Europe Edition

2024 number 4

I am identity question


Hedda Gabler - Teatro

Hedda Gabler


After watching this play, we can still have a disturbing question: How, being the main character a manipulative and cruel villain, can there be something in her that makes us feel sympathy, even a certain affection?

This play can be thought from different points of view. One would be from the psychological point of view: when analyzing Hedda’s personality, we find a clear lack of empathy, difficulty to love, manipulation and considerable cruelty. In her childhood she mistreats her friend, later she induces her writer friend to suicide, even giving him the gun. He also burns the manuscript of the book he has just written, all because he cannot accept that his friend is happy with him.

The French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan might say that this is simply a scoundrel, a person who, faced with the option of being able to act wickedly, chooses to do so freely. On the other hand, the English psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, when analyzing antisocial personalities, finds that early on they suffered an irreparable loss, which he calls deprivation. These people do not feel guilty because they seem to think I have the right to be evil for what was once done to me. Something that could apply to Hedda’s words and actions.

Another view would be political. This play arises in the Belle Époque, a society shaped by an incipient colonialist industrial capitalism, characterized by urban culture, Victorian manners and strongly crossed by the struggles of women suffragists. A sociological reading would see the conflicts, sufferings and desires of the characters as those of the subjectivities of that time. Ibsen previously wrote A Doll’s House (1879), these two plays would form an x-ray of the femininity of that time.

Their protagonists, Nora and Hedda, are “loved” by husbands who do not seem to be interested in really knowing them, which leaves them in a deep loneliness. They are radically different, Nora childish and optimistic, Hedda cunning and destructive. Both seem to have built adaptive survival strategies in the face of the same suffering: not being able to be fully themselves, trapped in social places that stifle something of their own; in relationships where they do not have the same power as the other, accepting an unfair pact that they cannot denounce, hostages of a manipulation that combines threat and kindness, a situation similar to that produced by the Stockholm Syndrome, where the victim falls in love with her victimizer. Only they do not fall in love, they are aware of the trap, they want to escape and cherish the idea of suicide as a way out, driven by a deep longing to be fully themselves.

Any similarity with the film Thelma and Luise (1991) is not coincidental. They are women who also want to be themselves, escaping free in their convertible car, and when all roads are closed to them, they realize that it is no longer an option for them to live locked in their narrow social roles and they jump into the void.  Perhaps the magic of these stories lies in the fact that they do not give up this desire to be fully themselves.

In a way, this play written more than a century ago seems to be telling us that, although we have made important advances since the Belle Époque, as societies in transformation, we still have a lot of work.

Hedda Gabler, Teatro Nacional Cervantes, Buenos Aires, August 2023.


1Lacan, J. The reverse of psychoanalysis. Ed. Paidós. Buenos. Aires, 1996. Pág.64.
2 Winnicott, D. Deprivation and delinquency. Ed. Paidós. Buenos Aires, 1991.
3  Fernández, A.M. (1993). La mujer de la ilusión (The woman of illusion), Paidós, Ed. Buenos Aires, 1994.
4  Bejerot, N. The six day war in Stockholm. New Scientist, 1974. Pág.486-487.

Xabier Imaz Laburu / Graduate in Psychology from the University of Buenos Aires (UBA). University teacher, researcher. Specialized in clinical and sports psychology, working in the area of high sports performance. With postgraduate training in group psychology, gender studies and subjectivity.

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