an eye on him thus daring to break all social conventions. When he tells her that he has torn the manuscript, she accuses him of killing their “child.” After his death, she begins to collaborate with Tesman to reconstruct his book from the notes she has so providentially saved.
Thea Elvsted: A Striking Contrast with Hedda
Thea’s character is a striking contrast with Hedda, both morally and physically. In describing Hedda, Ibsen notes that her hair is “an attractive medium brown, but not particularly abundant.” Thea, on the other hand, has “hair (that) is remarkably light . . . and unusually abundant and wavy.” In fact, Thea’s “abundant” hair has long been a source of resentment to Hedda who describes her to Tesman as the “one with the irritating hair. . . . An old flame of yours, I’ve heard.”
Hair is for both men and women a potent index of sexual appeal and energy. As the 1960s demonstrated, long hair vividly communicates social defiance and bold eroticism. Hedda, with her skimpy locks, exhibits neither; Thea, with her abundant tresses, seems to radiate both.
In fact, we learn that Thea is the opposite of Hedda in almost every important way. Thea openly abandons her husband and stepchildren to follow Loevborg to town, a scandalous act which prompts Hedda to ask, characteristically, “what do you think people will say about you.” To which Thea responds, also characteristically, “God knows they’ll say what they please. . . .I only did what I had to do.” Hedda, by contrast, chooses to live miserably in her marriage because she fears the scandal that would arise should she abandon it.
Nowhere is the difference between the two so clear as in their relationships with Loevborg. As we have seen, Hedda thrives on Loevborg’s depravities: whoring, drunkenness, suicide. Thea, by contrast, encourages his creative tendencies, begetting with him the books about civilization, past and future, that almost save him from his vices. As the play ends, Thea and her “old flame” George are patching together Loevborg’s lost book out of the surviving notes. Under Thea’s benign influence even Tesman’s meager talents—which Hedda only sneers at throughout the play—are turned to creative ends.
Hedda married Tesman because her father’s death had left her without money to support her extravagant way of living, because she had a scared intuition about approaching age and loneliness (Ibsen unobtrusively works in the detail near the beginning of the play that it is September, and that the leaves are golden and withered), and because, unlike her other admirers, he asked her. We need to be told these things, because Bertha’s surprise at this match is, on the face of it, very much justified. Tesman is portrayed by Ibsen in a way that is perilously close to caricature: he is an unimaginative pedant, who has spent his honeymoon rooting in archives for his research on the domestic industries of Brabant in the Middle Ages, who prefers filing and indexing notes to creative thought, and the summit of his ambition is the possibility of a professorship. He is very reluctant to let go the sheltering petticoats of his adoring Auntie Juju and Bertha.
Tesman: An Inappropriate Husband
As we have seen, George is scholarly and naive, a newlywed who spends most of his honeymoon burrowing through dusty archives in search of information about medieval handicrafts. Ibsen gives him a peculiar habit of speech: Tesman attaches a grunting, interrogatory syllable to the ends of his sentences—”uh?”—As if to demonstrate that he is not a polished social performer, but rather a hesitant and unworldly academic—exactly the wrong sort of husband for the ambitious Hedda. Spoiled by his doting aunts, he is nevertheless fundamentally decent—genuinely concerned by Loevborg’s reckless conduct at Brack’s party, eager to rescue his friend’s lost manuscript, guilty at his wife’s destruction of the book, and innocently delighted by her false declaration of love—and by the discovery of his impending fatherhood.
Unlike Hedda, George has no sense of his own superiority. He is from a much more modest social background, and quite delighted at his good fortune in life. He is pleased to have earned his degree, eager to begin his job as a professor, happy with his new house, and above all quite delighted at having acquired a distinguished beauty for his wife. He likes the world as it is. Far from chafing under its restrictions, he finds in his conventional universe he and arena quite spacious enough for his modest abilities.
Hedda’s Aggressive Attitude and Tesman
Hedda feels herself hemmed in on every side, the very baby she is carrying a threat to her independences (throughout the play she angrily rejects any innuendoes, however well meant, about the patter of tiny feet), and her reaction to her new and constricted situation takes two main avenues. One is a kind of silent scream of torment and desperation. When she is alone on stage for the first time, the direction reads:’ Tesman is heard sending his love to Aunt Rena and thanking Miss Tesman: for his slippers. Meanwhile Hedda walk up and down the room, her arms and clenching her fists as though in desperation.’
The other response to the stifling atmosphere of Tesman domesticity is fierce aggression, an assertion of her sense of caste superiority, which produces the wonderful dramatic moment when she deliberately and cruelly ‘mistakes’ Aunt Tesman’s new hat, bought in her honor, for the servant’s old one-another excellent illustration of Ibsen’s power to reveal psychological tensions and pressures of the most intense kind from brilliant artistic manipulation of ‘trivial’ details.
Judge Brack - a gentleman who belongs to Hedda’s old set. After she is married he finagles himself into her life by setting up a triangular friendship. He recognizes the pistol that killed Loevborg is hers and proceeds to blackmail her, knowing Hedda’s deep- seated fear of scandal. He is satisfied that she is completely within his power but does not realize that she has the courage to take her own life.
Hedda’s emotional sterility is counter parted by judge Brack’s lack of compassion. Unlike Hedda, Brack has a profession and is free to amuse himself without overstepping the masculine social conventions. This parallel between them illustrates the double standards of society which denies rights of self-expression to women.
The emptiness of Brack’s emotional life is underscored by his attributes of vulgarity and lechery. Willing to first compromise Hedda’s respectability as a married woman, he has no compunctions about using blackmail as a weapon guaranteeing his selfish ends. Like Hedda, Brack wishes to substitute’s power over someone for love which he is unable to give.
A Typical Nineteenth Century Man
Brack, the suave bureaucrat, is representative of the typical nineteenth century man who can amuse himself without drawing censure from society. This highlights the double standards prevailing in society. He is, like Hedda, incapable of giving love and substitutes it by wishing to have power over someone.
A Cynical Character
Like Tesman, Brack is also comfortable in his world, but not out of innocent acceptance. Instead, Brack is the canny and cynical insider, the one who enjoys the status quo because he knows how to exploit it for his own benefit. His favorite pastime is to take advantage of bored wives eager to commit indiscretions behind the backs of their inattentive husbands. And he benefits from the fact that both the deceiver and the deceived, eager to avoid exposure and embarrassment, will cause him no trouble. He believes that Hedda Gabler will be only too happy to join in this game of respectable adultery, not realizing that the General’s haughty daughter feels both superior to and terrified of such intrigues.
When he discovers that Loevborg has been shot with Hedda’s pistol, he uses his insider’s knowledge of police procedure and judicial proceedings to intimidate Hedda into sexual compliance. So little does this provincial Don Juan understand General Gabler’s daughter, however, that when she commits suicide rather than submit to him he is completely stunned, pronouncing the famous line, “People don’t do such things.” In his sordid world, of course, they don’t. But in Hedda’s universe of frustrated romantic longing, such a gesture is inevitable.
We should also note Brack’s social position: as a Judge, he ought to be a model of rectitude and honesty. Instead, he is a sexual trespasser in his friends’ houses, and a thoroughgoing hypocrite. In creating this figure, Ibsen expresses his contempt for the dishonesty of the respectable establishment.
Eilert Loevborg - a dissipated Bohemian, who has a spark of genius in him but a penchant towards drinking and other immoral behavior. He had once fallen in love with Hedda, but she drove him away with her father’s pistols. After being dismissed from the University, he is hired as a tutor to District Magistrate Elvsted’s children. Here, he meets their stepmother Thea Elvsted who influences him enough to reform him. She even writes his book, which he dictates to her. Hedda has always romanticized him and thinks of him as a man with “vine-leaves in his hair.” He renounces life after losing his manuscript.
The Nature of Relationship Between Hedda and Loevborg
Even in the first act, we have been made aware in oblique ways that Hedda’s concealed aspiration, her demands on life and happiness, are somehow focused on Eilert Loevborg, creative scholar and reformed drunkard.
Before her father’s death, Hedda has had an intense if rather strange relationship with Loevborg. We are given an insight into the nature of the relationship retrospectively, in the conversation between the two in the second Act, as they pretend to look over the photographs taken during Hedda’s honeymoon trip. Clearly, Loevborg was interested sexually in Hedda; but for her it was the style and romantic secrecy of their relationship that appealed, rather than any erotic possibilities in it: indeed she broke off the relationship when it threatened to develop in physical terms. Loevborg’ s confession to her of his affaire and drinking and general dissipation did more than flatter a young girl’s vanity. As she says to him: ‘do you find it so incredible that a young girl, given the chance in secret, should want to be allowed a glimpse into a forbidden world of whose existence she is supposed to be ignorant?’ this is less an indication of voyeuristic impulses on her part than an indication that Loevborg and his life represent for her a contrast to the stifling constrictions of society, particularly as these affected a woman of that time. Loevborg stands in Hedda’s mind for somebody who just does not care about the conventions of society, and her timid husband and her admirer, Judge Brack, who for all his surface raciness is presented as a thorough going bourgeois at hearts.
Hedda’s Romanticism and Loevborg
Loevborg, then, for Hedda more a symbolic type than a potential sexual partner, draws forth from her that powerful aspiration towards individual freedom, which is latent in all of Ibsen’ s major characters. She projects on him the buried poetry of her being. This is Hedda who sees Eilert Loevborg ‘with a crown of vine leaves in his hair, burning and unashamed’, bringing into the depressing circumstances of narrow Norwegian life a breath of Grecian expansiveness, a hint—as her images make clear—of dionysiac or bacchic energies. This illusion is shattered when she discovers that the vine-leaved dionysiac of her imagining has in fact spent the night of his re-entry into her life in a thoroughly common-place and provincial way getting drunk, visiting the local brothel, and finally scuffling with the police. But the thwarted romanticism of Hedda’s vision is not destroyed: Loevborg can ‘redeem’ himself by proving himself capable of the ‘beautiful’ death. The aesthetic and romantic satisfaction she finds in the contemplation of such a death is expressed very directly in an exchange with Judge Brack in Act 4:
Hedda: Oh, judge! This act of Eilert Loevborg’s –doesn’t it give one a sense of release!
Brack: Release, Mrs Hedda? Well, it’s a release for him, of course-
Hedda: Oh, I don’t mean him – I mean me! The release of knowing that someone can do something really brave! Something beautiful!… Oh, I know what you’re going to say. You’re a bourgeois at heart; too…I only know that Eilert Loevborg has had the courage to live according to his principle. And now, at last he’s done something big! Something beautiful! To have courage and the will to rise from the feast of life so early!
This illusion, too, is shattered: she learns that Loevborg has shot himself, in obscure circumstances – possibly even accidentally—in the brothel, and not ‘beautifully’ through the temple, but in the genitals. She is appalled – ‘why does everything I touch become mean and ludicrous? It’s like a curse!’ – and, almost inevitably, attempts to expunge this sordid, semi-ludicrous tarnish over her image of the beautiful death by shooting herself.
In seeing, or wanting to see, Eilert Loevborg as a Dionysiac flouter of timid conventions, and as a tragic actor capable of the grand gesture (the beautiful suicide), Hedda is quite clearly living vicariously through him. Elizabeth Robins, the actress who was prominent in introducing Ibsen’s work to the
stage, put this well in speaking of Hedda’s ‘strong need to put some meaning into her life, even at the cost of borrowing it, or stealing the meaning out of someone’s else’s’. Hedda thus does not see Loevborg as a person in his own right, and this explains her destructive and – by any standards – intolerable interference in, and manipulation of, his life. Rather, to her, he is simply an extension of herself, a romantic and symbolic alter ego. London
Why does Hedda’s desire for self-realization and self-fulfillment take this deflected, projected, vicarious form? The answer to this question takes us to the heart of Ibsen’s vision. It is because of the powerful operation, in Hedda herself, of the force of the very conventionality she professes to despise, because of the power over her of ‘the social’ which seems always in Ibsen’s work to be antagonistic to the individual’s development. Hedda is torn internally be the conflict between the demands of the self for assertion and fulfillment, and the demands of the ‘societal self’, as it were, that the rules be obeyed. Hence she projects on Loevborg an image of romantic freedom by which she attempts to ‘live’, being too timid to try to live out that freedom in her own life.
Loevborg and Hedda’s Conventionality
Timidity is not a quality which would at first sight associate with Hedda. But in fact, Hedda only appears unconventional because of the external conventionality of the people who surround her, the Tesman family. Her fear and dislike of scandal, her orthodoxy in social terms, is dramatized at many points in the play, nowhere more deftly and ironically than in her exchange with Thea in Act 1. Thea, under some pressure, reveals to Hedda that she will never go back to her husband:
Hedda: You mean you’ve left your home for good?
Thea: Yes. I didn’t see what else I could do.
Hedda: But to do it so openly!
Thea: Oh, it’s no use trying to keep a thing like that secret.
Hedda: But what do you think people will say?
Thea: They Can say what the like. I had to do it.
The irony here is obvious: Hedda despises Thea for her meekness, and is jealous and contemptuous of Thea moral regeneration of Loevborg (for it is with Thea’s help that Loevborg has stopped drinking and written his impressive book); yet it is the timid Thea, whom Hedda had terrorized with her arrogant self-assurance when they were both schoolgirls, who is capable of an act of genuine courage, flouting the conventions of propriety and social decorum in a way which shocks the apparently more emancipated Hedda ‘But what do you think people will say?’
The same inhibition has shaped her relationship with Loevborg. Still unmarried, she was curious about his erotic adventures, but unwilling to offer him love herself. In Act 2, he reproaches her for having broken with him. She replies that she didn’t want the friendship to develop into ‘something else’:
Hedda: Shame on you, Eilert Loevborg! How could you abuse the trust of your dearest friend?
Loevborg: (clenches his fists) Oh, why didn’t you do it?
Hedda: I was afraid. Of the scandal.
Loevborg: Yes, Hedda. You’re coward at heart.
Hedda: A dreadful coward.
This brings out very well Hedda’s deflection of her desire for experience into living vicariously through the experience of another. She can only take her rejection of the mean and constricting social pressure so far, because these pressures are so deeply ingrained in her own self that she is, as Loevborg says, a coward when it comes to the moment of decision. Hedda is in fact totally deadlocked, and the deadlock is produced not just by her individuality encountering smothering, outside, social pressures, but by the inner conflict between aspiration and the weight of convention, by the impasse in her soul. When Loevborg disappoints her – as he was bound to, give the amount of romantic capital she had invested in him and given her discovery that one cannot live through another person – it is too late for her to try to begin to live life purposefully for herself and by herself. And since Loevborg hasn’t even been able to kill himself ‘beautifully’, the only act left open to Hedda is to kill herself, ‘beautifully’. Ibsen wants us to see her suicide as inevitable as anything in Greek tragedy – it is where the deadlock in her spirit has been pointing her since the opening of ht play, towards finding in death the fulfillment she has been unable to find in life.
Is Eilert Loevborg a Hero?
This is an important question because many of the characters in the drama seem nothing more than pawns controlled by Hedda, while Eilert seems to have a grain of independence due to Hedda’s respect for him. Hedda herself cannot of course be anything but an anti-hero. She self-destructs and does not grow. Eilert, on the other hand, is presented as an intelligent, brave man. We know he is intelligent because of his revered books, and we know that he is brave because he has given up drinking, reformed himself, and earned back a good reputation. Why does he bend to Hedda’s suggestion that he seems insecure; why does he begin to drink again? Perhaps he feels that he must uphold his reputation. Perhaps he is angry at those who doubt him. Either way, the most important thing to note is that Hedda has a romanticized idea of him. She repeatedly tells Mrs. Elvsted that he will have vine leaves in his hair, when in reality he simply becomes very drunk. All the same, he can be thought of as a brave, intelligent hero who nonetheless falls victim to Hedda’s manipulations.
A Dionysius for Hedda
Loevborg is several times associated by Hedda with Dionysius, the Greek god of wine and the patron of tragedy. She imagines him appearing at Brack’s party, and later at her own house, with “vine leaves in his hair”—the god’s invariable headgear. The image of Loevborg, dressed in his somber Victorian evening clothes and sporting a crown of leaves, is incongruous if not downright absurd. But this incongruity is appropriate to a character who, like Hedda, is torn between a desire both to accommodate and to defy the social world.
Loevborg’s rebellion, moreover, is often absurdly low-minded. He describes his and Hedda’s unfulfilled yearning as a “thirst for life,” but in his case this often seems merely like a thirst for liquor and prostitutes. Perhaps Ibsen is suggesting that, in a suffocating environment like the
of his day, spiritual revolt finds no outlet except in self-indulgence and vice. In any case, this drawing-room Dionysius is most authentically alive, not in the ecstasy of his evening escapades, but in the disciplined pursuit of his work. He becomes most fruitfully himself through his relationship with Thea, a “true companionship” that may stand for Ibsen’s vision of the ideal marriage: a bond sustained by honesty and shared spiritual goals rather than by social constraint. It is in this healthy “marriage” that Loevborg thrives, and it is through the tangled, deceitful, clandestine labyrinth of his sterile “affair” with Hedda that he perishes. Norway
MISS JULIANA TESMAN
Miss Juliana Tesman - Tesman’s aunt, also known as Aunt Julia, she is a sixty-five-year-old spinster who has devoted her life to Tesman, her invalid sister Rina and other invalids. She puts up with Hedda’s insults so long as she can give her news of her pregnancy and thus perpetuate the Tesman name.
Miss Juliana Tesman and other Characters
Miss Juliana Tesman serves to highlight the difficulties of Tesman‘s marriage. When she arrives, she immediately begins to hint at the possibility of babies, but the audience soon realizes that babies are the least of Tesman’s worries. Miss Juliana Tesman represents Tesman’s innocent past, and the extent to which her expectations differ from the realities of his marriage illustrates the extent to which he has had to forego happiness for the sake of prestige. Tesman does not realize that Hedda does not love him, and he does not seem to perceive many of his marriage’s problems. In fact, he seems to be only interested in pleasing Hedda. But when Miss Juliana Tesman buys a special hat to please Hedda only to have Hedda scoff at it, we see how wide apart Tesman and Hedda’s backgrounds are. Knowing how fond he is of his slippers, it makes Miss Juliana Tesman happy to bring them to her nephew; Hedda, on the other hand, is entirely unconcerned with this source of her husband’s delight. These contrasting behaviors suggest that Miss Juliana Tesman truly loves Tesman and that Hedda does not. The figure of Miss Juliana Tesman is consistently used to illustrate the degree of dysfunction in Tesman’s marriage.