- A play by Henrik Ibsen, first produced in 1890 inMunich. The first London production, the following year, was at theVaudeville Theatre with Elizabeth Robins in the title role.
Hedda, a bored and lonely woman, conceives a bitter jealousyof Eilert Loevborg, the rival of her academic husband, Jorgen Tesman.When Loevborg carelessly loses the manuscript of his important new book, Tesman finds it and gives it to Hedda for safekeeping. Finding Loevborg distraught, Hedda encourages him in his despair, even giving him a pistol with which to commit suicide. She then destroys the book. In the event, Loevborg dies in a messy accident and Tesman dedicates himself to reconstructing the manuscript from notes. At the end of the play Hedda discovers that herdangerous meddling has become known to her admirer, the ruthless Judge Brack,and that she is now in his power. Finding this unendurable, Hedda uses the pistol to end her own life.
The complex, wilful, self-destructive character of Hedda has inspired widely varying interpretations; actresses to excel in the role have includedMinnie Maddern Fiske, Alla Nazimova, Diana Rigg, and Cate Blanchett. When the Italian actress Eleonora Duse played Hedda in London, critic Max Beerbohm was more impressed with the performance given by the prompter:"While Signora Duse walked through her part, the prompter threw himself into it with a will." The oddest interpretation was perhaps that given by Jenny Agutter in Charles Marowitz's free adaptation at the Round house in 1980:Agutter's Hedda was so sexually potent that one critic renamed her 'Hedda Gobbler'.