“Hedda Gabler” by Henrik Ibsen- Summary, Analysis, Characters & Themes

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About the Play- Hedda Gabler

TitleHedda Gabler
PlaywrightHenrik Ibsen
PremiereJanuary 31, 1891
SettingLate 19th-century Norway
Main CharacterHedda Tesman (formerly Hedda Gabler)
Tragic FlawSocial expectations, gender roles, freedom, power, destruction
SymbolismHedda’s desire for control and power
ToneDark, intense
StyleRealistic, psychological
Critical ReceptionInitially controversial, but now considered a masterpiece
LegacyOne of Ibsen’s most important works, continues to be performed and studied today


“Hedda Gabler” by Henrik Ibsen is a classic play that explores the complexities of human nature and societal expectations. The main character, Hedda, is a woman trapped in a stifling marriage and societal norms. She struggles with her desires for power and freedom, resorting to manipulative and destructive behavior.

The ending is tragic, highlighting the destructive consequences of societal norms and the characters’ choices. “Hedda Gabler” remains a powerful exploration of the human psyche and the consequences of societal expectations.


The characters of “Hedda Gabler” by Henrik Ibsen are:

  1. Hedda Gabler: The main character, a woman recently married to George Tesman. She is intelligent, but bored and frustrated with her life.
  2. George Tesman: Hedda’s husband, an academic who is dedicated to his work and somewhat oblivious to Hedda’s inner turmoil.
  3. Eilert Løvborg: A former lover of Hedda and a rival to George. He is a talented writer struggling with personal demons.
  4. Thea Elvsted: A friend of Hedda and Eilert. She is in love with Eilert and seeks Hedda’s help in keeping him on the right path.
  5. Judge Brack: A family friend and confidant of Hedda. He knows about Hedda’s past and has his own motives.
  6. Aunt Juliana Tesman: George’s aunt, who cares for George and Hedda but is somewhat naive.


The themes of “Hedda Gabler ” by Henrik Ibsen are:

  1. Social Expectations: The play explores how societal norms and expectations influence the characters, particularly Hedda, in their choices and actions.
  2. Individual Freedom: Hedda struggles with a desire for personal freedom and self-expression, highlighting the tension between societal constraints and individual desires.
  3. Manipulation and Control: The characters engage in manipulation and power struggles, reflecting themes of control and dominance in relationships.
  4. Desire for Meaningful Existence: The search for purpose and fulfillment is evident in characters like Hedda, who grapple with existential questions and a sense of dissatisfaction.
  5. Gender Roles: The play challenges traditional gender roles, portraying how societal expectations affect the lives and choices of both men and women.
  6. Consequences of Choices: Characters face the repercussions of their decisions, emphasizing the theme of personal responsibility and the impact of one’s actions.
  7. Isolation and Alienation: Hedda’s sense of isolation and disconnection from others reflects a broader theme of loneliness and the consequences of social expectations.

Watch Full Play Summary of “Hedda Gabler” by Henrik Ibsen

Hedda Gabler Summary

George Tesman, Hedda Gabler’s new husband, and she returns to their new home after a six-month honeymoon. We quickly find out that Hedda, a distinguished general’s daughter, only agreed to marry Tesman because she had grown to the age at which society expected women to be married. Even though Hedda is expecting Tesman’s kid, she is displaying indications of weariness with him just a year after their marriage.

Aunt Julia of Tesman is waiting to greet them upon their return. Julia swiftly departs as Hedda treats the elderly woman pretty crudely. Mrs. Elvsted shows up after she leaves to inform the Tesmans that Eilert Lovborg, Tesman’s academic adversary, has returned to the town following an alcohol addiction that took him two years to overcome and reintegrate into society. Hedda is given a clue by Mrs. Elvsted that she is genuinely in love with Lovborg and has forgotten everything about her husband, but she is concerned that Lovborg’s return to the city may result in his picking up alcohol once more.

As soon as Mrs. Elvsted departs, Judge Brack shows in and informs the Tesmans that Lovborg has been warmly welcomed and that his new book has been a big hit. Brack informs Tesman that Lovborg may receive the position he had been hoping for. Hedda confides in Brack that she doesn’t care for her new spouse and that she thinks the Judge may amuse her in some way throughout their boring marriage. She consents that Brack will be a member of their “triangle”—a partnership that will give her much-needed company but may not necessarily entail overt infidelity.

When Tesman comes back into the room, he announces that he is going to the Judge’s stag party later that evening. Soon after, Eilert Lovborg shows up and quietly declares his love for Hedda. Their friendship ended when Lovborg became “too close” to Hedda, who even threatened to shoot him at one point. His goal now is to at least rekindle their friendship. When Mrs. Evlsted comes, Hedda cunningly sets up a match between the two using the information she has from both sides. She makes Mrs. Elvsted appear foolish for fearing that Lovborg might relapse into alcohol consumption. Lovborg chooses to accompany Tesman and Brack to their stag party as payback, holding the handwritten draft of his supposedly “revelatory” new book about the future.

Tesman doesn’t show up until the morning despite Hedda and Mrs. Elvsted’s all-night wait for the guys to return. He claims that Lovborg dropped the manuscript in a fit of late-night inebriation, and he is carrying it. While Tesman leaves the manuscript with Hedda to go visit a dying cousin, Judge Brack shows up to inform the ladies that Lovborg had run afoul of the law the previous evening for attacking a group of women who had taken his manuscript.

Soon after, Lovborg shows in and informs Hedda & Mrs. Elvsted that he tore the manuscript into a thousand pieces rather than losing it. Mrs. Elvsted departs, appalled that Lovborg has turned into such a terrible person. But Lovborg admits to Hedda right before he leaves that he did misplace the manuscript. Hedda, who has the text in her possession, does not address it; instead, she gives him one of her father’s guns and urges him to carry out his suicidal ideas. After Lovborg departs, Hedda sets fire to the manuscript.

When Mrs. Elvsted shows up that evening, she informs the Tesmans that Lovborg is presumed to be in the hospital but has gone missing. Brack shows up to corroborate the rumors that Lovborg passed away from a chest gunshot wound. As Tesman and Mrs. Elvsted sit in the living room attempting to piece together his manuscript using the notes Mrs. Elvsted has, Brack quietly informs Hedda that Lovborg did not commit suicide but rather passed away from a wound to the bowels, possibly caused by an accident or someone else’s fire. Hedda is told by Brack that only he can prevent her from ending up in the hands of the police or being embroiled in a scandal. She must either explain why the gun is hers or follow his instructions. Hedda enters the next room and takes her own life, realizing she is now under Brack’s control.


What is the story of Hedda Gabler about?

Hedda Gabler is the story of a woman trapped in a loveless marriage who seeks freedom and independence through manipulation and self-destruction.

What is the main message of Hedda Gabler?

The main message of “Hedda Gabler” is about how societal expectations and personal limitations can lead to tragic consequences in people’s lives.

What is the tragic flaw of Hedda Gabler?

Hedda’s tragic flaw is her desire for freedom and her inability to find it in a society that constrains her.

What is the irony in Hedda Gabler?

The irony in “Hedda Gabler” is that despite Hedda’s efforts to control her life, she becomes trapped and powerless.

What is Hedda jealous of?

Hedda is jealous of Thea’s connection with Eilert Løvborg.

Who killed Hedda Gabler?

Hedda Gabler killed herself in the play.

What are Hedda’s motivations?

Hedda is motivated by a desire for power, control, and freedom. She is also haunted by her past and is afraid of the future.

What is the significance of Eilert Løvborg’s manuscript?

Eilert Løvborg’s manuscript represents Hedda’s lost love and potential. She sees it as a symbol of everything she could have had.

What is the significance of the pistol?

The pistol represents Hedda’s power over her own life and death. It is also a symbol of the patriarchal society that imprisons her.

How does Hedda’s relationship with Lovborg develop throughout the play?

At first, Hedda is attracted to Lovborg’s passion and his rebellious spirit. However, she becomes increasingly disillusioned with him as she realizes that he is weak and unreliable. In the end, she uses him to manipulate Tesman and to destroy herself.

What role does Mrs. Elvsted play in Hedda’s downfall?

Mrs. Elvsted is a foil to Hedda, representing everything that Hedda despises. She is weak, submissive, and dependent on Lovborg. Hedda’s hatred of Mrs. Elvsted is a reflection of her own self-loathing.

How does Hedda’s relationship with Tesman change throughout the play?

At first, Hedda is condescending and contemptuous of Tesman. However, as she grows increasingly isolated and desperate, she becomes more dependent on him. In the end, she sees him as a tool to be used to escape her own misery.

How does the play end?

The play ends with Hedda committing suicide. Her death is a tragic consequence of her unfulfilled desires and her inability to escape her circumstances.

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