Hedda Gabler

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Power and Influence Theme Icon

Every character in Hedda Gabler seeks power and influence of some kind. As one critic describes it, the play “is most convincingly read as the record of a series of personal campaigns for control and domination: over oneself, over others, and over one’s world.” Most of the power struggles are petty: Jörgen Tesman wants to know more than anyone else about medieval domestic crafts, of all things, so that he might gain the professional and social power that would come with a prestigious professorship. Judge Brack wants a hold over Hedda, his verbal sparring partner, presumably so that he can have sexual access to her (Hedda, for her part, cannot endure the idea of being “subject to [his] will and [his] demands”). More grandly, Ejlert Lövborg wants to intellectually control the world by seeing into its future, even though, ironically enough, he can’t control himself when under the influence of alcohol. Mrs. Elvsted, for her part, comes to the “terrible town” where the Tesmans live so that she can exert a counter-influence over Lövborg and save him from his self-destructiveness.

While most of the characters in the play want power and influence for practical reasons, Hedda seeks to control and dominate others on a whim—seemingly she wants only to alleviate the excruciating boredom of her life, and so makes others suffer for no better reason than because she can. As Ibsen wrote in one of his notebooks, “The demonic thing about Hedda is that she wants to exert influence over another person.” She has an insatiable will and burns to accumulate things, but finds no satisfaction in what she has. As such, she has exhausted her wishes—but her will itself still requires exercise, and she exercises it precisely by hurting others, which lessens her own suffering and pleases her as an expression of her power. Performing power, then, becomes an end in itself for Hedda, from insisting that her maid Berte refer to Tesman not as mister but as doctor, to something so monstrous as encouraging Lövborg to suicide. In this sense, Hedda is the most extreme example of her society’s lust for power. Whereas her father, General Gabler, led men to death on the battlefield, Hedda leads men to death from the comfort of her drawing room.

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Power and Influence ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Power and Influence appears in each act of Hedda Gabler. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Power and Influence Quotes in Hedda Gabler

Below you will find the important quotes in Hedda Gabler related to the theme of Power and Influence.
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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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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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

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: 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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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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