Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
While the familiar Ibsenian patterns remain intact in Hedda Gabler, the conflict is no longer rooted in ideology. Though she loved the glamorous and dissolute Eilert Løvborg, fear of scandal and of her own repressed sexuality prevented Hedda Gabler from giving her love free rein. As a last resort, she has married George Tesman, a humdrum, middle-class historian, whom she does not love. While George is astonished that he has had the good fortune to marry the daughter of the late General Gabler, Hedda is despondent to find herself trapped in the hopelessly bourgeois Tesman family. George and Hedda both have returned from their long wedding trip with expectations: George fully expects to be appointed to a professorship, and Hedda, much to her dismay, is expecting Tesman’s child. George has assumed that the appointment will automatically be his, because Eilert Løvborg, his only serious rival, has long suffered from acute alcoholism. He soon learns, however, that Eilert has stopped drinking and has published a very successful book. He is not aware, however, that Eilert is still deeply in love with Hedda.
Eilert has recently completed another book, which promises to be his masterpiece. When Thea Elvsted, the wife of Eilert’s former employer, beseeches Tesman to keep an eye on Eilert because she fears that he may start drinking again, Hedda is intrigued. Without difficulty, she gets Thea to admit that, though she has managed to reform Eilert, she has never been able to win his love because he is still haunted by the shadow of another woman. Thea is unaware that Hedda is that woman, and Hedda is extremely gratified to...
(The entire section is 670 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
When aristocratic Hedda Gabler, daughter of the late General Gabler, consents to marry Doctor George Tessman, everyone in Hedda’s social set is surprised and a little shocked. Although George is a rising young scholar and will soon be a professor at the university, he is not considered to be the ideal mate for Hedda. He is dull and prosaic, absorbed almost exclusively in his books and manuscripts, whereas Hedda is the beautiful, spoiled darling of her father and all the young men who flock around her. Hedda is now twenty-nine, however, and George is the only one of her admirers to offer her marriage and a villa that once belonged to the widow of a cabinet minister.
The villa is somewhat beyond George’s means, but it is what Hedda wants, and with the prospect of a professorship and with his Aunt Juliana’s help, he manages to secure it. He arranges a long wedding tour that lasts nearly six months, because Hedda wishes that also. On their honeymoon, George spends much of his time searching libraries for material in his special field, the history of civilization. Hedda is bored, and by the time she returns to the villa she hates George. It begins to look as if George may not get the professorship, which would mean that Hedda would have to forego her footman and saddlehorse and some of the other luxuries she craves. George’s rival for the post is Eilert Lovberg, a brilliant but erratic genius who has written a book in George’s own field that critics have acclaimed as a masterpiece. Hedda, completely bored and disgusted with her situation, finds her only excitement in practicing with a brace of pistols that belonged to her father, the general’s only legacy to her.
George discovers that Eilert has written a second book that is even more brilliant and important than the first, a book written with the help and inspiration of a Mrs. Elvsted, whose devotion to the erratic genius has reformed him. Lovberg brings the manuscript of this book with him one evening to the Tessman villa. Hedda proceeds to make the most of this situation, for Thea Elvsted, whom she despised when she was her schoolmate, is also her husband’s former sweetheart. The fact that this mousy creature is the inspiration for Eilert Lovberg’s success and rehabilitation is more than...
(The entire section is 929 words.)