Why is Hedda Gabler a realistic play? Consider the difference between Hedda Gabler and Hamlet.

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Yes, Hedda Gabler is a realistic play; it is, in fact, famous for its realism. If we compare it to Hamlet, we can easily see how it is realistic in contrast to Shakespeare's play. In Hamlet, a supernatural creature, the ghost of Hamlet's dead father, is the catalyst that sets the plot of the play into motion. He reveals to his son that he has to walk the earth as a ghost because his brother, Claudius, poured poison into his ear while he was sleeping. The king died without having the chance to confess his sins and so cannot yet ascend to heaven. He wants Hamlet to avenge his death by murdering Claudius.

In Hedda Gabler, there are no supernatural visitations from ghosts. Everything that happens occurs in the everyday world of the here and now.

The plays are often compared, however, because they both intensely examine the interiority of their main characters. Both main characters feel trapped and anguished, and both plays end tragically.

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There are several reasons why Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen is considered a realistic play. Most importantly, it contains no supernatural elements but only events that could occur to ordinary people. The language is prose as spoken by ordinary people of Ibsen's period. The setting is middle class and contemporary with the time in which it is written, and the characters behave in a manner in which real people might react in such circumstances. The style of the play is one which is sometimes described as a using "fourth wall", in other words, that one could imagine a transparent fourth wall through which the audience views what is happening in an ordinary home.

By contrast, Hamlet is an historical drama, set in a country and period distant from Shakespeare's England. It is written in verse rather than prose. The characters are members of the nobility. The opening of the play introduces a supernatural element, namely a ghost. All of these elements make it quite unlike the ordinary experience of its audience.

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Hedda Gabler, a play by Henrik Ibsen, could be considered "realistic" in two different major ways. First, the play is considered a realism, which is a style of theater. Many people believe Henrik Ibsen perfected the style of realism, although this is debated. However, his plays are considered realisms because there are four aspects in his plays that exist:

  1. They make problems in society the subject of debate.
  2. They have a socio-critical perspective.
  3. The action is in a contemporary setting.
  4. They present everyday people and situations. (From the Library of Norway)

Hedda Gabler is concerned with problems within society, and the characters in the play are frequently concerned about their role within society. While it is character-based, the play is also interested in systemic problems. This is a classic definition of dramatic realism.

Secondly, the play is acted in the style of realism, meaning the actors are concerned about being perceived as "realistic." The acting style of realism is not always the same as the form of realism. This is sometimes hard to understand, as most contemporary acting styles are based in realism (think of movies). However, there are many different acting styles in the history of theater.

Hedda Gabler and Hamlet are often compared to each other, as Hamlet is considered to be the hardest male role to play and Hedda Gabler is considered to be the hardest female role to play. However, the plays' styles are radically different. Hedda Gabler is a realism play, while Hamlet is created in a classical Elizabethan style. Today, Hamlet is often performed in the style of realism, but it is not a realism play. 

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