Hedda Gabler

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Jörgen Tesman Character Analysis

Tesman is Hedda’s husband and the holder of a University Fellowship in cultural history: he specializes in medieval domestic crafts. He is a slightly plump, bearded, and bespectacled man of 33. Tesman is a hard worker and an amiable fellow, and he is considered an outstanding member of his society, one destined to attain the highest social distinction. For all that, however, he is also conventional, boring, mediocre, and sometimes even ridiculous. He talks constantly about the mundane details of his studies, he is sappily sentimental, and he is an anxious climber of the career ladder. He does not create anything on his own, but instead merely studies the creations of others, as when at the end of the play he resolves to reconstruct Lövborg’s partially destroyed manuscript. Tesman might be read in part as Ibsen’s sketch of the conventional bourgeois man in modern society.

Jörgen Tesman Quotes in Hedda Gabler

The Hedda Gabler quotes below are all either spoken by Jörgen Tesman or refer to Jörgen Tesman . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Oxford University Press edition of Hedda Gabler published in 2008.
Act 1 Quotes

Tesman: Oh, Auntie…you’ll never stop sacrificing yourself for me!

Miss Tesman: Isn’t it the only joy I have in the world, to help you along your road, my darling boy?

Related Characters: Jörgen Tesman (speaker), Miss Juliane Tesman (Aunt Julle) (speaker)
Page Number: 174
Explanation and Analysis:

Tesman and his aunt have been speaking about his extravagantly expensive honeymoon, as well as the huge cost of the villa he has bought, both of which expenses he was inspired to by Hedda. Now, Miss Tesman has just revealed that she's taken out a mortgage against the annuity (a fixed income) that supports her and Aunt Rina in order to purchase the household furnishings for Tesman's villa. This sacrifice, which puts her own income in jeopardy, is excessive, especially in light of the fact that she has already given him the services of her valued servant Berte. Tesman's lines reveal him to be grateful for these sacrifices, but also complacent—his aunt has always sacrificed herself for his benefit, and he accepts as fact that she will never stop. In fact, she cannot stop, as she herself goes on to say. Helping her nephew is the sole source of "joy" in her life.

Through all of the above, the quote portrays Miss Tesman as the unwitting victim of the patriarchal social conventions that compel her to put all of her energy and resources toward the men in her life, even to her and her sister's detriment. At the same time, her generosity and loyalty to Tesman stand in sharp contrast to Hedda, who continues to make demands of Tesman despite his limited resources, and who purposefully humiliates Miss Tesman for her provincial tastes. 

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Tesman: What are you looking at, Hedda?

Hedda: I’m just looking at the leaves on the trees. They’re so yellowed. And so withered.

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker), Jörgen Tesman (speaker)
Page Number: 179
Explanation and Analysis:

In the moments before this exchange, Tesman has embarrassed Hedda by hinting to Miss Tesman that Hedda is pregnant. Throughout the play, Hedda is at pains to deny her pregnancy, changing the topic or cutting Tesman off when he mentions it. After Tesman and his Aunt leave, Hedda is alone. She clenches her fists violently, revealing how aggravated she is by Miss Tesman's commonness, as well as Tesman's insistence on revealing her pregnancy. Hedda seemingly views the pregnancy as a burden, something shackling her to bourgeoisie domesticity, as well as a disgusting reminder that people might view her as a sexual being.  

In these lines, Tesman returns and we see how bitterly Hedda feels towards him and the domestic, procreative world he represents. Tesman's question is blundering—he does not recognize how much his hints about the pregnancy to Miss Tesman upset Hedda. Hedda's answer then illuminates her resentment for him (although not to him), as well as for the child she's carrying and all that comes along with her pregnancy. In the early stages of her marriage and pregnancy, a time of beginnings, she notices only the yellow, "withered" leaves, which are symbolic of stale repetition, death, and rot. Although Hedda's body is fertile, in this moment we see that her mindset is barren and hostile.

Hedda: Oh, well…I’ve got one thing at least that I can pass the time with.

Tesman: Oh, thank the good Lord for that! And what might that be, Hedda? Eh?

Hedda: My pistols… Jörgen.

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker), Jörgen Tesman
Related Symbols: General Gabler’s Pistols
Page Number: 197
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the first act, we learn from Judge Brack that Tesman will have to compete with Lovborg for the academic position that was promised him. The new uncertainty about his employment, when coupled with their existing debt, leads Tesman to tell Hedda that she will not be immediately able to entertain guests or get the manservant and saddle-horse she wanted. Hedda's sphere of influence and power is getting smaller and smaller. Socializing is one of her primary methods of manipulation and control, and the saddle horse and manservant are objects over which she could have exerted power. Without these things available to her, Hedda says that she has only "one thing" to pass the time.

Tesman is delighted and responds with excitement. He incorrectly assumes that Hedda is speaking about their unborn child and that she is looking forward to being a mother.

In the context of Tesman's hope, Hedda's response is brutal. She has been referring to General Gabler's treasured pistols, not her unborn child. The pistols are symbols of male, phallic power and destruction, as well as of the aristocratic world in which Hedda was raised and now misses. They are the polar opposite of a baby. They take life where a baby brings life. They are power embodied, while a baby is the embodiment of vulnerability. 

Of course, the only thing one can do with pistols is shoot them, which foreshadows the violent ways in which Hedda actually will pass her time. This exchange is made more potent by Hedda's eventual suicide—she will literally pass her time with one of her father's pistols. 

Act 4 Quotes

Hedda: Oh, it’ll kill me…it’ll kill me, all this!

Tesman: All what, Hedda? Eh?

Hedda: All this…this farce…Jörgen.

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker), Jörgen Tesman (speaker)
Page Number: 251
Explanation and Analysis:

Hedda has told Tesman that she destroyed the manuscript. He is angry with her, and she soothes him by telling him it was for his sake, because he had been jealous of Lovborg. Tesman is touched but still upset, and so Hedda must go further. She admits her pregnancy for the first time in the play, and Tesman is predictably delighted. 

In these lines, Hedda reveals how much she despises the "farce" that she is trapped in. The farce is her life with Tesman, and the role of wife and now mother that she must play in it. It is disgusting to her that she has had to pretend to love Tesman in order to protect herself—so disgusting that she says that it will kill her.  

Hedda is brilliant and violent, but after this moment she must submit her spirit to the banal, cliched role of the caring woman, the domesticated wife. She must live in the farce that she has spent her life mocking and denying, and the idea is hateful to her. 

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Jörgen Tesman Character Timeline in Hedda Gabler

The timeline below shows where the character Jörgen Tesman appears in Hedda Gabler. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
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...morning in Norway, in the spacious, handsome drawing room where guests are received in the Tesmans’ villa. A portrait of General Gabler, a prominent military figure, hangs over a sofa. Miss... (full context)
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Miss Tesman observes in a quiet voice that her nephew Jörgen Tesman and his wife Hedda don’t... (full context)
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...room for them. She at last places them on the front of the piano. Miss Tesman, in whose household Berte served formerly, turns to the subject of Berte’s new mistress, Hedda.... (full context)
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Miss Tesman says that it is a matter of course that Hedda should be so particular: she... (full context)
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Miss Tesman wishes that her brother could look up from the grave and see what’s become of... (full context)
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Jörgen Tesman enters, carrying an open empty suitcase and humming a tune, a cheerful expression on... (full context)
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Tesman begins to tell Aunt Julle all about his and Hedda’s honeymoon. He took enough research... (full context)
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Tesman and Aunt Julle sit, Aunt Julle puts her parasol in a corner by the sofa,... (full context)
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Aunt Julle suddenly switches to another, more cheerful tone. Tesman is a married man now, and he is married to the lovely Hedda Gabler, who... (full context)
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...Julle suppresses a smile and changes the subject: the trip must have been expensive, surely. Tesman explains that his big fellowship helped quite a bit, and that the genteel Hedda had... (full context)
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As far as the house is concerned, Tesman is most pleased for Hedda’s sake: even before they got engaged, she told him that... (full context)
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...taken out a mortgage on her and Aunt Rina’s annuity to give security for the Tesmans’ furniture and carpets. Tesman is grateful but shocked. Aunt Julle goes further and suggests she’d... (full context)
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Moreover, says Aunt Julle, Tesman has proven himself worthy by overcoming all the people who stood in his way. Indeed,... (full context)
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Just then, Hedda enters, dressed in a tasteful morning gown. After greeting Miss Tesman somewhat tartly, she complains that the maid has opened the verandah door, flooding the place... (full context)
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Before she goes, Miss Tesman extracts from her skirt pocket a flat object wrapped in newspaper, a gift for Tesman.... (full context)
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Tesman persists in his sentimentality, but Hedda abruptly interrupts him to say that she cannot manage... (full context)
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Miss Tesman collects her parasol. In an attempt to smooth things over, Tesman asks his aunt to... (full context)
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...in a frenzy. Then she draws the curtains from the verandah door and looks out. Tesman returns and asks his wife what she’s looking at. The withered yellow leaves on the... (full context)
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Tesman remarks that his Aunt Julle was behaving rather affectedly, but Hedda says she wouldn’t know.... (full context)
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Tesman asks his wife if anything is the matter. Hedda replies that her old piano doesn’t... (full context)
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...everyone made a fuss over once, and also that she was an old flame of Tesman’s. Tesman laughs: “Oh, it didn’t last long,” he says. Neither of the two has seen... (full context)
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...Mrs. Elvsted gives a scared look, then quickly says that Lövborg is her stepchildren’s tutor. Tesman awkwardly and with slight incoherence asks whether such a debauched man as Lövborg could be... (full context)
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Tesman wonders whether Lövborg’s new book, which has sold very well and which caused an enormous... (full context)
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Mrs. Elvsted at last begs Mr. Tesman, in the name of his old friendship with the man, to receive Lövborg if he... (full context)
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...in a low voice says that she’s killed two birds with one stone: she got Tesman out of the room, and now the women can speak together alone. Mrs. Elvsted doesn’t... (full context)
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...Hedda. “What gives you that idea?” asks Thea. Hedda reminds Thea that she told Mr. Tesman as much. Caught in something of an inconsistency in her story, Thea decides to confess... (full context)
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Hedda hears Tesman coming, and she and Thea agree to keep their discussion to themselves. Tesman enters with... (full context)
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Judge Brack enters, bowing with his hat in hand. Tesman introduces him to Mrs. Elvsted (whom he again calls Miss Rysing, to his wife’s perturbation).... (full context)
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Tesman and Judge Brack sit down, and the Judge says he has a little matter to... (full context)
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Brack does have some news for Tesman: his old friend Ejlert Lövborg is back in town—as Tesman has already learned from Mrs.... (full context)
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...from the hall during her husband’s last speech. Laughing a little scornfully, she says that Tesman is forever worrying about what people are going to find to live on. Judge Brack... (full context)
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Judge Brack then, with hesitation, reveals serious news: the appointment to the professorship which Tesman was counting on might well be contested—by none other than Ejlert Lövborg. Tesman is dismayed—the... (full context)
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Judge Brack exits. Tesman confides in Hedda that it was “idiotically romantic” of him to get married and buy... (full context)
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...either a manservant or a saddle-horse, as she had hoped. “No, God preserve us,” says Tesman, appalled. Well, says Hedda, at least I’ve got one thing to pass the time with.... (full context)
Act 2
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Hedda complains that she hasn’t had any visitors. Judge Brack asks if Tesman is in, but Hedda says no, he ran off to his aunts’ house. Brack wishes... (full context)
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Judge Brack wonders how it was that Tesman won Hedda’s hand in marriage in the first place. She implies that she had “had... (full context)
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Tesman enters, bearing many academic books under his arms and in his pockets. He is surprised... (full context)
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Tesman exits. Judge Brack asks Hedda about the hat incident, and Hedda reveals that she only... (full context)
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Hedda goes on to reveal that the villa she and Tesman now live in was never her dream house. One evening last summer, Tesman was escorting... (full context)
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...bored she will be here, with nothing inviting in her future—except, perhaps, the prospect of Tesman going into politics. Brack laughs—he doesn’t think Tesman would be any good at that. Hedda... (full context)
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Tesman enters. He expects Lövborg to arrive any moment, but he is as willing to wait... (full context)
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...elegant new suit. He bows and seems embarrassed. Greetings and niceties are exchanged all around. Tesman says he hasn’t yet read Lövborg’s new book, but Lövborg tells him not to bother:... (full context)
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...pulls out a packet from his coat pocket: it is his new manuscript. He tells Tesman that he should read this when it comes out, because it’s a book the author... (full context)
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Tesman observes that the handwriting isn’t Lövborg’s, and Lövborg explains he dictated the book (to Mrs.... (full context)
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Lövborg hopes to read a bit from his new manuscript to Tesman, but Tesman doesn’t know if he can manage that. Judge Brack explains: he’s hosting a... (full context)
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Tesman begins to question Lövborg about the series of lectures he plans on giving during the... (full context)
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Hedda invites the gentlemen to partake of some cold (alcoholic) punch. Brack and the excited Tesman accept, but Lövborg declines. Hedda says that she will entertain him in the meantime. Tesman... (full context)
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...Lövborg expresses his bitterness that Hedda has thrown herself away by marrying a man like Tesman. “None of that!” says Hedda. (full context)
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Tesman enters and Hedda pretends to be talking about the photos from her trip again. Tesman... (full context)
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Lövborg again asks, quietly as before, how Hedda could throw herself away on Tesman. Hedda responds that she will not be spoken to so familiarly. Though Hedda declines to... (full context)
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Tesman returns with a tray. “Why don’t you leave that to the maid?” asks Hedda. Because... (full context)
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Tesman and Judge Brack enter—it’s time to go. Lövborg announces, despite Thea’s pleading, that he too... (full context)
Act 3
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...concerns Lövborg—but it does not. It is from Aunt Julle and is addressed to Dr. Tesman. Berte suggests that she knew Lövborg would get drunk and stay out all night. She... (full context)
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...of the door. She asks Thea the time: it is past seven o’clock, and neither Tesman nor Lövborg has returned. Hedda suggests that, after getting drunk, Tesman went over to Aunt... (full context)
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...and lie down on the bed for a little while, promising to alert her when Tesman returns. Thea exits. (full context)
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Tesman, tired and serious, creeps into the drawing room on tiptoe. Hedda greets him, and he... (full context)
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All the same, Tesman goes on, Lövborg is beyond reform. Because he’s got more courage than the rest? asks... (full context)
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Tesman then arrives at the saddest part of the story: while he and Brack and a... (full context)
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After the party broke up, Tesman lost contact with Lövborg and went with a few others to the home of one... (full context)
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Casually, Hedda tells Tesman that there’s a letter for him from Aunt Julle. Tesman reads it: Aunt Rina, it... (full context)
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...outside. Hedda orders her to admit him. Hedda the snatches Lövborg’s manuscript from the stool Tesman has laid it on. She promises to care for it, and puts it in the... (full context)
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Judge Brack enters just as Tesman rushes off to see Aunt Rina. Hedda and Brack sit in the drawing room, and... (full context)
Act 4
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...announces that her sister Rina has at last passed away. Hedda already knows this, as Tesman sent her a note. Miss Tesman felt obliged to deliver the tidings of death in... (full context)
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Tesman enters. He is distraught after Aunt Rina’s death, and somewhat scatterbrained, he says—he doesn’t know... (full context)
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Tesman confides to Hedda that he’s upset not only about Aunt Rina’s death but also about... (full context)
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Tesman is outraged. He yells at Hedda, and says that she’s committed a felony, as Judge... (full context)
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Upon learning this, Tesman is torn between doubt and happiness—he never knew his wife loved him like that. Hedda... (full context)
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Tesman becomes uneasy and thoughtful again when he remembers Lövborg’s manuscript. Just then Thea Elvsted enters.... (full context)
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...see him alive, but Brack tells her that no one is allowed to see him. Tesman wonders whether Lövborg could have killed himself, and Hedda says that she’s certain he did... (full context)
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Tesman asks where Lövborg shot himself, and Judge Brack responds uncertainly, “at his lodgings.” Thea says... (full context)
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...for the courage and beauty of his deed: he did what had to be done. Tesman and Thea think that he must have been desperate and mad to do such a... (full context)
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The mention of the manuscript agitates Tesman’s sense of guilt. He drifts about the stage, upset that his old friend should not... (full context)
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Tesman and Thea come back into the drawing room. Tesman asks his wife if he can... (full context)
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Hedda rises, and remarks that Thea is now sitting here with Tesman working just as she used to sit with Ejlert Lövborg. Thea says she just hopes... (full context)
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...after a short pause she is heard playing a wild dance tune on the piano. Tesman asks that she stop, out of respect for Aunt Rina and Ejlert Lövborg’s deaths. Hedda... (full context)
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Back at the desk, Tesman tells Thea that it’s probably not good for Hedda to see the two of them... (full context)
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Tesman responds that Judge Brack will visit Hedda, and Brack confirms that he’ll visit every single... (full context)
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...the inner room. Everyone jumps to their feet—Hedda is playing with those pistols again, says Tesman. He pulls the curtain aside and runs in, followed by Thea. They find Hedda dead.... (full context)