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Hedda Gabler

Henrik Ibsen

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Tags: Drama

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Hedda Gabler is a play by Henrik Ibsen, first performed in Munich in 1891. It tells the story of Hedda Tesman (Gabler is her maiden name), the unhappy daughter of a general who is trapped in a marriage she doesn't want to be in. Feeling that she was at the time of her life when she needed to settle, she marries George Tesman, but has no love for him. When his academic rival Eilert Løvborg shows up, it stirs emotions from the past. Whilst George seems to accept things in a pragmatic manner, Hedda sees the potential for her already miserable life to become even more so with the financial restrictions the couple must now endure. As a result of this, she gets caught up in an ultimately tragic game of jealousy.

The reason for the title being her maiden name instead of her married name was Ibsen's intention 'to indicate that Hedda as a personality is to be regarded rather as her father's daughter than her husband's wife.'

Considered one of the great roles in theatre, Hedda has been played by actresses such as Ingrid Bergman, Diana Rigg, Maggie Smith, and Cate Blanchett. It has also been adapted as a film several times.

This book has 75 pages in the PDF version, and was originally written in 1891. This is a translation by Edmund Gosse and William Archer.

Production notes: This edition of Hedda Gabler was published by Global Grey ebooks on the 29th June 2021. The artwork used for the cover is 'Woman in Black' by Thomas Dewing.

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Excerpt from 'Hedda Gabler'

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?

Miss Tesman: [Smiling.] H'm—wouldn't you like to know! [With emotion.] Ah, dear dear—if my poor brother could only look up from his grave now, and see what his little boy has grown into! [Looks around.] But bless me, Berta—why have you done this? Taken the chintz covers off all the furniture.

Berta: The mistress told me to. She can't abide covers on the chairs, she says.

Miss Tesman: Are they going to make this their everyday sitting-room then?

Berta: Yes, that's what I understood—from the mistress. Master George—the doctor—he said nothing.

GEORGE TESMAN comes from the right into the inner room, humming to himself, and carrying an unstrapped empty portmanteau.  He is a middle-sized, young-looking man of thirty-three, rather stout, with a round, open, cheerful face, fair hair and beard.  He wears spectacles, and is somewhat carelessly dressed in comfortable indoor clothes.

Miss Tesman: Good morning, good morning, George.

Tesman: [In the doorway between the rooms.] Aunt Julia! Dear Aunt Julia! [Goes up to her and shakes hands warmly.] Come all this way—so early! Eh?

Miss Tesman: Why, of course I had to come and see how you were getting on.

Tesman: In spite of your having had no proper night's rest?

Miss Tesman: Oh, that makes no difference to me.

Tesman: Well, I suppose you got home all right from the pier? Eh?

Miss Tesman: Yes, quite safely, thank goodness. Judge Brack was good enough to see me right to my door.

Tesman: We were so sorry we couldn't give you a seat in the carriage. But you saw what a pile of boxes Hedda had to bring with her.

Miss Tesman: Yes, she had certainly plenty of boxes.

Berta: [To Tesman.] Shall I go in and see if there's anything I can do for the mistress?

Tesman: No thank you, Berta—you needn't. She said she would ring if she wanted anything.

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