We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Is Hedda Gabler a Tragedy? Essay Sample

  • Pages: 5
  • Word count: 1,235
  • Rewriting Possibility: 99% (excellent)
  • Category: tragedy

Get Full Essay

Get access to this section to get all help you need with your essay and educational issues.

Get Access

Introduction of TOPIC

The main problem in answering this question lies within the definition of the dramatic tragedy itself. Aristotle’s discussion in ‘Poetics’ defines it as ‘a form of drama exciting the emotions of pity and fear…presenting a reversal of fortune’. Certainly the play Hedda Gabler can be interpreted so that it fits this description: we could feel sympathy for Hedda because she is trapped in unwanted social position, and there is a definite reversal of fortune at the end of the play. From the text, however, I personally feel little pity for Hedda. Her ideal of a beautiful, aesthetic existence is noble and heroic, but she is also driven by the idea that she can change people into her way of thinking, which leads to her viciousness and heartlessness. Without going into too much detail about Hedda as a character, I think this conflict causes us to think that her demise and suicide is inevitable and justified. The Aristotelian definition, I think, is somewhat of a generalisation: just because a play ends on a low note does not mean it is a tragedy. However, there are some definite aspects of play that can be identified as being tragic, and I intend to cover them all here.

The conclusion to Hedda Gabler is catastrophic; of this there is no argument. But is this ending inevitable? It is important to remember that the play is set in the last 48 hours of a person’s life, and looking back on the play it is inevitable that for Hedda, death is the only release from the situation and social life she has created. When we first meet Hedda, there is a sense that she is different to what she once was. It seems she has been worn down by the honeymoon and is beginning to realise the consequences of her marriage to Tesman, and so the play could be interpreted as a dying woman’s last fighting breath against society. Certainly, the fact that Hedda’s death is both catastrophic and inevitable suggests that it is also tragic.

Many dramatic tragedies occur because of human limitations, the sheer fact that the human body and spirit is not infallible, rather it is most vulnerable. Hedda’s limitation is not at all physical, but it is the fact that she is socially insecure. Having married into a lower class, she now feels stifled and bored by the people she communes with, because she has this romantic vision of a world of nobility and beauty. She feels trapped because she is caught internally between the struggle wanting something and not being able to get it. This is a strong argument for the play to be described as a tragedy; the protagonist suffers terribly, because the playwrigh

t has identified a human weakness and expanded upon it. Of course, Hedda’s imperfectness leads

Sorry, but full essay samples are available only for registered users

Choose a Membership Plan
to her suicide:

“In that she dies, she proves herself to be among those free born, untamed creatures; for in the necessity of her death, there first is revealed the whole tragedy of the uncanny contradiction of Hedda Gabler: the tragic aspect is that Hedda may only prove to herself the true existence of her inner freedom by cancelling herself out.”

Lou Salome

In the classic tragedies (such as those of Shakespeare), the protagonist was usually someone of high stature (a King, for example), so that the fall in grace of the character is emphasised to create further tragedy. Hedda too can be interpreted as a figure of very high social standing, but in my opinion the text suggests otherwise: as far as her position in the community is concerned, she is merely just another woman.

Early tragedies (as opposed to more contemporary ones) held a very moralistic learning element within them. This is true of virtually any Greek tragedy, as the audience are somewhat preached to, told that ‘if you do this, then this will happen to you’. Ultimately, the tragic ending of such a play leads to a learning process that the suffering has brought about for the character. The result of the play, as Aristotle saw it, should bring about discovery and recognition for the character and the audience. But what does Hedda actually achieve by committing suicide? Does she ‘learn’ or ‘discover’ anything because of it?

Ibsen with diabolical irony arranged a situation which bears close superficial resemblance to the traditional tragic end. Hedda gains no insight; her death affirms nothing of importance. She never understands why, at her touch, everything becomes “ludicrous and mean.” She dies to escape a sordid situation that is largely of her own making and she will not face reality nor assume responsibility for the consequences of her acts. The pistols, having descended to a coward and a cheat, bring only death without honour.

Caroline W. Mayerson:

This suggests that Hedda’s descent has not been punctuated with any deep moral, and at the end the audience are left contemplating the inevitability of this woman’s demise. The above quote backs up my own ideas about how the play should be interpreted. The play is not tragic in this sense, but is a complex psychological and social study of a woman. Indeed, Ibsen himself said that he wanted his play to solely depict human beings, emotions, and destinies, upon the groundwork of social conditions in his time.

Ibsen once wrote, “It was not really my intention to deal in this play with so-called problems.” Yet there has been much academic discussion as to whether Hedda Gabler is a ‘Problem Play’. The question we should be asking, therefore, is ‘what is wrong with the society in which Hedda lives?’ The answer is not so simple. Hedda moves from her higher social class into this lower one, where the people she meets she finds annoying because of their selfless good will and well-meaning.

She perceives the problem with this society to be that they are not like her. They do not conform to her idea of a beautiful, aesthetic existence. In order for this play to be a ‘Problem Play’, the audience must side with Hedda, and her ideas. Thus, when Hedda realises that she is powerless to change anyone, the audience sympathises with her, and hence her death is tragic. On the other hand, if the play is presented with Hedda being uncompromising and unrealistic, childlike in her beliefs, then the audience may fail to sympathise with Hedda and the play returns to it’s playwrights vision (solely depicting human beings, emotions, and destinies).

The play on stage will make use of some of these ideas, as some directors choose to emphasise certain aspects of this piece. In the text, the play is two-dimensional, lifeless, and it is only on stage where we see subtext that may not have been obvious to us before. Thus, ultimately, the play’s status as a tragedy can only be defined through dramatic interpretation.

I’ve always said that the tragedy of Hedda Gabler is that she’s the only woman in Scandinavia with a sense of humour.

We can write a custom essay on

Is Hedda Gabler a Tragedy? Essay Sample ...
According to Your Specific Requirements.

Order an essay

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

Romeo and Juliet Essay

Romeo and Juliet Chelsea Stewart Discuss the relationships between parents and children in Romeo and Juliet. How do Romeo and Juliet interact with their parents? Are they rebellious, in a modern sense? How do their parents feel about them? “Romeo and Juliet”, written by William Shakespeare in 1593, is widely known as a tragic drama, set in the city of Verona, where two star-crossed lovers take their lives in defiance of their parents’ wishes for them. “Romeo and Juliet” represents the strength of love and how those who experience it will go to extreme lengths to find happiness. The power of violence and the devastating impact it can have on a community is also explored. Both Romeo and Juliet did not have a healthy and strong relationship with their parents. Through changes of events throughout the play, Juliet’s originally fair relationship with her parents steadily declined and ended up quite...

Roman Polanski's "Macbeth"

'Macbeth' is a classical tragedy which plots the fall and death of a once great man. Probably composed in late 1606 or early 1607, "Macbeth" is the last of Shakespeares four great tragedies, the others being "Hamlet", "King Lear" and "Othello". It is a relatively short play, and is considered by many to be Shakespeare's darkest work. Shakespeare's Scottish tragedy is about Macbeth's bloody rise to power, including the murder of the Scottish king, Duncan, and the guilt-ridden pathology of evil deeds leading to still more evil deeds. An interesting part to this thematic web is the play's most memorable character, Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth's ambition for power leads her into an unnatural, phantasmagoric realm of witchcraft, insomnia and madness. But while Macbeth responds to the prophecies of the play's famous trio of witches, Lady Macbeth goes even further by figuratively transforming herself into an unnatural, desexualized evil spirit. I...

Macbeth Critical Evaluation

Macbeth written by William Shakespeare in 1606 tells the tragic story of a brave soldier called Macbeth who is driven by ambition. Macbeth was set in 11th century Scotland. The character Macbeth to begin with is brave, courageous and highly thought of but after having a premonition bestowed upon him by the three witches he begins to show his dark side, and when part of the premonition comes true he realises he must fight and in time kill to take the crown. Tragically he descends into an evil tyrant and is killed in an act of revenge at the end of the play. At the start of the play Macbeth is portrayed as a brave and courageous warrior who has just returned from battle fighting for his country. After returning he is given praise and is celebrated by the king and his friends. "Hail, most worthy thane! For it is...

Popular Essays


Emma Taylor


Hi there!
Would you like to get such a paper?
How about getting a customized one?