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Wisdom, J.O. (1944). The Lust for Power in Hedda Gabler. Psychoanal. Rev., 31(4):419-437.

(1944). Psychoanalytic Review, 31(4):419-437

The Lust for Power in Hedda Gabler

J. O. Wisdom, Ph.D.

“Hedda—Gabler.” These first and last words addressed to Hedda by Lovberg serve not only to show that for him she was married to Tesman merely in name but also to remind us of the title of the play, which gives in a condensed form the clue to her character. Though she went through the motions of a wedding ceremony she was for ever Hedda Gabler. But Ibsen also had in mind something less obvious: that as well as being negatively her husband's wife she was positively her father's daughter. In this we shall find the basis of her unique nature. Literature has known no other Hedda; neither, let us hope has life. This is not to suggest that no such character could exist. Literature and life have brought forth women of similar strain, though in less pronounced degree. Hedda was the extreme of a human type—but with many missing links between her ectypes and herself. She was as unique, though possible, as Heraclitus, Leonardo da Vinci, Joan of Arc, Hamlet, Newton, Nietzsche, Ibsen, Freud; thousands of years might elapse before similar personalities should appear again.

What does Ibsen tell us about her? He was sparing of his stage-directions and simply says: “She is a woman of nine-and-twenty. Her face and figure show refinement and distinction. Her complexion is pale and opaque. Her steel-grey eyes express a cold, unruffled repose. Her hair is of an agreeable medium brown, but not particularly abundant.” And he adds that her dress was tasteful. It is not all at once evident that she was a— whatever she was—on the grand scale.

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