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Ibsen's Hedda GablerPhilosophical Perspectives$
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Kristin Gjesdal

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190467876

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190467876.001.0001

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Philosophy, Theater, and Love

Philosophy, Theater, and Love

Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler and Plato’s Symposium

(p.132) 6 Philosophy, Theater, and Love
Ibsen's Hedda Gabler

Kristin Boyce

Oxford University Press

In the tenth book of Plato’s The Republic, Socrates famously invokes an ancient quarrel between philosophy and tragedy (among other art forms). In the Symposium, he shows philosophy triumphing over tragedy when Socrates bests Agathon, a tragic poet who has just taken first place at the Festival of Dionysus, in a competition for the best speech in praise of love. This chapter argues that Hedda Gabler represents an important further stage in this ongoing quarrel, one that takes the fight to philosophy’s home turf: that of soul-transforming conversation. In plays such as A Doll’s House, Ibsen develops a form of theater that takes on the Socratic aspiration to facilitate serious conversation. Hedda Gabler, though, goes even further. In this play Ibsen develops a form of theater that not only takes over the Socratic aspiration, but at the same time transforms it by transforming our understanding of what such conversation might consist in.

Keywords:   Ibsen, Hedda Gabler, Plato, Symposium, love, soul formation, A Doll’s House

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