Title page of the 1890 text
|Written by||Henrik Ibsen|
|Place premiered||Königliches Residenz-Theater
|Subject||A newlywed struggles with an existence she finds devoid of excitement and enchantment|
|Setting||Jørgen Tesman's villa, Kristiania, Norway; 1890s|
Hedda Gabler (Norwegian pronunciation: [ˈhɛ̝d.dæ ˈɡɑ̈ːblɛ̝r]) is a play published in 1890 by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. It premiered in 1891 in Germany to negative reviews, but has subsequently gained recognition as a classic of realism, nineteenth century theatre, and world drama. A 1902 production starring Minnie Maddern Fiske was a major sensation on Broadway, and following its initial limited run was revived with the same actress the next year.
Some critics consider the character of Hedda one of the great dramatic roles in theatre, and some portrayals have been very controversial, especially an Australian production in which the role of Hedda is played by a male actor. Depending on the interpretation, Hedda may be portrayed as an idealistic heroine fighting society, a victim of circumstance, a prototypical feminist, or a manipulative villain.
Hedda's married name is Hedda Tesman; Gabler is her maiden name. On the subject of the title, Ibsen wrote: "My intention in giving it this name was to indicate that Hedda as a personality is to be regarded rather as her father's daughter than her husband's wife."
- Hedda Gabler Tesman — The main character, newly married and bored with both her marriage and life, seeking to influence a human fate for the first time. She is the daughter of General Gabler.
- George (Jørgen) Tesman — Hedda's husband, an academic who is as interested in research and travel as he is in his wife. Despite George's presumed rivalry with Eilert over Hedda, he remains a congenial and compassionate host, and even plans to return Eilert's manuscript after Eilert loses it in a drunken stupor.
- Juliana (Juliane) Tesman — George's loving aunt who has raised him since early childhood. She is also called Aunt Julle in the play, and Aunt Ju-Ju by George.
- Thea Elvsted — A younger schoolmate of Hedda and a former acquaintance of George. Nervous and shy, Thea is in an unhappy marriage.
- Judge Brack — An unscrupulous family friend who is secretly in love with Hedda.
- Eilert Lövborg (Ejlert Løvborg) — George's former colleague, who now competes with George to achieve publication and a teaching position. Eilert was once in love with Hedda.
- Bertha (Berte) — A servant of the Tesmans.
Hedda Gabler, the daughter of an aristocratic general, has just returned to her villa in Kristiania (now Oslo) from her honeymoon. Her husband is George Tesman, a young, aspiring, and reliable (but not brilliant) academic who continued his research during their honeymoon. It becomes clear in the course of the play that she has never loved him but married him because she thinks her years of youthful abandon are over. It is also suggested that she may be pregnant.
The reappearance of Tesman's academic rival, Eilert Lövborg, throws their lives into disarray. Lövborg, a writer, is also a recovered alcoholic who has wasted his talent until now. Thanks to a relationship with Hedda's old schoolmate Thea Elvsted (who has left her husband for him), Lövborg shows signs of rehabilitation and has just completed a bestseller in the same field as Tesman. When Hedda and Eilert talk privately together, it becomes apparent that they are former lovers.
The critical success of his recently published work makes Lövborg a threat to Tesman, as Lövborg becomes a competitor for the university professorship Tesman had been counting on. Tesman and Gabler are financially overstretched, and Tesman tells Hedda that he will not be able to finance the regular entertaining or luxurious housekeeping that Gabler had been expecting. Upon meeting Lövborg, however, the couple discover that he has no intention of competing for the professorship, but rather has spent the last few years labouring with Mrs. Elvsted over what he considers to be his masterpiece, the "sequel" to his recently published work.
Apparently jealous of Mrs. Elvsted's influence over Lövborg, Gabler hopes to come between them. Despite his drink problem, she encourages Lövborg to accompany Tesman and his associate, Judge Brack, to a party. Tesman returns home from the party and reveals that he found the manuscript of Lövborg's great work, which the latter lost while drunk. When Gabler next sees Lövborg, he confesses to her, despairingly, that he has lost the manuscript. Instead of telling him that the manuscript has been found, Gabler encourages him to commit suicide, giving him a pistol. She then burns the manuscript and tells Tesman she has destroyed it to secure their future.
When the news comes that Lövborg has indeed killed himself, Tesman and Mrs. Elvsted are determined to try to reconstruct his book from Lövborg's notes, which Mrs. Elvsted has kept. Gabler is shocked to discover from Judge Brack that Lövborg's death, in a brothel, was messy and probably accidental; this "ridiculous and vile" death contrasts with the "beautiful and free" one that Gabler had imagined for him. Worse, Brack knows the origins of the pistol. He tells Gabler that if he reveals what he knows, a scandal will likely arise around her. Gabler realizes that this places Brack in a position of power over her. Leaving the others, she goes into her smaller room and shoots herself in the head. The others in the room assume that Gabler is simply firing shots, and they follow the sound to investigate. The play ends with Tesman, Brack, and Mrs. Elvsted discovering her body.
|This section requires expansion with: the interpretations of Gabler's character alluded to in the intro. (January 2012)|
Joseph Wood Krutch makes a connection between Hedda Gabler and Freud, whose first work on psychoanalysis was published almost a decade later. In Krutch's analysis, Gabler is one of the first fully developed neurotic female protagonists of literature. By that, Krutch means that Hedda is neither logical nor insane in the old sense of being random and unaccountable. Her aims and her motives have a secret personal logic of their own. She gets what she wants, but what she wants is not anything that normal people usually admit, publicly at least, to be desirable. One of the significant things that such a character implies is the premise that there is a secret, sometimes unconscious, world of aims and methods — one might almost say a secret system of values — that is often much more important than the rational one.
It is worth noting that Ibsen was interested in the then-embryonic science of mental illness and had a poor understanding by present standards. His Ghosts is another example of this. Examples of the troubled 19th century female might include oppressed, but normal, wilful characters; women reacting to abuse, sexual or otherwise (as Freud chose to deny); as well as those with organic brain disease. Ibsen innocently picks a range of examples and is prepared to mix them into one character.
Joan Templeton makes a connection between Hedda Gabler and Hjørdis from The Vikings at Helgeland, since the arms-bearing, horse-riding Hedda, married to a passive man she despises, indeed resembles the "eagle in a cage" as Hjørdis terms herself.
Bernard Paris interprets Gabler's actions as stemming from her "need for freedom [which is] as compensatory as her craving for power... her desire to shape a man's destiny." 
The play was written and first performed in Munich at the Königliches Residenz-Theater on 31 January 1891, with Clara Heese as Hedda. The first British performance was at the Vaudeville Theatre, London, on 20 April the same year, starring Elizabeth Robins, who directed it with Marion Lea, who played Thea. Robins also played Hedda in the first US production, which opened on March 30, 1898, at the Fifth Avenue Theatre, New York City.
Many prominent actresses have played the role of Hedda: Vera Komissarzhevskaya, Eleonora Duse, Alla Nazimova, Asta Nielsen, Eva Le Gallienne, Anne Meacham, Ingrid Bergman, Jill Bennett, Janet Suzman, Diana Rigg, Isabelle Huppert, Kate Burton, Kate Mulgrew, Kelly McGillis, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Annette Bening, Amanda Donohoe, Judy Davis, Erin Berger, Emmanuelle Seigner, Harriet Walter, Rosamund Pike and Cate Blanchett, who won the 2005 Helpmann Award (Australia) for Best Female Actor in a Play. In the early 1970s, Irene Worth played Hedda at Stratford, Ontario, prompting New York Times critic Walter Kerr to write, "Miss Worth is just possibly the best actress in the world." In 2005, a production by Richard Eyre, starring Eve Best, at the Almeida Theatre in London was well-received, and later transferred for an 11½ week run at the Duke of York's on St Martin's Lane. The play was staged at Chicago's famed Steppenwolf Theater starring actress Martha Plimpton, who is credited with bringing renewed modern interest to the play.
British playwright John Osborne prepared an adaptation in 1972, and in 1991 the Canadian playwright Judith Thompson presented her version at the Shaw Festival. Thompson adapted the play a second time in 2005 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto, setting the first half of the play in the nineteenth century, and the second half during the present day. Early in 2006, the play gained critical success at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds and at the Liverpool Playhouse, directed by Matthew Lloyd with Gillian Kearney in the lead role. A revival opened in January 2009 on Broadway, starring Mary-Louise Parker as the title character and Michael Cerveris as Jørgen Tesman, at the American Airlines Theatre, to mixed critical reviews. A modernised New Zealand adaptation by The Wild Duck starring Clare Kerrison in the title role, and opening at BATS Theatre in Wellington in April, 2009, was hailed as "extraordinarily accessible without compromising Ibsen's genius at all."
Performance of a production of the play, as translated and directed by Vahid Rahbani, was stopped in Tehran, Iran in 2011. Vahid Rahbani was summoned to court for inquiry after an Iranian news agency blasted the classic drama in a review and described it as "vulgar" and "hedonistic" with symbols of "sexual slavery cult."
Mass media adaptations
The play has been adapted for the screen a number of times, from the silent film era onwards, in several languages. The BBC screened a television production of the play in 1963, with Ingrid Bergman, Michael Redgrave, Ralph Richardson, and Trevor Howard, while the Corporation's Play of the Month in 1972 featured Janet Suzman and Ian McKellen in the two main leads. A version shown on Britain's commercial ITV network in 1980 featured Diana Rigg in the title role. Glenda Jackson was nominated for an Academy Award as leading actress for her role in the British film adaptation Hedda (1975) directed by Trevor Nunn.
An American film version released in 2004 relocated the story to a community of young academics in Washington state.
Awards and nominations
- 1992 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Revival
- 2006 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Revival
- 2005 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Revival
Alternate productions, tribute and parody
An operatic adaptation of the play has been produced by Shanghai's Hangzhou XiaoBaiHua Yue Opera House.
The 2009 album Until the Earth Begins to Part by Scottish folk indie-rock band Broken Records features a song, "If Eilert Løvborg Wrote A Song, It Would Sound Like This".
John Cale, Welsh musician and founder of American rock band The Velvet Underground, recorded a song "Hedda Gabler" in 1976, included originally on the 1977 EP Animal Justice (now a bonus track on the CD of the album Sabotage). He performed the song live in London (5 March 2010) with a band and a 19 piece orchestra in his Paris 1919 tour. The song was covered by the British neofolk band Sol Invictus for the 1995 compilation Im Blutfeuer (Cthulhu Records) and later included as a bonus track on the 2011 reissue of the Sol Invictus album In The Rain.
The Norwegian hard-rock band Black Debbath recorded the song "Motörhedda Gabler" on their Ibsen-inspired album Naar Vi Døde Rocker ("When We Dead Rock"). As the title suggests, the song is also influenced by British heavy metal band Motörhead.
The original play Heddatron by Elizabeth Meriwether melds Hedda Gabler with a modern family's search for love despite the invasion of technology into everyday life.
- Billington, Michael (17 March 2005). "Hedda Gabler, Almeida, London". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
- Sanders, Tracy (2006). "Lecture Notes: Hedda Gabler — Fiend or Heroine". Australian Catholic University. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
- Gradesaver: Hedda Gabler Study Guide
- Krutch, Joseph Wood (1953). Modernism in Modern Drama: A Definition and an Estimate. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. p. 11. OCLC 255757831.
- Templeton, Joan (2000). Ibsen's Women. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 229. ISBN 0-521-59039-6.
- Paris, Bernard. Imagined Human Beings: A Psychological Approach to Character and Conflict in Literature, New York University Press: New York City, 1997, p. 59.
- "Hedda Gabler: Play, Drama". The Internet Broadway Database. 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-08.
- BATS Theatre Hedda Gabler review, theatreview.org.nz
- Article, farsnews.com
- "Hedonistic Hedda Gabler Banned at Tehran Theatre", Yahoo News
- Article, tabnak.ir
- Serbian production
- Spencer, Charles (13 September 2012). "Hedda Gabler, Old Vic, review". The Telegraph. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
- Taylor, Paul (13 September 2012). "First Night: Hedda Gabler, Old Vic, London". The Independent. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
- Hitchings, Henry (13 September 2012). "Hedda Gabler, Old Vic". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
- "Title Search: Hedda Gabler". The Internet Movie Database. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-18.
- Zinman, Toby. "A Lesbian Interpretation of Hedda Gabler", Philadelphia Inquirer
- Hedda Gabler at Project Gutenberg
- Hedda Gabler – Dramo en kvar aktoj at Project Gutenberg (Esperanto)
- Ibsen, Henrik. Hedda Gabler trans. Kenneth McLeish, Nick Hern Books, London, 1995. ISBN 978-1-85459-184-5
- Novelguide: Hedda Gabler
|Wikisource has the text of the 1905 New International Encyclopedia article Hedda Gabler.|
- Hedda Gabler at the Internet Broadway Database
- Hedda Gabler at the Internet off-Broadway Database
- Photos of the Irish Classical Theatre Company's 2009 production of Hedda Gabler
- Frank W. Chandler (1920). "Hedda Gabler". Encyclopedia Americana.