Elise Hwasser

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Elise Hwasser
Elise hwasser som sigrid den fagra nornan 1894 s 79.jpg
Elise Hwasser in the part of Sigrid the Fair
Born Ebba Charlotta Jakobsson
16 March 1831
Stockholm, Sweden
Died 28 January 1894 (age 62)
Fiskebäckskil, Sweden
Other names Elise Jakobsson, Elise Hwasser, Elise Jakobsson-Hwasser
Occupation Actress
Spouse(s) Daniel Hwasser

Ebba Charlotta Elise Hwasser, née Jakobsson, (16 March 1831 – 28 January 1894), was a Swedish actress, the leading lady on the Swedish stage for thirty years, and often described as the greatest female dramatic star in Sweden during the Victorian era.


Elise Jakobsson was born in Stockholm 16 March 1831 – her father worked as a custom-caretaker – and became a student at Dramatens elevskola in 1849 and had already found employment by the following year at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, where she was originally hired as a replacement for Aurora Strandberg. She was made premier-actress in 1853.

She was from the outset considered to have great promise, but it was nevertheless difficult for her to win the leading roles from more established actors such as Zelma Hedin, Charlotta Almlöf, and Fanny Westerdahl, the stars of the 1850s. She had a brief affair with the Crown Prince, the future Charles XV of Sweden, who advised her to marry Daniel Hwasser, the secretary of the royal theatres direction, which oversaw the royal theatre. She took the Crown Prince's advice and married Hwasser in 1858, after which he was made director of the theatre. The fact that Elise Hwasser was suddenly awarded leading roles did not go unnoticed in the press: during her husband's short period as director of the theatre, she played all the leading female parts. Although this may very well have been the result of nepotism, it is equally clear that she did have talent as an actress – a talent that she was now able to demonstrate. Proof of this is provided by the fact that, after her husband had been dismissed as a director and her royal lover had acquired a new mistress, she nevertheless continued to play the leading female parts. Whatever means she had employed, she had now proven herself and, for the next thirty years, she played the leading female role in well over one hundred and fifty performances.

In 1863, she was given a contract for life, and became known as an actress who followed the new trend of realism in the theatre. Her style of acting was simply described as versatile; she was an artist that, according to the critics of the time, could play most parts splendidly, and excelled both as a "spoilt young girl", and in "Mistress" and "heroine"-parts, as well as in tragedy. She played Ophelia, Juliet (1872), Desdemona (1858), Mary Stuart (1868) and Cleopatra (1881) with success, but her most acclaimed roles were as characters in popular novels, such as Jane Eyre (1854). She managed to play Nora convincingly in Ibsen's A Doll's House as late as 1881, when she had reached the age of fifty, and she was also considered as the perhaps most notable Ibsen-actor. She was also popular in so called breeches roles; her voice was described as very deep and suitable for such parts.

In her private life, her habits were considered "manly", and she enjoyed smoking cigars and pipes and drinking punch.

Elise Hwasser was decorated with Litteris et Artibus in 1865, as the first woman ever, which was considered as a sign that it was acceptable for women to be officially decoreated, and the gold medal of the Swedish Academy in 1881.

She retired in 1888, when the theatre was reorginased, and died six years later in her villa Västråt in Fiskebäckskil. Her daughter, Anna Lisa Hwasser-Engelbrecht, also became an actress.


Among her parts were

  • Isabella of Portugal in En saga av... (A fairy tale..) by Scribe opposite Nils Almlöf, Charlotta Almlöf and Zelma Hedin the 1851–52 season,
  • Isabelle in Skolan för äkta män (School for husbands) by Molière opposite Zelma Hedin and Georg Dahlquist (1855–56),
  • the main parts in Ladyn av Worsley Hall' (The lady of Worsley hall) by Birch-Pfeiffer opposite Edvard Swartz and Gustav Sundberg,
  • Älvjungfrun (The Fairy Maiden) by J. Heiberg opposite Nils Almlöf and Zelma Hedin,
  • Fröken de la Segliére (Miss de la Segliere) by Sandeau (1857–58), Desdemona in Othello opposite Dahlquist, Fanchon in Syrsan (Le petite Fadette) by George Sand opposite Charlotte Forsman and Karolina Bock (1858–59),
  • Tekla in Wallensteins död (The death of Wallenstien) by Schiller opposite Dahlquist and Nils Almlöf 1859–60, Puck in En mindsommarnattsdröm (A midsummer night's dream) opposite Axel Elmlund and Nils Almlöf, Karin Månsdotter in Erik XIV by Lidner opposite Swartz, Fanny Westerdahl and Signe Hebbe in 1860–61, teacher in Blommor i drivbänk opposite Zelma Hedin and Karolina Bock 1862–63, Myrrha in Sardanapalus by Byron opposite Edvard Swartz in 1864–65, Sigrid in Bröllopet på Ulfåsa (The wedding at Ulfåsa) by Hedberg opposite Axel Elmlund 1865–66, in Konstens vapen (The weapon of Art) opposite Nils Almlöf, Elmlund, Gustav Fredriksson, Helfrid Kinmansson, Betty Almlöf, Clementine Swartz and Knut Almlöf 1867–68, Selma in De Ungas förbund (The union of youths) by Ibsen 1869–70, Hermione in En vintersaga (A winter story) by Shakespeare opposite E. Swartz 1871–72, main female part in Män av ära (Men of honour) by Garaud and Skådespelerskan (The actress) by Leffler, 1873–74, Mlle de Maupas in Det besegrade lejonet (The defeated Lion) by Ponsard opposite Gustav Fredriksson, Elmlund and Sundberg 1875–76,
  • Lona in Samhällets pelare (The pillar of society) by Ibsen opposite Ferdinand Thegerström 1877–78, in Severo Torelli by Copee opposite Georg Törnqvist and Elmlund 1885–86, Karoline opposite Ellen Hartman, Fredriksson and Elmlund in 1887–88. Her last part was queen Anna in Ett glas vatten (A glass of water) in the 1887–88 season.


  • http://runeberg.org/nfbk/0737.html (Biography in Swedish with image)
  • Alf Henrikson: Fram till Nybroplan (Toward Nybroplan) (Swedish)
  • Thorsten Dahl: Svenska män och kvinnor. Nr 3. (Swedish men and women)
  • Lars Löfgren: Svensk teater (Swedish theatre)
  • Carin Österberg: Svenska Kvinnor; Föregångare, pionjärer (Swedish Women; predecessors, pioneers) (in Swedish)
  • Georg Nordensvan: Svensk teater och svenska skådespelare från Gustav III till våra dagar. Första bandet 1842–1918 (Swedish theatre and Swedish actors from Gustav III to our days 1842–1918) (1918) (in Swedish)