Hedda Gabler

Hedda Gabler Study Guide

Hedda Gabler was published in 1890 before opening in Munich, Germany in 1891 to terrible reviews. Indeed, Ibsen was not happy with the premiere, citing the overly declamatory inflections of the lead actress. The play seemed destined to fail. Hedda Gabler, however, is largely dependent on the performance by the lead actress and her interpretation of the role - with Hedda as either hero, anti-hero, or villain - and with numerous productions springing up around the globe, Ibsen's new play slowly gained acknowledgment from the dramatic community as a tour de force role for female actresses capable of making Hedda their own.

In his later works, Ibsen created a new genre of "problem" plays in which he used his characters to trace either the general moral decay of society or to pinpoint a specific problem that would ultimately lead to the downfall of a community. Hedda Gabler is one of these, though it has always been a subject of debate as to what exactly Ibsen is critiquing through his central character. Ibsen himself offered a clue when he wrote to a friend, "The title of the play is Hedda Gabler. My intention in giving it this name was to indicate that Hedda as a personality is to be regarded rather as her father's daughter than as her husband's wife. It was not really my intention to deal in this play with so-called problems. What I principally wanted to do was to depict human beings, human emotions, and human destinies, upon a groundwork of certain of the social conditions and principles of the present day. When you have read the whole, my fundamental idea will be clearer to you than I can make it by entering into further explanations."

Hedda Gabler remains one of Ibsen's most performed plays, and had a recent revival on Broadway in 2005 when Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett starred in the coveted title role.