Henrik Ibsen - Virgin Media

The Father of Modern Drama
• “It may be questioned whether any man
has held so firm an empire over the
thinking world in modern times.” – James
• 1828 Ibsen is born in Skien, in southern Norway, to Knut and
Marichen Ibsen. His father is a successful merchant; his mother is
an avid painter who loves the theatre. Ibsen is the eldest of five
children (four boys and a girl).
• 1836 The Ibsen family business fails; many of their family
friends turn their backs on the family. The scars of this betrayal
stay with Ibsen for the rest of his life. By some accounts, his
mother turns to religion for comfort, and his father sinks into a
great depression
• 1843 Ibsen’s father send him to Grimstad to study as an
apothecary’s apprentice. These were lonely years for Ibsen; he
spent much of his spare time reading. He did father an
illegitimate child in 1846, the mother was a serving-girl.
• 1850 Catiline , his verse drama, is published. It only sells a few
copies. Ibsen moves to Oslo. The Warrior’s Barrow is performed
(only three performances). Ibsen is appointed theatre poet and
stage manager at Ole Bull’s Norse Theatre in Bergen. During his
time there, he stages more than 150 plays.
• 1853 – St. John’s Night
• 1855 – Lady Inger of Ostraat This is his
first critical success as a playwright.
• 1856 – The Feast at Solhaug This is also
the year he gets engaged to Susannah
• 1857 – Olaf Liljekraus
• 1858 Ibsen and Susannah get married.
Ibsen gets a job directing a rival company
to the conservative national theatre in
Oslo. His company performs his play The
Vikings of Helgeland .
• 1858 This began a depressing period in
his life when he was so busy with the
business of the theatre that he did not
write any new plays. To add to his misery,
the theatre company does not do well and
is beaten soundly by the conservative
national theatre company. It eventually
goes bankrupt.
• 1859 Ibsen and his wife have a son,
• 1862 – Love’s Comedy
• 1864 – The Pretenders This play was a great
success. It earned him a traveling scholarship
(or, to put it another way, 27 years of
voluntary exile). He only returned to Norway
for brief visits.
• 1866 – Brand This play was also a great
• Peer Gynt -- 1867 This play leads to him
being decorated by the king for his work
• 1869 – The League of Youth
• 1873 – Emperor and Galilean Ibsen
considers this one of his most important
plays. In 1874, he returns to Oslo for a
• 1877 – Pillars of Society
• A Doll’s House -- 1879
• This is the first of Ibsen’s plays to deal with a contemporary
social theme. It is the story of a young mother who comes to
question the roles that society has established for her. It ends
with her leaving her husband and children to go off and find
her own identity. That ending shocks audiences of the day.
• Ghosts -- 1881 This play is about a young
woman who marries a player in the belief that
her love can reform him and keep him away
from his vices. Instead, through her, he infects
their son with syphilis, which, at the time, was
basically an extended death sentence (after a
period of madness).
• Ghosts -- 1881 Needless to say, sexually transmitted diseases
were not a typical play topic. Especially galling to many
conservative critics was the fact that the young woman did
exactly what society demanded: love her man despite his
philandering ways. The London Daily Telegraph panned the
play as "an open drain; a loathsome sore unbandaged; a dirty
act done publicly; a lazar [leper] house with all its doors and
windows open."
• Enemy of the People -- 1882 This play is the
story of a doctor who discovers that the
mineral springs which are a major tourist
attraction in town have been contaminated.
He spreads the word, thinking that he will be
praised for helping, but is instead cursed by
the townspeople and branded as “an enemy
of the people.”
• Enemy of the People -- 1882 In this play, Ibsen
calls into question the popular notion of the day
that small communities of people (and small
towns) were naturally good. Several critics has
remarked that the power of this play may stem
from Ibsen’s sense of betrayal by his treatment
of his family in their hometown.
• 1884 – The Wild Duck
• 1886 – Rosmersholm
• 1888 – The Lady From the Sea
• Hedda Gabler -- 1890 Synopsis from Wikipedia “The action
takes place in a villa in Kristiania. Hedda Gabler, daughter of
an impoverished General, has just returned from her honeymoon
with Jørgen Tesman, an aspiring young academic — reliable
but uninteresting. It becomes clear in the course of the play that
she has never loved him, that she married him for economic
security, and she fears she may be pregnant. The reappearance
of her former lover, Ejlert Løvborg, throws their lives into
• Hedda Gabler -- 1890 Synopsis from Wikipedia “Løvborg, a
writer, is also an alcoholic who has wasted his talent until now.
Thanks to a relationship with Hedda's old schoolmate, Thea
Elvsted (who has left her husband for him), he shows signs of
rehabilitation, and has just completed what he considers to be
his masterpiece. This means he now poses a threat to Tesman, as
a competitor for the university professorship which Tesman had
believed would be his. It became clear earlier that the couple
are financially overstretched and Tesman now tells Hedda that
he will not be able to afford to have her do a great deal of
entertaining or to support her in a lavish lifestyle.”
• Hedda Gabler -- 1890 Synopsis from Wikipedia “Hedda,
apparently jealous of Mrs. Elvsted's influence over Ejlert, hopes
to come between them. Tesman, returning home from a party,
finds the manuscript of Ejlert Løvborg's great work, which the
latter has lost while drunk. When Hedda next sees Løvborg, he
confesses to her, despairingly, that he has lost the manuscript.
Instead of telling him that the manuscript has been found,
Hedda encourages him to commit suicide, giving him a pistol.
She then burns the manuscript. She tells her husband she has
destroyed it to secure their future, so that he, not Løvborg, will
become a professor.”
• Hedda Gabler -- 1890 Synopsis from Wikipedia “When the
news comes that Løvborg has indeed killed himself, Tesman and
Mrs. Elvsted are determined to try to reconstruct his book from
what they already know. Hedda is shocked to discover, from the
sinister Judge Brack, that Ejlert's death, in a brothel, was messy
and probably accidental. Worse, Brack knows where the pistol
came from. This means that he has power over her, which he will
use to insinuate himself into the household [and force Hedda to
become his mistress]. Leaving the others, she goes into another
room and shoots herself.”
• Hedda Gabler -- 1890 Although it touches on themes from his
earlier plays, especially A Doll’s House, Hedda Gabler
provides a title character of such psychological complexity that
the role is still regarded as being one of the most desirable
stage roles for an actress.
• 1892 – The Master Builder
• 1894 – Little Eyolf
• 1896 – John Gabriel Borkman
• 1900 – When We Dead Awaken
• 1900 Ibsen dies after a series of strokes.