Hedda Gabler - a Tragic Hero?
What makes a play a tragedy? Generally defined, a Greek tragedy is “a drama of a serious and dignified character that typically describes the development of a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force (such as destiny, circumstance or society) and reaches a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion” (Merriam). The themes of the literary piece revolve around the main character and their actions, reactions, emotions and sufferings. This main figure is the tragic hero, who also acts as the play’s protagonist. Prompted by will and or ignorance, the tragic hero is confronted at the end of the play with an undeniable fate that results in a sorrowful ending. Although the tragic hero may display characteristics such as integrity,
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Further, at the end of Act 3, Lövborg tells Hedda that he has lost his manuscript. He is so depressed that he says he no longer has the courage to face life, and will “only try and make an end of it all—the sooner the better” (Ibsen). Hedda actually has the manuscript, but instead of preventing his suicide by returning it, she gives him one of her pistols and encourages him to take his life beautifully. Ironically, Lövborg’s death is quite the opposite – he accidentally shoots himself in the chest. Hedda's interest in how Lövborg dies proves that she cares more about the splendor of his death rather than his welfare.
When the character of Hedda Gabler is thoroughly analyzed, one will discover that she seems to be in complete control of her actions as she aims “to shape someone’s destiny.” By accomplishing this feat – despite how injustice it may appear – Hedda seems as though she will have a fulfilled and favorable life. As the play continues, her control over the lives of others slips way, and in the end, Hedda is the one who is left powerless. This reversal in action is evident when Hedda states to Brack, “So I’m in your power now, Judge” (Ibsen).
The final action of the play not only reveals the true nature of Hedda Gabler, but also serves as the basis for classifying the play as a tragedy. When Hedda learns of the ugliness of Lövborg’s death, she becomes disgusted and decides to commit suicide by shooting herself “beautifully”