Devil Woman: Ibsen's Anti-Heroine Exercises All Her Demonic Power

By Portillo, Michael | New Statesman (1996), March 28, 2005 | Go to article overview

Devil Woman: Ibsen's Anti-Heroine Exercises All Her Demonic Power


Portillo, Michael, New Statesman (1996)


Hedda Gabler

Almeida Theatre, London N1

When Henrik Ibsen was 61, he met Emilie Bardach, aged 18, and fell in love. It was his decision to break off the relationship, but reeling from the affair he wrote Hedda Gabler, creating a demonic anti-heroine. "There's only one thing I have a vocation for: boring myself to death," remarks Hedda. But on her brief journey towards the grave, she relieves the tedium by manipulating the lives and choreographing the deaths of her friends.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

It is meant as a compliment to say that Eve Best makes a prize bitch in the title role. Hedda is a nasty sneering snob. You would call her insensitive if it were not so obvious that her tactless remarks are rehearsed. She squashes her well-meaning husband and his ever-fussing aunt like cockroaches. She plays mind games with her nearest and dearest, picking at their most sensitive scabs to humiliate them.

Best is superbly offhand. There is something Sloaney about her disdain. Indeed, Richard Eyre's adaptation, although it keeps all the Norwegian names of the original, is very English, and his actors express themselves with a modern kind of ease. The language works beautifully. With the exception of the play's very last line (which is Ibsen's, not Eyre's), every word seems natural and unforced.

Eyre has also given us a beautiful period-piece production. Gillian Raine as Aunt Juliana appears in lavish and elegant dresses that none the less attract Hedda's contempt. At the rear of the set, a gauze curtain bears the imprint of a panelled wall on which hangs an immense portrait. But we can dimly see through to the dining room beyond. While Hedda engages in the most shocking conversations with her former and prospective lovers, we are excruciatingly aware of her husband's nearness on the other side of the wall. In the play's final unforgettable moments, a splash of blood is projected on to the gauze.

The acting throughout is perfection. There is no weak link. Raine superbly captures every mannerism of a doting maiden aunt, trying by all means to make friends with the hoity-toity Hedda. Benedict Cumberbatch's performance as Hedda's husband, George Tesman, is a remarkable study in weakness and dullness, the qualities that most provoke her scorn.

Lisa Dillon copes well with Thea Elvsted, a silly woman who spends most of the play whining or weeping. She is a lamb for Hedda to slaughter, having committed two crimes. During their shared schooldays, Thea was admired for her golden locks. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Devil Woman: Ibsen's Anti-Heroine Exercises All Her Demonic Power
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.