Hedda Gabler's Motivation

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Hedda Tesman’s motivation in Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler has been subject to much attention in critical scholarship. Many critics have argued what they believe to be a motivation for Hedda’s behaviour; however some seek to deny any motivation actually exists. This essay will argue that Hedda does have a motivation for her behaviour, and will argue that this is fuelled by a single force throughout the play - which is boredom - using relevant textual and critical references.

At the beginning of the play, we learn that Hedda Tesman has just returned from her six month honeymoon with her newlywed husband, Jorgen (referred to as Tesman in the play). As the play unfolds we begin to learn that Hedda does not actually love Tesman. This can be seen in some instances in Act Two. For instance, Hedda discusses Tesman with Judge Brack, and when asked if she loves Tesman, Hedda says ‘Oh! Don’t use such a sentimental word’. Hedda also reveals the negatives of their honeymoon together (‘I was excruciatingly bored’, ‘that was the most awful part of it all’). Furthermore, Hedda reveals that the reason why she married Tesman was because of her boredom in life (‘My time was up’). We begin to question how long Hedda’s relationship with Tesman will last, when she says that ‘the most intolerable thing of all’ is ‘everlastingly having to be with one and the same person’. Yet however much Hedda seems to show contempt about her marriage to Tesman, she insists on not abandoning their relationship (‘I prefer to remain sitting where I am, alone with the other person’). We therefore assume that Hedda is experiencing boredom, not just in her relationship with Tesman but in life too. This is qualified in Act Two when Hedda says ‘I am bored, I tell you’.

As the play continues it becomes more apparent that boredom is in fact a motivator for Hedda’s behaviour. Jake Pourshi, in his critical analysis of the play, argues that Hedda’s boredom is the cause of her attempt to ‘ruin the lives of...
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