Hedda is the daughter of the famous General Gabler; as a child she was used to luxury and high-class living. As the play begins, she is returning from her honeymoon with Jürgen Tesman, a scholar with good prospects but not as much money as Hedda is accustomed to. Her married name is Hedda Tesman. Hedda is an intelligent, unpredictable, and somewhat dishonest young woman who is not afraid to manipulate her husband and friends.
Tesman is an amiable, intelligent young scholar. He tries very hard to please his young wife, Hedda, and often does not realize that she is manipulating him. In fact, he often seems foolish for his age, and when he annoys Hedda, the audience has reason to sympathize with her. Tesman is hoping for a professorship in history, and at the beginning of the play it seems that his one great rival, Ejlert Lövborg, a notorious alcoholic, no longer stands in Tesman's way. Tesman was raised by his Aunt Julle.
Juliane Tesman, or Aunt Julle, is the aunt of Jürgen Tesman. After Tesman's parents died, Aunt Julle raised him. She is well-meaning, and she is constantly hinting that Tesman and Hedda should have a baby. Aunt Julle tries to get along with Hedda, but the difference in their class backgrounds is painfully apparent. Aunt Julle lives with the ailing Aunt Rina, another aunt of Tesman's.
Brack is a judge of relatively inferior rank. He is a friend of both Tesman* and Hedda, and he visits their house regularly. He has connections around the city, and is often the first to give Tesman information about alterations in the possibility of his professorship. He seems to enjoy meddling in other people's affairs. He is a worldly and cynical man.
A genius, Ejlert Lövoborg is Tesman* biggest competitor in the academic world. After a series of scandals related to drinking, he was once a public outcast but has now returned to the city and has published a book to rave reviews. He also has another manuscript that is even more promising. Mrs. Elvsted helped him with both manuscripts. He once shared a close relationship with Hedda.
Mrs. Elvsted is a meek but passionate woman. She and her husband hired Ejlert Lövborg as a tutor to their children, and Mrs. Elvsted grew attached to Ejlert, acting as his personal secretary and aiding him in his research and writing. When Ejlert leaves her estate to return to the city, Mrs. Elvsted comes to town and goes to Tesman* for help, fearing Ejlert will revert to his alcoholism. Mrs. Elvsted went to school with Hedda and remembers being tormented by her.
Berte is George* and Hedda Tesman's servant. Formerly, she was the servant in Juliane Tesman's household. She tries very hard to please Hedda, her new mistress, but Hedda is quite dissatisfied with her.
Aunt Rina is dying at the start of the play. She never appears onstage. She helped Aunt Julle raise Tesman*