It is evening at the Tesmans' house. The drawing room is in darkness until Berte lights a lamp. Hedda, dressed in black, is pacing. Aunt Julle enters, wearing a veil of mourning. She tells Hedda that Aunt Rina has died, but Hedda has already received the news in a note from Tesman* Aunt Julle apologizes for bringing bad news into a house of life and again hints at the imminent arrival of children. Tesman arrives in a state of bewilderment. Aunt Julle tells him to be content, for Aunt Rina has gone to a happier place. She says that now she will find someone else for whom to take care. She exits, unaware of the true cause of Tesman's anxiety.
Tesman is worried about Ejlert. He has heard that he told Mrs. Elvsted that he had torn up the manuscript. He declares he is glad that Hedda said nothing to the contrary, as Ejlert was obviously out of his mind to make such a claim, and there would have been no use in reasoning with him. However, he becomes horrified when Hedda tells him she has burned the manuscript. She consoles him by saying that she did it for the sake of his career. He is overjoyed that she went to such extremes for him. Hedda hints that she has something else to tell him, but she is repulsed by his joy.
Suddenly, Mrs. Elvsted arrives. She is worried that something more may have happened to Ejlert. She has heard rumors that he hasn't been home all night and that he may be at the hospital. Tesman is planning to go out and make further inquiries, when Brack arrives and announces that Ejlert has been taken to the hospital and is dying. Hedda guesses that he has shot himself. Hedda is very curious to know if he shot himself in the temple and is satisfied to learn that he shot himself in the chest. She exclaims that there is some beauty in his death.
Aunt Julle's final appearance in the play is intensely ironic. At the beginning of the play, when Aunt Julle first visited, the room was bright with morningbut Hedda immediately said that it was too bright and closed the window. Now, largely because of Hedda's actionsher cold treatment of others, her encouragement of Ejlert in his suicide, her burning of the manuscript--the room has been "darkened" in a symbolic sense, while also becoming literally dark with the fall of evening and the donning of the black clothes of mourning. Aunt Julle's cheerful suggestions that Hedda might be pregnant seem wildly naive in light of all that has transpired.
When Tesman approves of Hedda's decision not to give the manuscript back to Ejlert, it becomes increasingly clear that he half hopes the manuscript will never be returned. All the same, his conscious intentions seem to be good, until he learns that Hedda has burned the manuscript. At this news, he avoids the question of whether this was right or wrong, instead focusing on how much Hedda must love him. The fact that this joy repulses Hedda only shows how wildly inaccurate his assumptions were. It remains unclear what she was about to tell him, but given Aunt Julle's hints at pregnancy, it is easy to think that she was with child. More likely perhaps, she was going to tell Tesman about Ejlert's imminent death.
Hedda's interest in how Ejlert died proves that she cares more for the beauty of his death than for his well-being. This is contrasted by the behavior of Mrs. Elvsted, who is deeply sad.
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