Hedda Gabler

Pdf fan Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Alcohol, Drunkenness, and Vine Leaves Symbol Analysis

Alcohol, Drunkenness, and Vine Leaves Symbol Icon

The excessive consumption of alcohol in the world of Hedda Gabler is a privilege enjoyed only by men, and so alcohol itself comes to symbolize, among other things, the social freedom accessible to men but not to women in a patriarchal society. Tesman and Judge Brack can escape from polite social conventions once in a while—during the Judge’s bachelor party, for example—but Hedda, Mrs. Elvsted, and the other women in the play must always be on their best behavior—otherwise they risk a scandal.

While ordinary men, drink as part of a social ritual—to give themselves license to behave uninhibitedly or obscenely—the extraordinary Lövborg drinks to dissolve his ego and to render himself susceptible to creative inspiration. Drunkenness, it is implied, is an almost religious experience for him, full of free-spiritedness and courage. Given this, we need not wonder why Lövborg drinks to dangerous, outrageous excess. It is in this sense, moreover, that alcohol occupies a similar place in his life as Hedda does: both alcohol and Hedda inspire Lövborg, but not so much to creation as to destruction. Mrs. Elvsted, in contrast, inspires Lövborg in his work—and she also helps him control the influence alcohol has on his life.

It is worth noting here that Hedda does not will Lövborg to destruction consistently throughout the play—only after Lövborg fails so disgracefully to control himself while under the influence of alcohol. In fact, Hedda’s first plot for Lövborg centers on her vision of him with vine leaves in his hair—an allusion to Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and tragic insight. Hedda (or at least her better part) wants Lövborg to go to Judge Bracks’ bachelor party so that he can prove that he has become wholly master of himself. In Hedda’s vision, the vine leaves symbolize this almost divine self-mastery. In the end, however, Lövborg only proves that he is no Dionysus, only an alcoholic, and so Hedda’s vision of his courage and beauty must be modified: if Lövborg cannot live beautifully, she hopes that he can at least die beautifully.

Get the entire Hedda Gabler LitChart as a printable PDF.
Hedda gabler.pdf.medium

Alcohol, Drunkenness, and Vine Leaves Symbol Timeline in Hedda Gabler

The timeline below shows where the symbol Alcohol, Drunkenness, and Vine Leaves appears in Hedda Gabler. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 2
Provincialism and Patriarchy Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
...Judge Brack thinks it might be in Lövborg’s best interests not to attend his wild drinking party anyway. (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Provincialism and Patriarchy Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
...pretends to be talking about the photos from her trip again. Tesman offers her some punch and cake and she accepts. He exits. Meanwhile, Judge Brack keeps an eye on Hedda... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Provincialism and Patriarchy Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
...Because it’s fun to wait on you, answers her husband. He fills two glasses with punch—one for Hedda and one for Mrs. Elvsted, who will arrive soon. Hedda asks Tesman about... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Provincialism and Patriarchy Theme Icon
Modern Society v. the Individual Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
...house, and about the wild confessions Lövborg used to make concerning his night of wild drunkenness, prompted by Hedda’s roundabout yet somehow confident questions. Wasn’t it love? Lövborg asks again. No,... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
...and all the gentlemen. Thea confirms that Lövborg will not be going out on the drinking spree with the others, and then makes to sit beside Lövborg—but Hedda insists that she... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Provincialism and Patriarchy Theme Icon
Modern Society v. the Individual Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Hedda offers Thea some cold punch, but she declines, as does Lövborg. Lövborg says he would not drink even if Hedda... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Modern Society v. the Individual Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Lövborg is steadfast: he will not drink or go out partying. Hedda smiles approvingly. She reminds Thea of earlier that morning, when... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Modern Society v. the Individual Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Thea begs to explain, but Lövborg picks up a glass of punch, hoarsely toasts her, downs the glass, and then, after toasting Hedda’s honesty, he downs another.... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Provincialism and Patriarchy Theme Icon
...time to go. Lövborg announces, despite Thea’s pleading, that he too is going to the drinking party, if only to read to Tesman from his manuscript. He also promises to pick... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Modern Society v. the Individual Theme Icon
Beauty, Tragedy, and Farce Theme Icon
...the night will end. Hedda is confident that Lövborg will return at ten o’clock “with vine leaves in his hair,” confidently the master of himself, and a free man. Thea hopes she’s... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Modern Society v. the Individual Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Beauty, Tragedy, and Farce Theme Icon
...coming, but Thea insists on going home at once. Nonsense, says Hedda, again anticipating Lövborg’s vine-crowned return at ten o’clock. And almost by force she pulls Mrs. Elvsted toward the doorway. (full context)
Act 3
Modern Society v. the Individual Theme Icon
...Julle and is addressed to Dr. Tesman. Berte suggests that she knew Lövborg would get drunk and stay out all night. She offers to put more kindling on the fire, but... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Beauty, Tragedy, and Farce Theme Icon
...past seven o’clock, and neither Tesman nor Lövborg has returned. Hedda suggests that, after getting drunk, Tesman went over to Aunt Julle’s to sleep it off—but the letter Berte brought in... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Modern Society v. the Individual Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Beauty, Tragedy, and Farce Theme Icon
...her husband responds: because he has no self-control. The party degenerated into something of a drunken orgy, he says, and Lövborg made a speech about the woman who had inspired him... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Modern Society v. the Individual Theme Icon
Beauty, Tragedy, and Farce Theme Icon
...it without noticing. Tesman would have returned it then and there, but Lövborg was too drunk to be trusted with it. Tesman didn’t tell anyone about finding the manuscript, either, for... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
...the drawing room, and Brack reveals that a few of his guests, including the madly drunk Lövborg, went to one Mademoiselle Diana’s salon last night—that is, the brothel run by the... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Provincialism and Patriarchy Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Beauty, Tragedy, and Farce Theme Icon
Hedda looks away, disappointed to hear that Lövborg, far from having the metaphorical vine leaves in his hair, behaved so squalidly the night before. Judge Brack concludes that he felt... (full context)
Provincialism and Patriarchy Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
...He insists that Hedda stay in the room, and promises not to talk about the drunken debauchery of the night before. Lövborg then tells Thea that all is over between them,... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Beauty, Tragedy, and Farce Theme Icon
...suicide. Hedda steps closer to him: “Couldn’t you let it happen…beautifully?” she asks. Crowned with vine leaves , Lövborg takes her to mean, “as you used to dream in the old days.”... (full context)