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MonkeyNotes-Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen
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Act II

Summary

That same afternoon Hedda, who is dressed to receive callers is loading one of her pistols when Brack enters from the back. From his inquiry of her current status, the audience discovers that Hedda is bored with her marriage and only married Tesman because he was safe. Brack suggests that to amuse her she should consider an underhanded alliance with him, "a triangular friendship." She responds in an elliptical manner, neither consenting nor condemning his offer. He is an elderly gallant who belongs to her old set and understands how little she cares for her husband. She consents to his coming to the house and talking to her as he pleases behind her husband's back but keeps her pistols in reserve in case he crosses the boundary. On the other hand, he tries to gain some hold over her by revealing that her husband is under monetary obligations to him.

George Tesman returns from a visit to Aunt Julia and brings news that Aunt Rina's has taken a turn for the worse. He also has Lövborg's new book with him. He that that "as a specialist" he has never written like that and is awed by Lövborg's purview. He intends to begin reading it right away and leaves for his library. Hedda tells Brack the story of Aunt Julia's bonnet and Brack realizes she is not happy. Hedda confesses that she married Tesman because no one else proposed to her. She also mentioned that she liked secretary Falk's villa only to make conversation with Tesman but that all the while she did not care or him or love him. If she could, she would like to push Tesman into politics but with such meager finances at her disposal, it is impossible. When Brack talks of a "solemn responsibility" such as childbirth falling on her, she gets annoyed.

Brack and Tesman have to go to the former's bachelor party that evening but they decide to wait for Lövborg. Hedda is certain that Lövborg will not accompany the two of them to the party because of his reformed ways. Also, she has set up a rendezvous with Thea for that evening and Lövborg will want to see her. Tesman reminds her that Aunt Julia cannot come today and Hedda is not worried because Mrs. Elvsted would be there to maintain the conventionalities.

When Eilert Lövborg arrives, he looks older than Tesman and somewhat worn out. He dismisses his first book and talks about his present book that deals with the future. He shows Tesman the manuscript, which is written in someone else's hand. Brack invites him to his party so that he can discuss his book with Tesman but he declines the invitation. Lövborg intends to deliver a course of lectures in the autumn but reveals that he does not want the professorship. He cares only for the "moral victory." He refuses to take punch with Tesman and Brack in the inner room.


When Hedda and Lövborg are left alone, Lövborg recalls their earlier affection for each other. He complains that he must teach himself "never to say Hedda Gabler again." He remembers how the two of them would sit together in her father's house and she would question him in "a roundabout way" about his "days and nights of devilment." She broke off with him when their friendship threatened to become more serious. She fended him off with her pistols because she dreaded a possible scandal. She tells him that she was never in love with him and agrees that she is a coward not because she did not shoot him but because she could not face the scandal. Hedda accuses Lövborg of finding consolation with Mrs. Elvsted shortly afterwards and perhaps confiding their affair to her. Lövborg denies the charge and says that Mrs. Elvsted is "too stupid" to understand such matters.

When Mrs. Elvsted enters, Lövborg declares that they are two comrades who have absolute faith in each other and that she is brave where her comrade is concerned. Hedda, stung by this praise, tries to goad him to take a glass of punch. When she finds that he is firm in his resolve, she tells him that his "comrade," Mrs. Elvsted was in "mortal terror" that he might revert to his old ways. Lövborg feels let down by this lack of trust ad breaks his vow of abstinence. He also decides to go with Tesman and Brack to the party. He tells the ladies that he will come back at ten o' clock and escort Mrs. Elvsted to her boarding house. Hedda anticipates that Lövborg will return with "vine-leaves in his hair flushed and fearless" for he will have "regained control over himself." Mrs. Elvsted feels that Hedda has a hidden motive. Hedda declares that for once in her life she wants "power to mould a human destiny."

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