Hedda Gabler: the plight of a strong woman

Shared from Rebecca Hinton

At first glance, the character Hedda Gabler seems like an intriguing combination of Scarlett O’Hara and Yosemite Sam. The name of the play itself is a little odd, for she is married, and her legal name is now Hedda Tesman, no matter how often the male characters drawn to her coquettish ways like to ‘forget’ that little tidbit.

This is a really great Ibsen play that stays with you…I found myself puzzling over the facets of Hedda’s character not just the evening that I saw it, but well into the following day. Hedda has ambition and fire, and the staging of the play draws a direct line between Hedda and her father the general (Hedda is obsessed with his dueling pistols, and his portrait takes pride of place on stage). But, what can a woman who lives in the 1890s do when she has inherited her father’s wild and ambitious nature? She had reached the age when she could not postpone marriage any longer…what happens to Hedda is that she becomes a powder keg, finally bent upon the destruction of self and other.

Of course, in many parts of the world women now have more opportunities to follow their ambitions, but there is another aspect of the play that perhaps is even more relevant: Hedda isn’t particularly likeable, especially when compared to her friend Thea, or the sympathetic Nora, from his play A Doll’s House. Hedda is rash, rude, destructive, and a bully towards poor Thea (by the way she is also VERY funny). BUT, I had to think – would I find Hedda as abrasive if she were a man? The answer…no, not so much. Culturally, we still haven’t got our collective heads around the idea of strong women. Women still feel compelled to be pleasant and obliging in ways that would not even occur to many men. And, as the play ends, it is Thea, who is, of course, very pleasant, quiet and obliging, who is poised to inherit Hedda’s home and husband. GREAT PLAY.

RebeccaERebecca Hinton has lived in Bloomington for almost ten years. She works at the IU Art Museum, and loves attending IU Theater and IU Cinema. She enjoys writing and painting, and is also a bit of a costume jewelry addict, with no intentions of reforming any time soon.

About IU Theatre Department

Welcome to the 7th & Jordan blog. This blog is a peek behind the curtain at the productions and people at Indiana University's Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance.
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