Skip over navigation

Hedda Gabler

Henrik Ibsen

Act 2, Part 1 of 2

Act 1, Part 2 of 2

Act 2, Part 2 of 2

Summary

The second act, like the first, takes place in the Tesmans' drawing room. The room appears the same, except the piano has been replaced by a small writing desk. Hedda is standing at an open window, loading a pistol. She calls out a greeting to Judge Brack, who is walking down the back garden path. She pretends to try to shoot him. When he enters, he gently takes the pistols away from her. He has come to speak again to Tesman* about Lövborg and the professorship, but Tesman is away visiting Aunt Julle. Brack and Hedda sit down, eager to gossip. She insists that she has missed Brack and that her vacation with Tesman was very boring. She begs Brack not to use the word "love," and she tells him that she married Tesman only because she was tired of the rigors of being single. Brack asks whether or not she thinks Tesman will be famous, and Hedda replies that although she thinks Tesman is a very agreeable creature, she hopes only that he will do well enough. Brack admits that he is not terribly ambitious either and only wants a few trusted friends—preferably female friends. They agree that learned men like Tesman can be quite dull. Nothing sexual is intimated, but Hedda is relieved by the thought of having Brack as a consistent visitor to her new home.

Tesman enters. He is carrying some academic books, and Hedda and Brack exchange amused glances. Tesman is eager to read them, especially Ejlert Lövborg's new book, and he goes to freshen up, announcing as he goes that Aunt Julle won't be visiting Hedda that night. He and Brack, on the other hand, will soon be leaving for an all-male party at Brack's house. With Tesman still in the room, Hedda complains to Brack that she isn't happy. Brack reminds her that at least she has the house she always wanted, but Hedda replies that the house is a joke. The previous summer, she had asked Tesman to escort her home, and one night when things were particularly awkward--because Tesman could think of nothing to say--Hedda playfully remarked that she would someday love to live in the house that they happened to be passing--the house they now own. Brack suggests that she must find something to amuse her, and Hedda says that she would like for Tesman to enter politics, even though the thought is absurd given Tesman's scholarly character. Brack hints that soon she will have children to occupy her attention, but Hedda says she finds no happiness in things that make a claim on her freedom.

Commentary

The primary function of the beginning of Act 2 is the development of Hedda and Brack's relationship. Although it is not necessarily sexual, it has the flavor of adultery. Hedda's high level of comfort with Brack is clear from her willingness to complain to him about her marriage. When talking alone to Tesman or Mrs. Elvsted, she seems to be manipulating them or merely whining. But here she seems to be truly revealing her grievances.

Because we hear Hedda speak more or less honestly for the first time here, we learn just how cold her feelings toward Tesman are. Tesman's private conversations with Brack and Aunt Julle center on the cost of pleasing Hedda materially, especially on the expense of the house, but now we learn that the house basically means nothing to Hedda. Not only do her tastes outstrip those of Tesman and his aunt, but she also appears mentally superior, for they seem unable to comprehend her dissatisfaction.

The end of this part features a telling exchange in which Hedda declares that not only is she sure that she is not pregnant, she also has no taste for things that "make a claim on her freedom." This has implications that go beyond her relationship with Tesman. In fact, they touch not only on the tragic nature of her quest for freedom from the burdens of being a wife and a mother, but also on her relationship with Brack. In many ways, Brack is one of her best friends, but, at the same time, she seems to resent the extent to which he tries to control her. This resentment will blossom later on in the play.

More Help

Previous Next
Tesman and Lovberg

by justlisten234, August 28, 2012

Hey guys! I wanted to add that I think Tesman doesn't necessarily want to destroy Lovberg's manuscript in some capacity, or even is reluctant to give it back. I feel like while Tesman may harbor some jealousy toward Lovberg's success, he doesn't resent Lovberg enough to even want to do anything bad to the manuscript to harm Lovberg. I think Tesman genuinely wanted to give the manuscript back to Lovberg after the party, and he was genuinely horrified that Hedda didn't give the manuscript back to Lovberg--and he said it might have ended up bei... Read more

1 Comments

74 out of 90 people found this helpful

Follow Us