Masculinity portrayed by Lady Bracknell and Hedda Gabler
Masculinity a term with no definite definition as it can correspond to any historical personas that were correlated to the male gender. Terms such as powerful, authoritative and strong, and outspoken all under the umbrella term for masculine. The plays in the 19th century reverse the roles and allow the female character to portray a masculine persona. Especially the play’s The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde and Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen gives a liberating sense for the female audience as they relate to the wanting of the masculine persona of both the Hedda Gabbler and Lady Bracknell.
In the 19th century, a man’s masculinity would be identified by the amount of control and dominance they have. Hedda Gabler and Lady Bracknell are shown with controlling nature and authoritative persona over the other characters. From the start, the audience is overpowered by the dominance of Lady Bracknell's superior role she has over her husband. Usually, a man of the house is dominant and was here the lady Bracknell’s husband is shown to domestic, at home, and immobile like the stereotypical married women in the 19th century. Contrast to Lady Bracknell who is mobile and freely taking the train to the country. The dominance of mobility can further be carried the character of Hedda Gabler, unlike Lady Bracknell Hedda is static to her home, Hedda's dominance is shown as the outside world, and the news is always brought to her, as their other characters are implied to our below and have to report back to their superior.
In normative society, everyone pleases the men and needs validation from a man to do anything, like a stamp of approval. This notion of wanting approval uniquely by Algernon and Jack, as both male characters are constantly seeking her approval for both their marriages. Similarly, Eilert Lovborg goes into depths to gain validation from Hedda. Both characters have a manipulative hold where the men seek validation, their persona which both female characters uphold can be argued to show the interdisciplinary of ability and feminist. As masculine authoritative role but the poise and well-articulated persona based on femineitys.
Masculinity in these characters can be heard from the character way of speech; “..When you do become engaged to someone, I, or your father, should..” here Lady Bracknell mentions herself before her husband, just by placing her name before her husbands show that the husband is portrayed as the submissive one and she has taken the role of the man of the house (Wilde 1. 558-559). In comparison, Hedda embodies the masculine role between her and Tesman’s, such as when Tesman tries to show Hedda his favorite slippers her response unapologetic manner is “Thanks, I’m not really that interested.” in front of the aunt (Ibsen 1. 340-341). Just this line alone embodies that Hedda has a dominating role in the relationship as her bold words would never have been spoken by a socially perfect housewife, especially in front of the man's family.
The audiences seeing Hedda Gabler and Lady Bracknell showing a lack of empathy and sympathy further push them into the portrayal of masculine identity. Hedda romanticizes the idea of death oddly emblemizes it to be beautiful. The idea of death being beautiful is already not considered normative but having women believing this notion makes audiences believe Hedda to be less femininity and pushed her to a more masculine person. Along with their Hedda and Lady Bracknell do not express sympathy or empathy for misfortunate circumstances. The audience sees Hedda be more concerned about the way Lovborg dies rather than the idea of losing a human being and him being gone, similar to her behavior of hearing Tesman’s other aunt is critically ill unphased her. The same unempathetic tactics seen in Lady Bracknell, she mentions that unsympathetic Bunbury “…/I think it is high time that Mr. Bunbury made up his mind whether he was going to live or to die…” (Wilde 1.411-412). Both characters take the concept of death conceptually, similar to how society would portray men to take death.
During this time machinery and industrialization were heavily being implemented into cities. The idea of machinery repulsed Hedda when some men feared and were angry rejecting the industrialization phenomena, being fearful that these machines would take over their source of income. Hedda showing a repulsive and emotion toward industrialization mimics what the men during that century would have felt like. In contrast, rather than being repulsive Lady Bracknell is more fearful, showing some feminine emotions in her strong masculinity person in the play. Lady Bracknell fears for the revolution or up roaring would affect her home. Similar to Hedda, Lady Bracknell expressed some emotion which men during that would have felt, fear of losing a job and having their home tumble down.
Exploring the idea of visualization of the female characters. Hedda Gabler sexualized and romanticized it as a trophy in which Tesman had won. Hedda was sexualized and noted for her beauty, this diminished the idea of masculinity but the audience this would help solidify the idea a woman with such beauty has a masculine person is rare to see. The opposite where
Lady Bracknell is not idealized for her beauty, her character has intimidating visuals, as seen her nephew fears and nervous, depleted of him eating all the sandwiches with his anxiety of her solely coming over for tea. The contrast between the characters and the way plays visually describe them is surprising. As both have established masculinity but both are visualized in a different demeanor.
The play The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde and Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen both has astonishing character development for each character. Though the female character Hedda Gabler and Lady Bracknell portrayed masculinity in the play and further helped were contrasted in a way where both the male and female audience could relate to their personas.