Student Question

Why does Judge Brack never marry in Hedda Gabler?

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Judge Brack explains his reasons for not marrying in his extended Act Second conversation with Hedda. The question of why she married George comes up, “My accepting George Tesman, you mean?” and the topic leads to Brack reiterating to Hedda his own views on marriage. In a subtle dialogue, Brack suggests that while he has a “certain respect for the marriage ties,” his ambition is to be “free to come and go” at will and according to his own desires.

Two things emerge from this. The first is that it is clear that within a marriage, neither partner can “come and go” at will and exclusively to his or her own desires, so Brack would be disinterested in marriage. The second is that Barack’s preference is a place “as a trusted friend” within the family circle of a “pleasant” family to whom he may be “useful in every way.” He puts a priority on such a friendship with the wife of the house first and with the husband second.

HEDDA.: It was more than my other adorers were prepared to do for me, my dear Judge.

BRACK.: [Laughing.] Well, I can't answer for all the rest; but as for myself, you know quite well that I have always entertained a—a certain respect for the marriage tie—for marriage as an institution, Mrs. Hedda.

HEDDA.: [Jestingly.] Oh, I assure you I have never cherished any hopes with respect to you.

BRACK.; All I require is a pleasant and intimate interior, where I can make myself useful in every way, and am free to come and go as—as a trusted friend—

HEDDA.: Of the master of the house, do you mean?

BRACK.: [Bowing.] Frankly—of the mistress first of all; but of course of the master too, in the second place. Such a triangular friendship—if I may call it so—is really a great convenience for all the parties, let me tell you.

What Brack is saying is that he prefers freedom to marriage but that his ambition is a nice quiet liaison with the wife of a man who trusts Brack implicitly and allows him complete freedom in his home--in Brack’s mind, this complete freedom means freedom with the lady of the house as well.

This isn’t surprising when Brack’s character traits are examined. He is manipulative, controlling, and devious. He tries to manipulates George; he manipulates Hedda--who is the master of the arts of deceit and manipulation herself--he manipulates George’s aunt; he manipulates George’s debts; and he attempts to manipulate George’s career, probably with the aim of making George even more in debt to him with the objective of increasing the power he has George in the guise of “a trusted friend” who is “useful in every way.” This sort of man would find the constraints of a Victorian era marriage incompatible with his aims and objectives. 

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