Seminar of August 28, 2003, at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, 141
St., New York, NY 10012
Vanity: The Great
Happiness in Love
Because men haven't been able to distinguish between a
notion of love
based on vanity, and the real thing--the happiness and pride that comes
from encouraging a woman to care for the world--we've had pain and also
caused pain. A character who is useful in the understanding of
fight is Eilert Lovborg from the 1891 play, Hedda Gabler, by
important 19th century Norwegian dramatist, Henrik Ibsen.
One of the great
instances of literary criticism and the understanding of humanity, is
Siegel's seeing of this play and who Hedda Gabler, one of the most
and controversial characters in all of drama, is. Was she good
kind, or malicious and spiteful--out to hurt Lovborg and others?
In 1969 and 1970, Mr. Siegel lectured extensively on the play, looking
at it line by line. And he showed that Hedda, contrary to the way
she had been seen before, wanted to be kind, hoped to be honest. As he
explained what the play is about, he related Hedda to important women
mind--the art critic Anna Jameson, novelist Emily Bronte, poet
Rosetti. And he related her to Hamlet, saying:
And he explained,
There is a great necessity of being seen so
one can say "somebody
sees me as I hoped I would be"…It’s the most important thing in human
that some other consciousness sees you as you hope to be seen.
most in herself was her mind, her desire to know, and that was not seen
or loved by persons around her, notably, Eilert Lovborg, a flamboyant
intellectual. A big new thing Mr. Siegel showed is this:
as she and Lovborg knew each other and they talked, she had an
good effect on him, had him see new things, enabling him to write a
about the future of civilization, which he refers to as "the book I
put my true self in.5" But Lovborg is not grateful, does not
the good effect and instead makes advances towards her which she
Said Mr. Siegel, "On the subject of women who show mind, men have been
Hedda Gabler …is bitter, feeling she could
not be cared for,
for what she truly is, for what is best in her.
Two Notions of Love
As the play begins, Hedda has recently married George
Tesman, a research
fellow in history, and they are returning from abroad. Very early we
how Hedda's husband is using her for his vanity. Tesman is greeted by
Aunt Juliana. [she takes both his hands
and looks at
him] ...to think that you are now a married man..., And
you should be the one to carry off Hedda Gabler the beautiful Hedda
Only think of it--she who had so many admirers!
Tesman feels, as many men do, that by having a woman others see as
he'll be happy. Hedda is an adornment to boost his already high
of himself. "Hedda Gabler," Mr. Siegel said, "felt there was a vanity
a more stodgy kind in her husband."
Tesman. [hums a little and smiles complacently]
Yes, I imagine
I have several good friends about town who would like to be in my
Elvsted, a former schoolmate of Hedda, comes. We learn that
Lovborg had been living with her and her husband, a sheriff, in the
for several years tutoring his children. While there, Lovborg,
had been given to drink and carousing, has reformed, and wrote his book
which Thea says he dictated to her. It is clear their
has become intimate. So when he suddenly returns to Christiania,
Thea, distressed, leaves her husband to find him. She urges
who had known Lovborg in college, to welcome him if he comes.
Eilert, Thea Elvsted
and Hedda Gabler represent two very different notions of love.
Siegel once said of me:
Ernest DeFilippis would like someone to care
for him, soothe
him, make him feel mighty and important and he would like to care for
who would make him see all things better. That makes for trouble.
Eilert Lovborg has this fight--Thea pleases his vanity, soothes him,
him feel mighty as she patronizes him; Hedda asks him to "see all
asked me, "What
do you appeal to, the strength of a woman or her weakness?" I never
in terms of strengthening a woman. What mattered was whether she
liked me. And the main indication of her love was whether she
me what I saw as the ultimate approval--sex. "What do you depend on for
your charm," Mr. Siegel asked me, "truth or DeFilippis?" "My
I answered. I felt what would get a woman was my looks, my
personality, flattery, acting as if I couldn't live without her.
Siegel said of
Lovborg, "[He has a] sense of a woman's vanity and how to build it up."
One of the ways he flatters Thea is in having her believe she inspired
him in the writing of his book, in fact, he calls it their
Thea says, "Then came the lovely, happy time when I began to share in
work--when he allowed me to help him!" Said Mr. Siegel:
Thea...plays into Eilert Lovborg's
[He] wants women to be rather silly; wants them to work and be
of the higher sex, and Thea Elvsted, though not sincere about it, does
oblige because by being so compliant and serving him she can affect the
About Lovborg, Thea
"I gained a sort of power over him." And Lovborg doesn't respect Thea,
which is evident when he says of her, referring to the conversations he
and Hedda had about the world, "She's too stupid to understand anything
of that sort..."
Woman Wants to Be Known"