Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
In Hedda Gabler, there is no character of importance pitted against Hedda as an effective counterpoise. Tesman the dull pedant, Lövborg, the debased Dionysus figure, and Brack, the suave diplomat all bring to light some aspect of Hedda that aids in her eventual self-destruction. The two minor women in the play act as correctives to Hedda's unappealing selfish personality. The whole play pivots upon Hedda and every speech in the play is directed towards the main purpose, the revelation of Hedda's character. As the center of the play is not a problem but a personality there is less emphasis on the story and its links of cause and effect. The play develops in an episodic manner.
Act I gives a full picture of the Tesman household and illuminates all the main problems. Act II introduces the rivals, Lövborg and Brack, and Hedda's first attempt to play with destiny and thwart Mrs. Elvsted. Act III is given up to the story of the manuscript and ends with Hedda's triumph. Act IV springs the trap and undoes the triumph, forcing Hedda to accept her own counsel and use the second pistol.
When the curtain rises in Act I, George and Hedda Tesman have just returned from their honeymoon. Tesman has just been awarded a doctorate and is now known as Dr. Tesman. He is stuffy and scholarly and does not understand the questions Aunt Julia asks about a baby. He had married on the strength of being awarded a professorship in the university. However, his appointment is in jeopardy because, as Judge Brack informs him, his rival Eilert Lövborg is also competing for the post. Hedda is very cold, formal and rude with Aunt Julia, but she behaves in a very warm and cordial manner with Mrs. Elvsted because she wants to extract information from her. She gets to know that Mrs. Elvsted has taken the bold and daring step of leaving her husband and has followed Lövborg to town. She is afraid that with the success of his new book and money in his pockets, Lövborg will again revert to his dissipated ways. Therefore, she asks Tesman to invite him to his house so that he will not fall in the wrong company.