Is Hedda Gabbler a Tragedy?

Is Hedda Gabbler a Tragedy?


When the word “tragedy” comes to mind it may illicit many thoughts and understandings. One infamous tragedy was that of HMS Titanic which sank on her maiden voyage after being labelled “unsinkable”. Many lives were lost, confirming the event as a notable tragedy.  The early pioneering years of Trans Atlantic passage conjured adventure for the rich and poor alike.  No passenger that fateful April 13th 1912 envisioned such a tragedy.  In determining tragedy in relation to literary prose it would appear that certain elements must be present in the subject matter and often the subjects themselves. A common definition of tragedy in a literary sense includes dramatic composition, often in verse, dealing with a serious or somber theme, typically involving a great person destined to experience downfall or utter destruction, as through a character flaw or conflict with some overpowering force, as fate or an unyielding society. In reading Hedda Gabler it is effective to conclude that the play is of tragedy and satisfies the afore mentioned definition.

Hedda Gabler as a tragedy

One of the important aspects that qualify the play to be a tragedy is the Hedda Gabler’s death. In the dark and an ironic sense, it is considered as an act of self-renunciation, where Hedda “rings down her life”. This is implied from the aspect that Hedda “does not die with another individual; she was not living for another individual”. As a result, she dies for herself as she has lived for herself (Isben, 199). From the fact of her death, she proves herself to be among those untamed and freeborn creatures. Additionally, the necessity of her death reveals the completely uncanny tragedy contradiction of Hedda Gabbler. The tragedy aspect comes from the fact that Hedda could not manage to prove to herself, the inner freedom through self-cancellation (Isben, 239). She exhibits the life character of the false and tame Hedda, which is caught in the meshes of her weaknesses. This condition would not have been found bearable, as coined in by the verdict of Counsellor Brack, who indicated that normal people do not exhibit such behaviour.

Another aspect is that Hedda was not able to exhibit a distinction between the tragic death, and the “exhibitionistic gesture, which causes an inflation of the ego.” In this case, the ego is sublimated in a manner that the life’s values are reborn and extended (Isben, 207).. In the play, there is no clear distinction between melodrama and tragedy, which clearly exhibits the disparities existing between the presumptive view of Hedda’s suicide, and its significance evolution. The play contains a diabolical irony, arranged in the form of a situation, which closely and superficially resembles the end of a traditional tragic (Isben, 196). Another factor bringing in the aspect of the tragedy is the symbolic withdrawal of herself into the inner chamber from the bourgeois environment, which contained which had the reliques of her earlier life. Upon her piano, “Hedda played a wild dance.” She then shoots herself beneath her father’s portrait, with his pistol through the temple. In this case, she dies for the vindication of her heritage of independence.

Under interpretation and judging of the act considering its full context, it could be interpreted properly as a final self-dramatization, in a form of the consistent sterile protagonist. Further, the tragedy is brought by the fact that Hedda did not gain any form of “insight” while her death did not bring any “aspect of importance.” She did not comprehend as to why things changed to be mean and ludicrous at her touch (Isben, 193). Therefore, Hedda died while trying to escape the sordid situation, which she had created herself. As a result, she was not to assume the responsibility of her death, nor the consequences that resulted from her actions. The reason is that the concerned pistol only brought about death rather than honour, as it descended from a coward and cheat.

In consideration of the classic tragedies, like those of Shakespeare, the character assuming the protagonist was an individual of considerably high stature. A good example is a king. As a result, the fall of grace of the concerned character was applied to demonstrate and emphasize a tragedy (Isben, 183). Additionally, Hedda could be regarded and recognized as an “individual of significantly high social standing”, thought it could appear to be suggested otherwise by the text. Therefore, her fall in grace and death is another factor that brings in the aspect of the tragedy. This is affirmed by the early tragedies, which contained quite a moralistic learning elements within them (Isben, 239). An example of this is the Greek tragedy since the audience are somehow preached to about the consequences of being involved in a certain action. Ultimately, the final leaning of the play leads to the learning process and understanding of the characters suffering.


Hedda Gabler daughter of a great retired aristocratic General meets tragedy in Henrik Ibsens play.  Her traits, absent of logic, care and compassion for others, her ability to willfully manipulate others and even encourage their own demise, can be viewed as her flaws. Unfortunately, these flaws are of such consequence that it leads to her death. It is difficult to grasp the connivance of Hedda especially for one not accustom attributes. However, connivance may be acceptable if the goal or result is noble. This is not the case for Hedda. It is tragic in itself that Hedda displays no noble or admirable qualities though she is from upper class society.  Gedda’s manipulative interactions and conveyances intended to seal her position among the others, a position that would enable to gather blackmails and allow her to continue her poor behaviours to others. Inadvertently she finds herself on the receiving end when it is known that her pistol is the one that killed Eilenor and Mr Black makes this obvious and the scandal that may occur.

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