Firstly, I will look at the given circumstances of Hedda Gabler. This will inform me of what things I must have in my set design, things that the Ibsen wanted in his production. The given circumstances can be split into six separate groups; geographical location, date and time, timescale, economic environment and political environment. By looking at each, I can ensure precise detail. Geographical Location This section describes what geographical location is, and how researching it will aid me in this set design project. In this section I will also explain the significance of the locations.
Geographical location is the place where the play is set, such as the country, town, house type or room. The location of the play was never mentioned by Ibsen but the assumption of the location is leads us to believe that it would be Norway and its capital, Kristiania (now known as Oslo). The life in which Hedda lives is only feasible if she were to live in the fashionable and expensive part of Kristiania, Drammensvejen.
“A possible source of inspiration for this beautiful villa, with its view towards the fjord, may have been the property owned by Thomas Heftye, a wealthy banker who was an acquaintance of Ibsen and a patron of the arts. The house and the garden at no. 79 Dammmensvej have a number of features in common with those described in Ibsen’s stage directions both in the draft and the final version of the play. (Today, Heftye’s house is the residence of the British Ambassador in Oslo).” (From the commentary of a translation of Hedda Gabler) The whole play is set in the drawing room of Tesman’s house, in the set, Ibsen describes that there are a further two adjoining rooms and a veranda outside. One of the rooms are indicated by a door the other is obviously shown at the back where a doorway allows us to see in to the room, where a large painting of General Gabler (hedda’s father) can be seen.
Date and Time Ibsen wrote ‘Hedda Gabler’ around 1890, and the setting of the play was at the same time, this is significant as it supports reasons for Hedda not fulfilling her dreams. If the play was set in the present day, Hedda wouldn’t even be married; she’d probably be in the army! In 1890, women were very limited in their actions; women’s education was stopped at 14, so they could prepare for marriage and motherhood by 16. Eventually, when they were married, women were expected to live under the rules of their husbands. In context of the set design, the time is significant as is will limit a design of a naturalistic setting. Around this time, many playwrights, like Ibsen started to write in a naturalistic style.
Timeline This play was written around the time when theatre started to make significant points; it was the very first time that views on the way of living were presented realistically. Economic Environment edda Gabler is of a higher class; she lives in an environment, which is of a much lower class to which she is used to from growing up. “…General Gabler’s daughter! Think of what she is accustomed to…” Tesman can afford to not earn money for periods of time, when he is writing his book, this indicates that his class is of high middle class. Tesman can afford an expensive honeymoon as he uses some money from his research grant.
“…That big research grant I got helped a good deal…” He can also afford to buy a lavish house but only with the aid of his aunt. Social Environment Most of the characters are of a high class, in the play; this has been shown by the reaction to scandal in the play. When Loevborg disgraces himself, all are expected to make him a social outcast. Also this is shown through the description of the house. Political Environment Given Circumstances Most of the given circumstances are described at the beginning of the play.
“A large drawing-room handsomely and tastefully furnished; decorated in dark colours. In the rear wall is a broad open door way, with curtains drawn back to either side. It leads to a smaller room, decorated in the same style as the drawing room. In the right hand wall of the drawing room a folding door leads out to the hall. The opposite wall, on the left, contains French windows, also with curtains drawn back on either side.
Through the glass we can also see part of a veranda, and trees in autumn colours. Downstage stands an oval table, covered by a cloth and surrounded by chairs. Downstage right, against the wall, is a broad stove tiled with dark porcelain; in front of it stand a high backed armchair, a cushioned footrest and two footstools. Upstage right, in an alcove, is a corner sofa, with a small, round table. Down stage left, a little way from the wall is another sofa. Upstage of the French windows, a piano.
On either side of the open door way in the rear wall stand wot-knots, holding ornaments of terracotta and majolica. Against the rear wall of the smaller room can be seen a sofa, table and a couple of chairs. Above this sofa hangs the portrait of a handsome old man in generals uniform. Above the table a lamp hangs from the ceiling, with a shade of opalescent, milky glass. All round the drawing room bunches of flowers stand in vases and glasses. More bunches lie on the table. The floors of both rooms are covered with thick carpets. Morning light. The sun shines in through the French windows.”