Study Guide

Hedda Gabler Respect and Reputation

By Henrik Ibsen

Respect and Reputation

LØVBORG
No; it is only the moral victory I care for. (2.267)

In another translation, this line reads: "I only want to win in the eyes of the world." Eilert doesn’t want money, he wants respect. Ironically, he flushes his reputation down the toilet later that night…

LØVBORG
You don't love him then!
HEDDA
But I won't hear of any sort of unfaithfulness! Remember that. (2.312-3)

Despite her apparent independence and rebellious attitude, Hedda is still restricted by her adherence to traditional values.

LØVBORG
[Clenches his hands.] Oh, why did you not carry out your threat? Why did you not shoot me down?
HEDDA
Because I have such a dread of scandal. (2.359-60)

Reputation is far more important than human life in Hedda Gabler, as we will see many more times in the acts that follow.

HEDDA
The fact that I dared not shoot you down—
LØVBORG
Yes!
HEDDA
—-that was not my arrant cowardice—that evening. (2.370-2)

Hedda is afraid of more than one scandal here – not just the obvious downfall of her role in Eilert's death, but also the general social transgression of getting too involved with a man of questionable repute. ("Questionable repute" is Victorian for "raging alcoholic.")

HEDDA
At ten o'clock—he will be here. I can see him already—with vine-leaves in his hair—flushed and fearless— (2.486)

Hedda imagines Eilert living life to the fullest, which in her mind means disregarding (or being "fearless" of) the rules of society.

BRACK
Not a single home. Henceforth, as before, every respectable house will be closed against Eilert Løvborg.
HEDDA
And so ought mine to be, you mean?
BRACK Yes. (3.200-2))

Here we see the rules of society being used as front for ulterior motives. Brack doesn’t really care about the Tesmans’ reputation; he just wants to be the only other man in Hedda’s life.

HEDDA And then it is a back way, too.
BRACK
Quite so. I have no objection to back ways. They may be piquant enough at times. (3.217-8)

No, this is not a dirty joke. It seems that Brack, like Eilert and Hedda, has a taste for the rebellious and improper.

HEDDA
[Stands waiting for a moment.] So you are not going to see her home, Mr. Løvborg?
LØVBORG
I? Through the streets? Would you have people see her walking with me? (3.290-1)

It’s odd that Eilert cares so much for Mrs. Elvsted’s reputation now, especially since he has no regard for his own.

LØVBORG
It will not end with last night—I know that perfectly well. And the thing is that now I have no taste for that sort of life either. I won't begin it anew. She has broken my courage and my power of braving life out. (3.293)

Because Mrs. Elvsted’s has destroyed Eilert’s taste for the renegade life, she has significantly changed his character.

HEDDA
[Without replying.] And supposing the pistol was not stolen, and the owner is discovered? What then?
BRACK
Well, Hedda—then comes the scandal!
HEDDA
The scandal!
BRACK Yes, the scandal—of which you are so mortally afraid. (4.269-71)

It seems that this is Hedda’s weakness. For all her flagrant disregard of Victorian values and patriarchal restrictions, she is still victim to her surroundings and circumstances.

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