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Hedda's triumph over Mrs. Elvsted, which had begun at the end of Act II continues into Act III. Mrs. Elvsted has waited in vain the whole night for Lövborg to return and Berte is not surprised when that "certain gentleman" does not return. Hedda is unconcerned about Tesman and Lövborg not returning home the whole night. She imagines Lövborg sitting with "vine-leaves in his hair, reading his manuscript." When Tesman returns he tells Hedda that Lövborg is a genius and that he envies him. But it is a pity that he is "irreclaimable." Hedda thinks he has more "courage" than the rest to free himself. Here, both Hedda and Tesman are talking at cross-purposes for he means to convey that Lövborg has no restraint and despite his brilliance is a waste while Hedda idealizes Lövborg and attributes greatness to him because of his unscrupulous actions. These two value systems are part of the incompatibility of Hedda and Tesman. It is not only a difference of class but also of morals. However, on discovering the ignoble way Lövborg conducted himself, she is soon disillusioned for she is told that he had no "vine-leaves in his hair." Brack supplies Hedda with all the sordid details of Lövborg's escapades almost gleefully. Not only has he drank excessively but he also spent the night at Mademoiselle Diana's, a woman who is alluded to as a prostitute. He is also charged with assaulting a police officer. Hedda is frustrated as this is not how she had perceived Lövborg's actions that evening.
Lövborg is devastated by the loss of his manuscript as he realizes that it is not just his but also Thea's. He has a responsibility to her and this loss signifies his inability to reform his ways. He will always be a disheveled reveler. He severs all connections with Mrs. Elvsted, but she refuses to desert him. Lövborg deliberately lies to her about the manuscript "I have torn the manuscript into a thousand pieces," and Mrs. Elvsted accuses him of killing a child, their child, and leaves Lövborg. Hedda wants to know if the situation is so utterly irretrievable and Lövborg's answer is, "It will not end with last night I know that perfectly well. And the things are that now I have no taste for that sort of life either. I won't begin it anew."
Through her encounter with Lövborg in this state, Hedda comes to the bitter realization that the "pretty little fool had her fingers in a man's destiny." Her sense of frustration mounts. Lövborg can recount the ugly details of losing the manuscript to Hedda but refrains from doing so to Mrs. Elvsted, because he wanted to spare her "from hearing the worst." However, he feels destroyed and unable to retrieve himself because "Thea's purest sentiment was in that book." He has brought "the child" to a house of ill fame and lost it there. Hedda too wants to have a hand in his destiny. She demands a heroic deed of some sort after his degrading revelry the previous night. She presents him with one of her pistols and begs him to "do it beautifully" by which she means that he is to kill himself in some manner that will make his suicide a romantic memory and an imaginative luxury to her forever.
Ostensibly, Hedda burns his manuscript in a fit of jealousy because it has been the "child" of the supposedly reformed Lövborg and the mouse-like Mrs. Elvsted. One may see Hedda's action as motivated from the very depths of her being. She wanted to make Lövborg great yet her inability to act has resulted in not being part of Lövborg's life or work. Also in burning the manuscript, Hedda kills the child she was unable to bear for Lövborg. By destroying the work of others that she could have accomplished herself, she is effacing reminders of her inadequacies. Through destruction rather than creation, she affirms her own lack of worth in a culture that does not provide many options outside of domesticity for women to pursue. Act III ends with Hedda's temporary triumph.