Martin Esslin Critical Essay

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Martin Esslin, in his critical essay written in 1969, comments on works from the beginning, middle and finally the end of Ibsen's career. He chose to write about Hedda Gabler in his section about the middle of Ibsen's career. While his writing is fairly complex, most of it is decipherable. He writes that "Hedda Gabler is the last of his strictly realist plays." (237). He also explains that Hedda Gabler "is first and foremost about a human being, no about an idea" (237). This is what Esslin is impressed with the most. He loves how Hedda is not only the main character but also the social comment. With these two ideas intertwined so well, the play is fascinating. Hedda becomes the social comment on the role of women in the society. She challenges the idea of the time period and stands instead for superior, aristocratic woman who is the salve to the pride of her caste," (238). She cannot stand her position in society, and becomes bored with sitting around the house, waiting for Brack or Mrs. Elvsted to come around and visit. She becomes increasingly bored, even on her honeymoon, with a husband she apparently married simply to become married and have some sort of social position. She does not love Tesman, which becomes clear through the way she treats him. An example of this is her harsh attitude toward him serving them drinks. Esslin also comments on the incredible balance of the play with the presence of six main characters, three men, and three women. They all balance each other out, which become clear as Esslin shows the opposite character traits in the six characters. "Hedda…superior, aristocratic woman…Elvsted…her exact counterpart, socially, intellectually, and physically inferior…. better able to survive" (238). The final aspect of the play Esslin chooses to comment on is how it is very much a poem. He cites examples, "a figure standing by an open door, a shot ringing out in what seems like an idyllic scene, all these may contain more poetic...
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