Hedda Gabler

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Ejlert Lövborg Character Analysis

Tesman’s rival for a prestigious professorship, Ejlert Lövborg is a visionary historian and sociologist. He is also, like Hedda herself, ill-adapted to modern life—in his case, he is unable to drink in moderation. The despairing thing about Lövborg, as Ibsen has noted, is that he wants to control the world by seeing into its future, but he can’t even control himself. During their adolescence, Lövborg and Hedda were intimate confidants and comrades, but Hedda violently broke the relationship off when it threatened to become sexual. When Lövborg comes back into her life during the action of the play, Lövborg’s relationship with Mrs. Elvsted, his helpmate and muse, so inflames Hedda’s jealousy that she at last sets about effecting Lövborg’s destruction.

Ejlert Lövborg Quotes in Hedda Gabler

The Hedda Gabler quotes below are all either spoken by Ejlert Lövborg or refer to Ejlert Lövborg. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Power and Influence Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Oxford University Press edition of Hedda Gabler published in 2008.
Act 3 Quotes

Hedda: And what are you going to do, then?

Lövborg: Nothing. Just put an end to it all. The sooner the better.

Hedda: Ejlert Lövborg…listen to me…. Couldn’t you let it happen… beautifully?

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker), Ejlert Lövborg (speaker)
Related Symbols: General Gabler’s Pistols, Lövborg and Thea’s Manuscript
Page Number: 245
Explanation and Analysis:

After Mrs. Elvsted leaves in tears, Lovborg confesses to Hedda that he has in fact lost the manuscript. Here, Hedda asks him what he will do now, and Lovborg replies that he will "put an end to it" by killing himself. Hedda, whose first plan to influence Lovborg's life has failed, encourages him towards a new path—a beautiful death. She sees suicide as the ultimate sign of control over one's life, and since Lovborg could not control his drinking or the fate of his manuscript, he must make his last action purposeful and beautiful.  

Of course, this is Hedda's last chance to influence Lovborg's destiny, and she knows it. She tells him never to return to the Tesman villa, and gives him one of General Gabler's pistols before he goes, intending for it to be the instrument of his suicide. The pistol, a symbol of control and violence, is an extension of Hedda's influence. It is also a symbol for their youthful time together, where they use to meet in General Gabler's home. For all of its symbolic importance, however, the gift is poorly thought out, as it will directly link Hedda to Lovborg's death when he kills himself with it. 

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Now I’m burning your child, Thea! With your curly hair! Your child and Ejlert Lövborg’s. I’m burning…burning your child.

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker), Ejlert Lövborg, Mrs. Thea Elvsted
Related Symbols: Lövborg and Thea’s Manuscript, Fire and the Tesmans’ Stove
Page Number: 246
Explanation and Analysis:

After Lovborg leaves, Hedda feeds his manuscript into the fire and murmurs these lines to herself. She addresses her lines to Mrs. Elvsted (and again refers to her famously beautiful hair), revealing the part that jealousy plays in this action. By referring to the manuscript as their child, Hedda confirms Mrs. Elvsted's influence and intimacy with Lovborg. The fact that Mrs. Elvsted influenced Lovborg productively (as Hedda has not been able to) enrages Hedda, and she is compelled to destroy the product of their partnership. 

Her investment in Lovborg's beautiful death also motivates her to burn the manuscript. Without the manuscript, Lovborg has nothing to live for, and Hedda wants to ensure that neither he nor anyone else has a way of discovering it. 

Finally, this moment is one of Hedda's most desperate acts of control. She destroys the manuscript for many reasons, of course, but perhaps the primary reason is a yearning to destroy as a means of control. Since she cannot create anything beautiful, she must content herself with destroying something precious. 

Act 4 Quotes

Hedda: He was shot in the breast?

Brack: Yes…as I said.

Hedda: Not in the temple?

Brack: In the breast, Mrs. Tesman.

Hedda: Well…the breast is good, too.

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker), Judge Brack (speaker), Ejlert Lövborg
Related Symbols: General Gabler’s Pistols
Page Number: 255
Explanation and Analysis:

Judge Brack and Mrs. Elvsted enter and Brack tells them that Lovborg is in the hospital after a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and is not expected to survive. Hedda's delight at this news is clouded by Brack's information that Lovborg was shot in the breast. 

Here, Hedda confirms that he did not shoot himself in the temple. She is surprised and upset by this fact. The temple, she feels, would be the correct, most beautiful way to commit suicide. Presumably, because it would destroy the brain and be an instantaneous death, whereas the breast would target the more sentimental organ of the heart, and be a slower, more prolonged and less dignified death. Additionally, the fact that he shot himself in the breast undermines Hedda's control over Lovborg, which would have been total had he shot himself where she wanted him to. Brack, for his part, is growing suspicious of Hedda during this exchange.

After a moment, Hedda says nearly inaudibly that "the breast is good, too." The control of suicide itself is the most important part of the beautiful death, and shooting oneself in the breast is still courageous and beautiful, she feels, if slightly less so than the temple. Hedda compromises here by accepting the breast into her plan for Lovborg, and in doing so reveals further how desperate she is to feel that she had control over Lovborg's final, fatal action. 


It’s a liberation to know that an act of spontaneous courage is yet possible in this world. An act that has something of unconditional beauty.

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker), Ejlert Lövborg
Related Symbols: General Gabler’s Pistols
Page Number: 258
Explanation and Analysis:

To everyone's shock, Hedda says that she admires Lovborg's suicide. She describes it as an act of "spontaneous courage." Hedda's disconnect from the society around her is violently clear in this moment. Everyone else considers Lovborg's suicide to be motivated by temporary insanity. Hedda, however, sees it as the clearest sign of sanity and control, marked by "unconditional beauty." She is revealing her fiercely independent nature in this moment, and the people around her are horrified when she takes off her social mask and says what she really thinks.

Hedda is pleased with Lovborg, but also feeling her own absolute power here. If Lovborg achieved a moment of unconditional beauty, of grand tragedy, it was under her guidance. He was led by her influence, and guided by her hand. We see here how desperate Hedda has felt for beauty and tragedy up to this point in her life. Her admiration for Lovborg's act reveals just how petty and ugly everything else in her life has seemed to her. 

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Ejlert Lövborg Character Timeline in Hedda Gabler

The timeline below shows where the character Ejlert Lövborg appears in Hedda Gabler. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
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...overcoming all the people who stood in his way. Indeed, his most dangerous academic rival, Ejlert Lövborg, fell lower than all the others in his depravity. Tesman inquires about Lövborg, and... (full context)
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...thinks a moment and then suddenly asks if where Mrs. Elvsted lives is also where Ejlert Lövborg went after his fall from social grace. It must be, Tesman responds. (full context)
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...at last being persuaded by Hedda to sit on the sofa, gets to the point: Ejlert Lövborg is back in town and has been for about a week, alone. Mrs. Elvsted... (full context)
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...possibly concern you,” Hedda asks. Mrs. Elvsted gives a scared look, then quickly says that Lövborg is her stepchildren’s tutor. Tesman awkwardly and with slight incoherence asks whether such a debauched... (full context)
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Tesman wonders whether Lövborg’s new book, which has sold very well and which caused an enormous stir, was something... (full context)
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Mrs. Elvsted proceeds to say that she’s succeeded in finding Lövborg’s address. Hedda gives her a searching glance and wonders aloud why Mrs. Elvsted’s husband wouldn’t... (full context)
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...begs Mr. Tesman, in the name of his old friendship with the man, to receive Lövborg if he comes to the Tesmans’ villa—as he’s sure to do—and to keep an eye... (full context)
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Casually Hedda asks Thea about the fact that Ejlert Lövborg has been living near her for about three years. Yes, says Thea. She also... (full context)
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...egotistical, and only considers her to be useful, cheap property. He must be fond of Lövborg, though, says Hedda. “What gives you that idea?” asks Thea. Hedda reminds Thea that she... (full context)
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...is depressed and exhausted by this point, but Hedda asks her how her “familiarity” with Ejlert Lövborg came about. Gradually, Thea says, “I got a sort of control over him.” As... (full context)
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...and Thea agree to keep their discussion to themselves. Tesman enters with a letter for Lövborg, signed and sealed in his hand, which he asks Hedda to give to Berte. Hedda... (full context)
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Brack does have some news for Tesman: his old friend Ejlert Lövborg is back in town—as Tesman has already learned from Mrs. Elvsted. Tesman thinks it’s... (full context)
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...worrying about what people are going to find to live on. Judge Brack suggests that Lövborg has influential relations who, despite disowning him long ago, may reclaim him now that he’s... (full context)
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...to the professorship which Tesman was counting on might well be contested—by none other than Ejlert Lövborg. Tesman is dismayed—the post was as good as promised to him—but Judge Brack assures... (full context)
Act 2
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...mention anything about a guest. Tesman goes on to say that he has with him Ejlert Lövborg’s book, which he praises as soberly argued, unlike anything Lövborg has done before. Then... (full context)
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Tesman enters. He expects Lövborg to arrive any moment, but he is as willing to wait as long as possible.... (full context)
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Berte enters and announces that Lövborg has arrived. He enters at once: he is both lean and somewhat haggard, but dressed... (full context)
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Lövborg pulls out a packet from his coat pocket: it is his new manuscript. He tells... (full context)
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Tesman observes that the handwriting isn’t Lövborg’s, and Lövborg explains he dictated the book (to Mrs. Elvsted, as we know). Tesman says... (full context)
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Lövborg hopes to read a bit from his new manuscript to Tesman, but Tesman doesn’t know... (full context)
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Tesman begins to question Lövborg about the series of lectures he plans on giving during the coming autumn. Lövborg asks... (full context)
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...gentlemen to partake of some cold (alcoholic) punch. Brack and the excited Tesman accept, but Lövborg declines. Hedda says that she will entertain him in the meantime. Tesman and Brack go... (full context)
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Softly and slowly, Lövborg murmurs Hedda’s name (including her maiden name, Gabler). Hedda hushes him, but he softly and... (full context)
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...cake and she accepts. He exits. Meanwhile, Judge Brack keeps an eye on Hedda and Lövborg from the inner room. (full context)
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Lövborg again asks, quietly as before, how Hedda could throw herself away on Tesman. Hedda responds... (full context)
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Lövborg, alone again with Hedda, has a single question for her: was there no love, not... (full context)
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Lövborg concludes that his relationship with Hedda was based on a common lust for life—so then,... (full context)
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...door and Thea Elvsted enters, greeted by Hedda and all the gentlemen. Thea confirms that Lövborg will not be going out on the drinking spree with the others, and then makes... (full context)
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Hedda offers Thea some cold punch, but she declines, as does Lövborg. Lövborg says he would not drink even if Hedda wanted him to. Hedda suggests, more... (full context)
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Lövborg is steadfast: he will not drink or go out partying. Hedda smiles approvingly. She reminds... (full context)
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Thea begs to explain, but Lövborg picks up a glass of punch, hoarsely toasts her, downs the glass, and then, after... (full context)
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Tesman and Judge Brack enter—it’s time to go. Lövborg announces, despite Thea’s pleading, that he too is going to the drinking party, if only... (full context)
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...exit. Thea, wandering about uneasily, wonders how the night will end. Hedda is confident that Lövborg will return at ten o’clock “with vine leaves in his hair,” confidently the master of... (full context)
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...are coming, but Thea insists on going home at once. Nonsense, says Hedda, again anticipating Lövborg’s vine-crowned return at ten o’clock. And almost by force she pulls Mrs. Elvsted toward the... (full context)
Act 3
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...has almost burnt itself out. Thea Elvsted is reclining in an armchair, anxiously waiting for Lövborg to return, as she has been sleeplessly all night. Hedda is sleeping quite well on... (full context)
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Berte enters with a letter, which Thea thinks concerns Lövborg—but it does not. It is from Aunt Julle and is addressed to Dr. Tesman. Berte... (full context)
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...door. She asks Thea the time: it is past seven o’clock, and neither Tesman nor Lövborg has returned. Hedda suggests that, after getting drunk, Tesman went over to Aunt Julle’s to... (full context)
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...dream of worrying about the fact that he didn’t come home earlier—and he says that Lövborg read to him from his manuscript. It will be one of the most remarkable books... (full context)
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All the same, Tesman goes on, Lövborg is beyond reform. Because he’s got more courage than the rest? asks Hedda. No, her... (full context)
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...saddest part of the story: while he and Brack and a few others were walking Lövborg home, Tesman fell back behind the others. While he was hurrying to catch up, he... (full context)
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After the party broke up, Tesman lost contact with Lövborg and went with a few others to the home of one of the revelers for... (full context)
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...announces that Judge Brack is outside. Hedda orders her to admit him. Hedda the snatches Lövborg’s manuscript from the stool Tesman has laid it on. She promises to care for it,... (full context)
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...drawing room, and Brack reveals that a few of his guests, including the madly drunk Lövborg, went to one Mademoiselle Diana’s salon last night—that is, the brothel run by the red-haired... (full context)
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Things went badly at Mademoiselle Diana’s last night, however. Lövborg accused either the madam herself or one of the prostitutes in her employ of robbing... (full context)
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Hedda looks away, disappointed to hear that Lövborg, far from having the metaphorical vine leaves in his hair, behaved so squalidly the night... (full context)
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...a step further: he’s willing to fight using every means at his disposal to keep Lövborg out of the Tesmans’ house. Hedda, her smile fading, says that Brack is quite a... (full context)
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Hedda goes to the bookshelf and is about to look at Lövborg’s manuscript when she hears an altercation in the hall. Despite Berte’s best efforts, a confused... (full context)
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Thea Elvsted enters. Lövborg announces to her, “I’m finished.” He insists that Hedda stay in the room, and promises... (full context)
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Lövborg then turns to the subject of the manuscript, which was his and Thea’s brainchild together.... (full context)
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Lövborg confesses to Hedda that he knows now that he cannot reform his life, but also... (full context)
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“What are you going to do?” asks Hedda. Lövborg says he’s just going to put an end to it all—that is, commit suicide. Hedda... (full context)
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Alone, Hedda retrieves Lövborg’s manuscript, looks at some of the pages, and then sits down with it by the... (full context)
Act 4
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...confides to Hedda that he’s upset not only about Aunt Rina’s death but also about Lövborg, to whom he has yet to return the manuscript. Tesman also mentions having met Thea... (full context)
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...put the manuscript in the fire for his sake, because he was so envious of Lövborg’s work, and because she didn’t want her husband to be outshone. (full context)
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Tesman becomes uneasy and thoughtful again when he remembers Lövborg’s manuscript. Just then Thea Elvsted enters. She speaks in agitation: she fears that Lövborg may... (full context)
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Judge Brack enters. He announces that Ejlert Lövborg has in fact been taken to the hospital, and he is not expected to... (full context)
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Tesman asks where Lövborg shot himself, and Judge Brack responds uncertainly, “at his lodgings.” Thea says that this isn’t... (full context)
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Hedda, for one, feels triumphant. To everyone’s shock and alarm, she praises Lövborg for the courage and beauty of his deed: he did what had to be done.... (full context)
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...an armchair and after a while Judge Brack joins her. Hedda confides in him that Lövborg’s death has relieved and liberated her, because it shows “that an act of spontaneous courage... (full context)
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Judge Brack feels compelled to disabuse Hedda of a beautiful illusion: Lövborg shot himself accidentally. Moreover, the Judge told a few lies to protect Thea’s feelings: first,... (full context)
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...something…farcical,” she says. Brack has one final piece of news: he says that the pistol Lövborg died by must have been stolen. (full context)
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Hedda and Judge Brack whisperingly resume their conversation about the pistol that Lövborg died by. Brack knows the pistol to be one of Hedda’s, which means that when... (full context)
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...Thea is now sitting here with Tesman working just as she used to sit with Ejlert Lövborg. Thea says she just hopes she can similarly inspire Hedda’s husband. It will come... (full context)
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...on the piano. Tesman asks that she stop, out of respect for Aunt Rina and Ejlert Lövborg’s deaths. Hedda puts her head out between the curtains, says she is thinking of... (full context)