Friday, September 24, 2010

Hedda Gabler--Henrik Ibsen

September 24, 2010

Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler is the precursor to the modern soap opera. Hedda is the controlling, manipulative protagonist who insinuates her wills and whims into the lives of others. Her bookish, clueless husband is simply thrilled to have landed the beautiful Miss Hedda, and his myopic viewpoint doesn't allow him to see her with any clarity. His focus is on his research (which he spent most of their honeymoon engaged in), and the idea of being married to her--the idealistic vision he has for their future.

Hedda, meanwhile, loathes the romantic notion of 'family', including children, and how strict social contraints seek to subsume her into the proper role of wife and mother. She feels she is above relinquishing control, and certainly, she's too fiercely independent to passively slip into the traditional female role. Instead, she fully intends to carry on a torrid affair with the judge who is, in fact, her intellectual and moral equal (and who ultimately becomes one of the catalysts for her eventual undoing), as well as manipulating a former lover who was too given to lapse into battles with alcoholism to ever provide for her future monetarily, but who was, in truth, probably the one human being she could have loved. She also capriciously manipulates her husband's relatives and her own former schoolmates, largely out of boredom. This is not a pleasant person, to say the least, but as is often the case with soap opera divas, she has enough mental acuity to spin her personality in such a way that her victims fall willingly under her spell, becoming accomplices in their own dramatic downfalls.

Every calculated move, however, somehow falls into place in a way Hedda could not have forseen, and suddenly she realizes that all the puppets she danced so tightly together have spun out of her control, and taken on a life of their own, just as she is coming to grips with another new life she didn't bank on. In fine dramatic soap opera form, Hedda decides to wrest back control in the only way she knows how--with definitive finality.