Hedda Gabler

Hedda Gabler Character Analysis

Hedda, the daughter of the great General Gabler and the pregnant wife of Jörgen Tesman, is a beautiful, aristocratic, intelligent woman, loaded with social grace and a steely, clear, dispassionate charisma. She is 29 years old when the action of the play begins. She has a fiery lust for life and desires above all else a vision of courage and beauty. That being said, she is also bored by the world, and is egotistical, nihilistic, and almost demonic in her desire to influence other people’s fates. She behaves cruelly and destructively toward those around her while seeking to entertain and satisfy herself, going so far as to drive her comrade from adolescence, Ejlert Lövborg, to suicide. At the end of the play, to avoid scandal and escape the pettiness of bourgeois life, Hedda shoots herself with her father’s pistol, an act that she herself might describe as a beautiful death.

Hedda Gabler Quotes in Hedda Gabler

The Hedda Gabler quotes below are all either spoken by Hedda Gabler or refer to Hedda Gabler. 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:
Power and Influence Theme Icon
). 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

Berte: I’m really so scared I’ll never give satisfaction to the young mistress.

Miss Tesman: Oh, Heavens…just to begin with of course there might be this and that…

Berte: Because she’s ever so particular.

Related Characters: Miss Juliane Tesman (Aunt Julle) (speaker), Berte (speaker), Hedda Gabler
Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Hedda: Frightened? Of me?

Mrs. Elvsted: Oh, dreadfully frightened. When we met on the steps you used to pull my hair.

Hedda: No, did I really?

Mrs. Elvsted: Yes, and once you said you were going to burn it off.

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker), Mrs. Thea Elvsted (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fire and the Tesmans’ Stove
Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Act 2 Quotes

Hedda: Hullo again, Mr. Brack!

Brack: Good afternoon to you, Mrs. Tesman!

Hedda: I’m going to shoot you sir!

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker), Judge Brack
Related Symbols: General Gabler’s Pistols
Page Number: 199
Explanation and Analysis:

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Brack: But my dearest lady, how could you do such a thing! To that harmless old soul!

Hedda: Oh, you know how it is…these things just suddenly come over me. And then I can’t resist them. Oh, I don’t know myself how to explain it.

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker), Judge Brack
Page Number: 206
Explanation and Analysis:

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Hedda: I’ve often thought there’s only one thing in the world I’m any good at.

Brack: And what might that be, may I venture to ask?

Hedda: Boring myself to death.

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker), Judge Brack
Page Number: 209
Explanation and Analysis:

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When I think back to that time, wasn’t there something beautiful, something attractive…something courageous too, it seems to me…about this…this secret intimacy, this companionship that no one even dreamed of.

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker)
Page Number: 218
Explanation and Analysis:

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For once in my life I want to feel that I control a human destiny.

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker)
Page Number: 226
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 3 Quotes

I don’t want to look at sickness and death. I must be free of everything that’s ugly.

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker)
Related Symbols: Lövborg and Thea’s Manuscript
Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:

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Hedda: You’re quite a formidable person…when it comes to the point.

Brack: You think so?

Hedda: Yes, I’m beginning to think so, now. And I’m content…so long as you don’t have any sort of hold over me.

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker), Judge Brack
Page Number: 239
Explanation and Analysis:

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Hedda: And what are you going to do, then?

Lövborg: Nothing. Just put an end to it all. The sooner the better.

Hedda: Ejlert Lövborg…listen to me…. Couldn’t you let it happen… beautifully?

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker), Ejlert Lövborg (speaker)
Related Symbols: General Gabler’s Pistols, Lövborg and Thea’s Manuscript
Page Number: 245
Explanation and Analysis:

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Now I’m burning your child, Thea! With your curly hair! Your child and Ejlert Lövborg’s. I’m burning…burning your child.

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker), Ejlert Lövborg, Mrs. Thea Elvsted
Related Symbols: Lövborg and Thea’s Manuscript, Fire and the Tesmans’ Stove
Page Number: 246
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Hedda: He was shot in the breast?

Brack: Yes…as I said.

Hedda: Not in the temple?

Brack: In the breast, Mrs. Tesman.

Hedda: Well…the breast is good, too.

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker), Judge Brack (speaker), Ejlert Lövborg
Related Symbols: General Gabler’s Pistols
Page Number: 255
Explanation and Analysis:

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It’s a liberation to know that an act of spontaneous courage is yet possible in this world. An act that has something of unconditional beauty.

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker), Ejlert Lövborg
Related Symbols: General Gabler’s Pistols
Page Number: 258
Explanation and Analysis:

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Everything I touch seems destined to turn into something mean and farcical.

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker)
Related Symbols: General Gabler’s Pistols
Page Number: 259
Explanation and Analysis:

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Hedda: And so I am in your power, Mr. Brack. From now on I am at your mercy.

Brack: Dearest Hedda…believe me…I shall not abuse the position.

Hedda: In your power, all the same. Subject to your will and your demands. No longer free! No! That’s a thought that I’ll never endure! Never.

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker), Judge Brack (speaker)
Related Symbols: General Gabler’s Pistols
Page Number: 262
Explanation and Analysis:

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Hedda Gabler Character Timeline in Hedda Gabler

The timeline below shows where the character Hedda Gabler appears in Hedda Gabler. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
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Miss Tesman observes in a quiet voice that her nephew Jörgen Tesman and his wife Hedda don’t seem to be awake yet. Berte says that the couple returned from their honeymoon... (full context)
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...Tesman, in whose household Berte served formerly, turns to the subject of Berte’s new mistress, Hedda. Though it pained Miss Tesman to give up Berte, she had to do it so... (full context)
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Miss Tesman says that it is a matter of course that Hedda should be so particular: she is, after all, the great General Gabler’s daughter. Berte declares... (full context)
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...the loose covers off of the furniture. Miss Tesman asks why, and Berte explains that Hedda insisted. Miss Tesman asks if the couple intends to use the drawing room every day.... (full context)
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...Tesman), saying he hopes she got enough sleep the night before—she had greeted him and Hedda at the quay last night when they arrived. Tesman apologizes for having not been able... (full context)
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Tesman begins to tell Aunt Julle all about his and Hedda’s honeymoon. He took enough research notes to fill a whole suitcase, he says, after managing... (full context)
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...cheerful tone. Tesman is a married man now, and he is married to the lovely Hedda Gabler, who always had so many admirers around her! Tesman hums and smirks a bit... (full context)
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...surely. Tesman explains that his big fellowship helped quite a bit, and that the genteel Hedda had to have that honeymoon trip despite the expenses. How do you like your new... (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 she only wanted to live... (full context)
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...crafts of medieval Brabant! But the most wonderful thing of all, says Tesman, is that Hedda is his wife. (full context)
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Just then, Hedda enters, dressed in a tasteful morning gown. After greeting Miss Tesman somewhat tartly, she complains... (full context)
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...ago by Aunt Rina despite her illness. Tesman himself is delighted and waxes sentimental, while Hedda implies that the gift has no significance to her and is, in fact, somewhat shabby. (full context)
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Tesman persists in his sentimentality, but Hedda abruptly interrupts him to say that she cannot manage with Berte as the household’s maid.... (full context)
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...attempt to smooth things over, Tesman asks his aunt to take a good look at Hedda before she goes. Yes, she’s always been lovely, Aunt Julle remarks. Tesman declares that Hedda... (full context)
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Alone, Hedda walks about the room, raises her arms, and clenches her fists as though in a... (full context)
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Tesman remarks that his Aunt Julle was behaving rather affectedly, but Hedda says she wouldn’t know. She insists that it was socially inappropriate for Miss Tesman to... (full context)
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Tesman asks his wife if anything is the matter. Hedda replies that her old piano doesn’t go with the rest of the things in the... (full context)
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At this point that Hedda takes the bunch of flowers from the piano and finds a card that reads: “Will... (full context)
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...hall door and announces that Mrs. Elvsted is back for the second time that morning. Hedda asks that she be brought in. Mrs. Elvsted enters in a tasteful dress that is... (full context)
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“How can this possibly concern you,” Hedda asks. Mrs. Elvsted gives a scared look, then quickly says that Lövborg is her stepchildren’s... (full context)
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Mrs. Elvsted proceeds to say that she’s succeeded in finding Lövborg’s address. Hedda gives her a searching glance and wonders aloud why Mrs. Elvsted’s husband wouldn’t come to... (full context)
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...up throughout and calling Mrs. Elvsted by her maiden name, Rysing) promises to do so. Hedda even suggests that Tesman write to Lövborg at once, a warm, friendly, long letter. Tesman... (full context)
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Hedda goes over to Mrs. Elvsted with a smile, and in a low voice says that... (full context)
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Mrs. Elvsted doesn’t want to talk about her life at home at all, so Hedda tries to make her feel more comfortable by reminding her that the two used to... (full context)
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Hedda dismisses this, and insists that Mrs. Elvsted refer to her informally by her first name,... (full context)
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Hedda is pleased, and she promises to call Mrs. Elvsted by her first name, which she... (full context)
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Hedda presses Thea Elvsted for more of her life story. It all comes out: Thea went... (full context)
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Casually Hedda asks Thea about the fact that Ejlert Lövborg has been living near her for about... (full context)
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Hedda then asks what Thea’s husband is really like. After some evasive answers, Thea admits that... (full context)
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Thea is depressed and exhausted by this point, but Hedda asks her how her “familiarity” with Ejlert Lövborg came about. Gradually, Thea says, “I got... (full context)
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...her happiness with him, will last: the shadow of another woman stands between the two. Hedda is keenly interested to know who this other woman might be—but Thea only knows that... (full context)
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Hedda hears Tesman coming, and she and Thea agree to keep their discussion to themselves. Tesman... (full context)
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...arranged the household’s finances a little more modestly. Tesman protests that he couldn’t have, for Hedda’s sake. He asks Brack if there’s been any news about the professorship he’s counting on.... (full context)
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Hedda has come in from the hall during her husband’s last speech. Laughing a little scornfully,... (full context)
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...Brack assures him that he’ll still most probably get it, after a bit of competition. Hedda thinks all this will turn out to be “quite a sporting event,” and she says... (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 a house on... (full context)
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It also becomes clear to Hedda that now she won’t be able to get either a manservant or a saddle-horse, as... (full context)
Act 2
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...been removed and a writing desk has been put in its place. It is afternoon. Hedda, dressed to receive visitors, stands alone in the room by the glass door, loading a... (full context)
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Hedda sees Judge Brack approaching the Tesmans’ villa from the back, through the garden. She greets... (full context)
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Hedda complains that she hasn’t had any visitors. Judge Brack asks if Tesman is in, but... (full context)
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Hedda and Judge Brack sit down for a comfortable gossip. The two say they have missed... (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 her day”... (full context)
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Judge Brack laughs and says that he respects the bonds of holy matrimony. Hedda banteringly says she never had high hopes of marrying him (Brack) anyway. For his part,... (full context)
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Hedda concedes that she would have been glad of a third person on her honeymoon trip.... (full context)
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...before. Then Tesman excuses himself to change out of his sweaty clothes—but not before informing Hedda that Aunt Julle won’t be stopping by later. Hedda assumes this is because of the... (full context)
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Tesman exits. Judge Brack asks Hedda about the hat incident, and Hedda reveals that she only pretended to think Aunt Julle’s... (full context)
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Hedda goes on to reveal that the villa she and Tesman now live in was never... (full context)
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Hedda complains of the smell of lavender and potpourri in her house, which she suspects Aunt... (full context)
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Hedda leans back and tells Brack that he can’t imagine how excruciatingly bored she will be... (full context)
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Judge Brack then suggests that Hedda might have to take on a new responsibility soon enough (presumably motherhood)—a suggestion which angers... (full context)
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...confident that his old friend and rival will not compete with him for the professorship. Hedda suggests that if Lövborg decides not to go to Judge Brack’s bachelor party later that... (full context)
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...as we know). Tesman says he would never have thought to write such a book. Hedda quietly agrees with him. (full context)
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...himself. Brack invites Lövborg along, but the former alcoholic declines, despite Brack and Tesman’s encouragement. Hedda says that Lövborg would rather stay where he is and take supper with her, anyway—and... (full context)
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...only wants to outshine his rival in reputation. Tesman is relieved, and he reiterates to Hedda that Lövborg won’t stand in their way after all. Leave me out of it, says... (full context)
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Hedda invites the gentlemen to partake of some cold (alcoholic) punch. Brack and the excited Tesman... (full context)
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Softly and slowly, Lövborg murmurs Hedda’s name (including her maiden name, Gabler). Hedda hushes him, but he softly and slowly repeats... (full context)
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Tesman enters and Hedda pretends to be talking about the photos from her trip again. Tesman offers her some... (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... (full context)
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Tesman returns with a tray. “Why don’t you leave that to the maid?” asks Hedda. Because it’s fun to wait on you, answers her husband. He fills two glasses with... (full context)
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Lövborg, alone again with Hedda, has a single question for her: was there no love, not even a trace, in... (full context)
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Lövborg concludes that his relationship with Hedda was based on a common lust for life—so then, he asks, why didn’t it last?... (full context)
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...started to get dark. Berte opens the hall door and Thea Elvsted enters, greeted by Hedda and all the gentlemen. Thea confirms that Lövborg will not be going out on the... (full context)
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Hedda offers Thea some cold punch, but she declines, as does Lövborg. Lövborg says he would... (full context)
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Lövborg is steadfast: he will not drink or go out partying. Hedda smiles approvingly. She reminds Thea of earlier that morning, when she (Thea) came to the... (full context)
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...up a glass of punch, hoarsely toasts her, downs the glass, and then, after toasting Hedda’s honesty, he downs another. That’s enough, Hedda says as he begins to refill his glass—he... (full context)
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...from the Tesmans’ at ten o’clock that night. Let the partying begin, says Judge Brack. Hedda says she wishes she could come to the party as an invisible onlooker, so as... (full context)
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The men exit. Thea, wandering about uneasily, wonders how the night will end. Hedda is confident that Lövborg will return at ten o’clock “with vine leaves in his hair,”... (full context)
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Thea cries out to be let go, frightened of Hedda. Berte enters and announces that everything is ready in the dining room. Hedda says that... (full context)
Act 3
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...an armchair, anxiously waiting for Lövborg to return, as she has been sleeplessly all night. Hedda is sleeping quite well on the sofa. (full context)
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Hedda is woken by the closing of the door. She asks Thea the time: it is... (full context)
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Thea says that not even Hedda herself believes what she’s saying, and Hedda calls her “a little ninny”—“you look tired to... (full context)
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Hedda draws the curtains, inspects herself in a mirror, and arranges her hair. She then rings... (full context)
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Tesman, tired and serious, creeps into the drawing room on tiptoe. Hedda greets him, and he is surprised that she is already up. Hedda asks her husband... (full context)
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...goes on, Lövborg is beyond reform. Because he’s got more courage than the rest? asks Hedda. No, her husband responds: because he has no self-control. The party degenerated into something of... (full context)
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...Tesman resolves to return Lövborg’s manuscript to him as soon as possible. Please don’t, asks Hedda—she wants to read it first. Tesman says he dare not do that, because this is... (full context)
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Casually, Hedda tells Tesman that there’s a letter for him from Aunt Julle. Tesman reads it: Aunt... (full context)
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Berte enters and announces that Judge Brack is outside. Hedda orders her to admit him. Hedda the snatches Lövborg’s manuscript from the stool Tesman has... (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 Brack reveals that a few of his... (full context)
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Hedda looks away, disappointed to hear that Lövborg, far from having the metaphorical vine leaves in... (full context)
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...fight using every means at his disposal to keep Lövborg out of the Tesmans’ house. Hedda, her smile fading, says that Brack is quite a formidable person, and she confesses to... (full context)
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...the garden, saying that he has no objection to going around through the back way. Hedda reminds him that she conducts target practice with her pistols in the back, but Brack... (full context)
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Hedda goes to the bookshelf and is about to look at Lövborg’s manuscript when she hears... (full context)
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Thea Elvsted enters. Lövborg announces to her, “I’m finished.” He insists that Hedda stay in the room, and promises not to talk about the drunken debauchery of the... (full context)
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...and scattered the thousand pieces of it out into the fjord. No, no! shrieks Thea. Hedda involuntarily begins to call Lövborg out on his lie, but restrains herself from doing so.... (full context)
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Lövborg confesses to Hedda that he knows now that he cannot reform his life, but also that he can’t... (full context)
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“What are you going to do?” asks Hedda. Lövborg says he’s just going to put an end to it all—that is, commit suicide.... (full context)
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Alone, Hedda retrieves Lövborg’s manuscript, looks at some of the pages, and then sits down with it... (full context)
Act 4
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Act 4 opens on the Tesmans’ drawing room. It is evening. Hedda, dressed in black, is walking aimlessly about the darkened room. She goes into the inner... (full context)
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Aunt Julle 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... (full context)
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...such a loss. Be glad of what has come to pass, Aunt Julle advises him. Hedda supposes that Aunt Julle will be lonely now that her sister has died, but Aunt... (full context)
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Tesman confides to Hedda that he’s upset not only about Aunt Rina’s death but also about Lövborg, to whom... (full context)
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Tesman is outraged. He yells at Hedda, and says that she’s committed a felony, as Judge Brack could inform her (don’t tell... (full context)
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...Tesman is torn between doubt and happiness—he never knew his wife loved him like that. Hedda then goes a step further, and suggests of her own volition (for the first time... (full context)
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...incredible rumors about him going around. Some people even say he is in the hospital. Hedda expresses surprise that Thea, as a married woman, could bring herself to go about town... (full context)
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...one is allowed to see him. Tesman wonders whether Lövborg could have killed himself, and Hedda says that she’s certain he did (this makes Brack suspicious). Hedda even “guesses” that Lövborg... (full context)
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...“Somewhere else then,” says Brack. He also reveals that Lövborg shot himself in the breast. Hedda is surprised: “Not in the temple?” she asks. “In the breast,” Judge Brack repeats. “The... (full context)
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Hedda, for one, feels triumphant. To everyone’s shock and alarm, she praises Lövborg for the courage... (full context)
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Hedda sits in an armchair and after a while Judge Brack joins her. Hedda confides in... (full context)
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Judge Brack feels compelled to disabuse Hedda of a beautiful illusion: Lövborg shot himself accidentally. Moreover, the Judge told a few lies... (full context)
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Hedda is disgusted: “Everything I touch seems destined to turn into something…farcical,” she says. Brack has... (full context)
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...asks his wife if he can work at her desk, where the light is better. Hedda permits it, but says she must clear some things away first. She takes an object,... (full context)
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Hedda and Judge Brack whisperingly resume their conversation about the pistol that Lövborg died by. Brack... (full context)
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...owns the pistol, Judge Brack goes on to say, if he himself holds his tongue. Hedda understands at once that this places her in the Judge’s power, subject to his will... (full context)
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Hedda rises, and remarks that Thea is now sitting here with Tesman working just as she... (full context)
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Hedda says that she must go lie down on the sofa in the inner room. She... (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 working together. He says that Thea will have to... (full context)
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Tesman responds that Judge Brack will visit Hedda, and Brack confirms that he’ll visit every single night—the two of them will have a... (full context)
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A shot is then heard from the inner room. Everyone jumps to their feet—Hedda is playing with those pistols again, says Tesman. He pulls the curtain aside and runs... (full context)