Hedda Gabler as a Tragic Heroine
In Henrick Ibsen’s play, ‘Hedda Gabler’, the protagonist Hedda exemplifies the characteristics needed to be considered a tragic hero. Hedda is a character with many distinctive traits: she is intelligent, impulsive, and manipulative to say the least. But do these traits make Hedda Gabler a tragic heroine? If not, what makes her a tragic heroine? The response is another question: What makes a play a tragedy? A tragedy is “a drama of a serious and dignified character that describes the development of a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force (destiny, circumstance, or society) and reaches a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion” (Merriam). Hedda fits this definition well. The themes of ‘Hedda Gabler’ revolve around Hedda and her actions, reactions, emotions and sufferings. Prompted by will and or ignorance, she is confronted at the end of the play with an undeniable fate that results in a sorrowful ending. In order to show Hedda in the light of a tragic heroine, it is necessary to analyze the following: her circumstances and situation, the causes of her actions, and how the results of her actions lead her to an ultimate demise.
Hedda is a newlywed who, along with her husband George Tesman, has just returned from a six-month honeymoon. From the beginning of the play the reader senses that Hedda has no true feelings for Tesman, who had used the honeymoon to do research as well. This may have been the cause of Hedda’s coldness towards Tesman, seeing as he had been doing work instead of spending time with Hedda for six months, but another more practical reason soon appears. When asked by Judge Brack why she and Tesman married, Hedda responds that she “had danced herself out. My time was up.” She also includes “(With a slight shudder.) Ugh! No, I don’t want to say that. Or think it, either” (Ibsen 251). Two concepts can be taken away from this: Hedda has not married for love, and that she only married because she felt her...
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