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The beginning of this act begins with a strong image: Hedda amusing herself with her father's pistols. She uses the pistols to protect her from emotional harm and to head off the amorous advances of her suitors. She threatens Brack, "Now I'll shoot you, Judge Brack!" Though said in jest she is deadly serious in her intention. It contains enough of a threat for Brack to maintain his distance. As the scene progresses, Hedda's defense of herself makes sense: Brack propositions her and she does not want to either reject or accept his offer. Also later on in the act, the audience finds out that Hedda once threatened Lövborg with these pistols when their friendship started to develop into something more serious.
Brack and Hedda know each other well yet there is more than a friendly atmosphere between the two. In fact, there is an undercurrent of sexual tension. He belongs to her old set and wants to carry on with her as they did before. He uses the informal "Mrs. Hedda" and "du" with her and when he tries to become more intimate with her, Hedda keeps him at a distance. Yet she does confess her despair to Brack. She says that she is bored with her marriage. The audience discovered that she married due to economic circumstances. She was getting older and did not have the financial resources to either marry in her class or stay single therefore she married Tesman who is firmly middle-class. He represents correction and respectability; has a rising career due to his untiring, zealous research and is willing to provide for her. What must be noted is Hedda's neurotic desire for correctness and stability. She cannot risk a scandal no matter how fascinating the other side of life is. In this respect she lacks the courage that Mrs. Elvsted displays. Her class betrays her. Since she is from the upper classes, her reputation is more at stake than Mrs. Elvsted. She is the "general's daughter." When Brack suggests a "triangular friendship" she states "I never jump out." What she means to convey is that she never takes risks and likes to cover herself with the mantle of respectability. Even though she may have illicit desires and thoughts, she will never act out on them.
Lövborg makes his debut in this act. Though he is the same age as Tesman, he "looks older and somewhat worn out:". This is from his excessive drinking and the dissipated life he leads. The contrast between Tesman and Lövborg is obvious. Tesman is less an intellectual and more a scholar. His research does not have the scope that Lövborg's does. He also comes from a modest background whereas Lövborg had a trust fund but his unscrupulous ways resulted in squandering it and being cut off from the family money. Whereas Tesman treads the safe conventional path, Lövborg is bohemian, dynamic, and a reformed rake who has flashes of genius.
The liaison between Hedda and Lövborg took place when they were both much younger. Hedda is intensely curious about the side of life forbidden to her and had questioned Lövborg about his disreputable adventures. However, she does not have the courage to participate in them. She confesses that she does not want to hear of any unfaithfulness. Even with Lövborg she only wanted to be a voyeur into a world which was forbidden to her. When the friendship between them threatened to become more serious she could not sin against the establishment and risk her reputation. Yet Lövborg points out that she loved him even though she does not want to admit it.