Hedda Gabler, one of the most notorious anti-heroes of the theater, is the daughter of the esteemed General Gabler, and was born into a legacy of aristocracy. Though she lived a pampered life, Hedda's time as a single girl "ran out", and she married George Tesman, a man she clearly no longer loves - if, indeed, she ever did. Now Hedda is driven to find a purpose in her life as she increasingly finds the world closing in on her: the norms of society dictate who she should marry, that she must be a mother, and that she must stay at home and be an exemplary scholar's wife. As the play unfolds, her obsession with freedom and free will leads her to manipulate those around her, and ultimately to her own death.
Hedda's husband, George Tesman, is an obsessive scholar who spends most of his six-month honeymoon with his books, rather than with his wife. He loves Hedda, but he is not a particularly inspired man, content to regurgitate old research rather than follow his own ideas, and always looking for the approval of those around him. While Hedda seeks freedom from the norms, Tesman wants nothing more than to abide by them.
Tesman's Aunt Julia (also referred to as Aunt Julie), raised George after his parents died. She was happy that her Tesman married Hedda but was concerned that he could not support her, and mortgaged her annuities to help his finances. When her companion Aunt Rina dies, Aunt Julia implies that she may move in with the Tesmans - an idea that Hedda seems repulsed by. Throughout the play, Aunt Julia's relationship with Hedda is frosty.
Judge Brack is a friend of Tesman and Hedda's who reveals his love for the new Mrs. Tesman. He is often the purveyor of new information in the play, is a manipulator on a par with Hedda herself.
Lovborg is Tesman's greatest academic rival. He is an inspired and wild scholar, whereas Tesman is rote and dull. He vanished from the town two years ago and fell into drunkenness and disrepute, but has now returned, hoping to publish his new book and recover his old relationships with Hedda and Mrs. Elvsted.
Mrs. Elvsted is meek where Hedda is strong, and acquiescent where Hedda is defiant. She is in love with Eilert Lovborg, and is terrified that his return to town will cause him to relapse into alcoholism. She comes to Hedda for help even though she is suspicious of the new Mrs. Tesman (when they were in school together, it seems, Hedda was cruel to her).
Berta is the Tesmans' housemaid, and used to be Aunt Julia's servant. Hedda is quite rude to Berta, which exacerbates her feelings of being out-of-place in this new household.
Aunt Rina is Tesman's other aunt, and is never seen in the play. She is in poor health and close to death's door.
Hedda Gabler Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Hedda Gabler is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Hedda's character is condescending, rude, and manipulative. She marries to please society, but does little else for anyone outside of herself. Thus, her husband serves as little more than an escort, and her entertainments are found elsewhere....