Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen

Hedda Gabler

subjects: Plays, Playscripts

Description

Despite premiering the next year to negative reviews, the play since been hailed as a classic work of realism, with the character Hedda being considered by some critics as one of the great dramatic roles; a female Hamlet. Gabler is actually the character’s maiden name rather than her name by marriage (which is Hedda Tesman); on entitling it this Ibsen wrote: ‘My intention in giving it this name was to indicate that Hedda as a personality is to be regarded rather as her father’s daughter than her husband’s wife.’

Excerpt

A spacious, handsome, and tastefully furnished drawing room, decorated in dark colours. In the back, a wide doorway with curtains drawn back, leading into a smaller room decorated in the same style as the drawing-room. In the right-hand wall of the front room, a folding door leading out to the hall. In the opposite wall, on the left, a glass door, also with curtains drawn back. Through the panes can be seen part of a verandah outside, and trees covered with autumn foliage. An oval table, with a cover on it, and surrounded by chairs, stands well forward. In front, by the wall on the right, a wide stove of dark porcelain, a high-backed arm-chair, a cushioned foot-rest, and two footstools. A settee, with a small round table in front of it, fills the upper right-hand corner. In front, on the left, a little way from the wall, a sofa. Further back than the glass door, a piano. On either side of the doorway at the back a whatnot with terra-cotta and majolica ornaments.– Against the back wall of the inner room a sofa, with a table, and one or two chairs. Over the sofa hangs the portrait of a handsome elderly man in a General’s uniform. Over the table a hanging lamp, with an opal glass shade.–A number of bouquets are arranged about the drawing-room, in vases and glasses. Others lie upon the tables. The floors in both rooms are covered with thick carpets.–Morning light. The sun shines in through the glass door.

MISS JULIANA TESMAN, with her bonnet on a carrying a parasol, comes in from the hall, followed by BERTA, who carries a bouquet wrapped in paper. MISS TESMAN is a comely and pleasant- looking lady of about sixty-five. She is nicely but simply dressed in a grey walking-costume. BERTA is a middle-aged woman of plain and rather countrified appearance.

MISS TESMAN.

[Stops close to the door, listens, and says softly:] Upon my word, I don’t believe they are stirring yet!

BERTA.

[Also softly.] I told you so, Miss. Remember how late the steamboat got in last night. And then, when they got home!–good Lord, what a lot the young mistress had to unpack before she could get to bed.

MISS TESMAN.

Well well–let them have their sleep out. But let us see that they get a good breath of the fresh morning air when they do appear.

 [She goes to the glass door and throws it open.

BERTA.

[Beside the table, at a loss what to do with the bouquet in her hand.] I declare there isn’t a bit of room left. I think I’ll put it down here, Miss. [She places it on the piano.

MISS TESMAN.

So you’ve got a new mistress now, my dear Berta. Heaven knows it was a wrench to me to part with you.

BERTA.

[On the point of weeping.] And do you think it wasn’t hard for me, too, Miss? After all the blessed years I’ve been with you and Miss Rina.

MISS TESMAN.

We must make the best of it, Berta. There was nothing else to be done. George can’t do without you, you see-he absolutely can’t. He has had you to look after him ever since he was a little boy.

BERTA.

Ah but, Miss Julia, I can’t help thinking of Miss Rina lying helpless at home there, poor thing. And with only that new girl too! She’ll never learn to take proper care of an invalid.

MISS TESMAN.

Oh, I shall manage to train her. And of course, you know, I shall take most of it upon myself. You needn’t be uneasy about my poor sister, my dear Berta.

BERTA.

Well, but there’s another thing, Miss. I’m so mortally afraid I shan’t be able to suit the young mistress.

MISS TESMAN.

Oh well–just at first there may be one or two things–

BERTA.

Most like she’ll be terrible grand in her ways.

MISS TESMAN.

Well, you can’t wonder at that–General Gabler’s daughter! Think of the sort of life she was accustomed to in her father’s time. Don’t you remember how we used to see her riding down the road along with the General? In that long black habit–and with feathers in her hat?

BERTA.

Yes, indeed–I remember well enough!–But, good Lord, I should never have dreamt in those days that she and Master George would make a match of it.

MISS TESMAN.

Nor I.–But by-the-bye, Berta–while I think of it: in future you mustn’t say Master George. You must say Dr. Tesman.

BERTA.

Yes, the young mistress spoke of that too–last night–the moment they set foot in the house. Is it true then, Miss?

MISS TESMAN.

Yes, indeed it is. Only think, Berta–some foreign university has made him a doctor–while he has been abroad, you understand. I hadn’t heard a word about it, until he told me himself upon the pier.

BERTA.

Well well, he’s clever enough for anything, he is. But I didn’t think he’d have gone in for doctoring people.

MISS TESMAN.

No no, it’s not that sort of doctor he is. [Nods significantly.] But let me tell you, we may have to call him something still grander before long.

BERTA.

You don’t say so! What can that be, Miss?