Ibsen and his plays - Dramatics

Henrik Ibsen
Father of Modern Drama
 Ibsen was born is Skein, in southern Norway, to Knut
and Marichen Ibsen
 His father was a successful merchant; his mother was
an avid painter who loved the theater.
Ibsen was the eldest of five children (four boys and a
 The Ibsen family business failed; many of the family
and friends turned their backs on the family. The scars
of this betrayal stayed with Ibsen for the rest of his
 By some accounts, his mother turned to religion for
comfort, and his father sank into a great depression.
 Ibsen’s father sent him to Grimstad to study as an
apothecary’s apprentice.
 These were lovely years for Ibsen; he spent much of
his spare time reading.
 He did manage to father an illegitimate child, though,
in 846.
 Catiline, his verse drama, was published. It only sells a
few copies.
 Ibsen moved to Oslo.
 The Warrior’s Barrow was performed (only three
 Ibsen was appointed the theater poet and stage
manager at the Ole Bull’s Nose Theater in Bergen.
During his time there, he staged more than 150 plays.
 1853 – St. John’s Night
 1855 – Lady Inger of Ostraat
 This play was his first critical success as a playwright
 1856 – The Feast of Solhaug
 In this year, Ibsen became engaged to Susannah
 1857 – Olaf Liljegkraus
 Ibsen and Susannah were married
 Ibsen got a job directing a rival company to the
conservative national theater on Oslo.
 His company performed his play The Vikings of
 This year began a depressing period in his life when he
was so busy with the business of the theater that he
did not write any new plays.
 To add to his misery, the theater company did not do
well and was beaten soundly by the conservative
national theater company. Ibsen’s company eventually
went bankrupt.
 Ibsen and his wife have a son, Sigurd.
 1862 –Love’s Comedy
 1864 – The Pretenders
 This play was a great a success. It earned him a
traveling scholarship (or, put it another way – 27 years
of voluntary exile). He only returned to Norway for
brief visits.
 1866 – Brand
 This play was great success.
Peer Gynt -- 1867
 This play lead to him being decorated by the King
Christian IX with the Grand Cross in the Dannebrog
Order for his work.
Ibsen in 1870
 1869 – The League of youth
 1873 – The Emperor and Galilean
 Ibsen considers this one of his most important plays.
 In 8174, he returned to Oslo for a visit.
 1877 – Pillars of Society
A Doll’s House -- 1879
 This work was the first of Ibsen’s plays to deal with a
contemporary social theme. It is the story of a young
mother who comes to questions 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 shocked the audiences of the
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, though her, he
infects their son with syphilis, which, at the time, was
basically an extended death sentence )after a period of
Ghosts -- 1881
 Needless to say, sexually transmitted diseases were not
a typical play topic. Especially galling to many
conservative critics was that 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
publically; a lazar [leper] house with all its doors and
windows open.”
An 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 us instead cursed by townspeople and
branded as “an enemy of the people.”
An 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 have remarked that the power of this
play may stem from Ibsen’s sense of betrayal by the
treatment of his family in their own town.
 1884 – The Wild Duck
 1886 – Rosmerholm
 1888 – The lady From the Sea
Hedda Gabler -- 1890
 As the play opens, Hedda has just returned from her
honeymoon with Jorgen Tesman. It is clear that she
does not love him and that she chose to marry him
simply because she had become bored of single life.
There are hints that she may be pregnant, but she gives
no indication of wanting to be a mother and it is
shown throughout the play that this a role to which
she would not be suited. To alleviate her frustrations
over the restrictions of her situation, Hedda has taken
to randomly firing off the pistols her father left to her.
Hedda Gabler -- 1890
 When Thea Elvstead, arrives on the scene, Hedda's
capacity for cruelty and manipulation come to the fore.
Thea has left her husband in order to be with Ejlert
Lovborg, a talented but unstable writer. Under Thea's
guidance, Lovborg has completed a new manuscript.
 The opportunity for Hedda to act upon her desire to control
the fate of those around her is presented by the arrival of
Lovborg, with whom she had once had a romantic
relationship. She manipulates recovering alcoholic
Lovborg, into going to a party with her husband and their
acquaintance, Mr Brack. During the course of the evening,
Lovborg succumbs to drink and loses his precious
manuscript. It is found by Tesman, who brings it home to
Hedda Gabler -- 1890
 When the distraught Lovborg comes to Hedda, she
does not return the manuscript but gives him one of
her father's pistols instead, encouraging him to
commit suicide. She then burns the manuscript. When
news of Lovborg's death arrives, Hedda, who had
imagined his suicide would be some sort of beautiful
passing, is horrified to learn that it was actually a
messy, sordid end. Brack, knowing that the pistol with
which Lovborg killed himself belongs to Hedda, tries
to blackmail her into an affair. This is something she
cannot live with because it would mean being trapped,
at the mercy of another person. She goes into the next
room and, to everyone's horror, shoots herself.
Synopsis from Hubpages
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
 Ibsen died in 1900 after a series of strokes.
Characteristics of Ibsen’s Drama
 Unified Illusion – trying to trick the audience as
completely as possible into believing that they are
watching real life.
 Ensemble Acting – stressing the importance of the
actors working as a group, not with one or two “stars”
 Realistic plots – stories that dealt with real life
concerns, including many topics regarded as taboo in
the theatrical arts
Ibsen’s Problem Plays
 Pièce à thèse – French term which literally means “a play
with a point.”
 This realism was crucial to Ibsen’s goal of creating a play
that challenged toxic societal norms, or in other words a
“social problem” play. Quite the opposite of escapism, a
social problem play deals first-hand with realistic situations
in an attempt to expose and analyze a perceived problem
with society. (
They make problems in society the subject of debate.
They have a socio-critical perspective.
The action is in a contemporary setting.
They present everyday people and situations.