Ibsen + Hedda intro

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Henrik Ibsen
• 1828 – 1906, Norway
•“Father of modern
theater” – he helped
found the Modernist
movement in drama
•Controversial &
iconoclastic
•Other than
Shakespeare, the most
performed playwright
in the world
Victorian Era:
Although the term “Victorian” refers to Great Britain
from the 1830’s to 1901 (during Queen Victoria’s reign), the strict moral values of the time
were exported to continental Europe and influenced society and culture around the world.
Victorian Interiors
From “Ibsen and His Discontents”
by Theodore Dalrymple
The scale of Ibsen’s achievement is astonishing. Almost single-handedly, he
gave birth to the modern theater. Before him, the nineteenth century, so rich in
other literary forms, produced hardly a handful of plays that can still be
performed, and the literary power of his work has never since been equaled. It
was he who first realized that mundane daily life, relayed in completely naturalistic
language, contained within it all the ingredients of tragedy. That he should have
transformed the whole of Western drama while writing in an obscure language
that was considered primitive—and that he should have produced in 20 years
more performable plays than all the British and French playwrights of his era put
together, despite their incomparably longer and richer theatrical traditions—is
almost miraculous.
Though Ibsen often claimed to be a poet rather than a social critic, lacking any
didactic purpose, the evidence of his letters and speeches (quite apart from the
internal evidence of the plays themselves) proves quite the opposite—that he was
almost incandescent with moral purpose. Contemporaries had no doubt of it; and
the first book about him in English, Bernard Shaw’s Quintessence of Ibsenism,
published in 1891 while Ibsen still had many years to live and plays to write, stated
forthrightly that his works stood or fell by the moral precepts they advocated.
Shaw thought that Ibsen was a Joshua come to blow down the walls of moral
convention. I think this judgment is wrong: Ibsen was far too great a writer to be
only a moralist, and it is possible still to read or watch his plays with pleasure and
instruction, without swallowing what he has to say hook, line, and sinker.
Hedda Gabler: 1891
“The original desperate housewife”
Neurotic Hedda: Foreshadowing Freud
Joseph Wood Krutch makes a connection
between Hedda Gabler and Freud, whose first
work on psychoanalysis was published almost a
decade later. Hedda is one of the first fully
developed neurotic heroines of literature. By
that Krutch means that Hedda is neither logical
nor insane in the old sense of being random and unaccountable. Her aims
and her motives have a secret personal logic of their own. She gets what
she wants, but what she wants is not anything that the normal usually
admit, publicly at least, to be desirable. One of the significant things that
such a character implies is the premise that there is a secret, sometimes
unconscious, world of aims and methods — one might almost say a secret
system of values - that is often much more important than the rational one.
Works cited:
• http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cf/
Ibsen-by-Bergen.jpg
• http://www.earthlydelights.com.au/victorian.htm
• http://gallery.nen.gov.uk/imagelarge94643-e2bn.html
• http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henrik_Ibsen
• http://www.city-journal.org/html/15_3_urbanitiesisben.html
• http://www.smh.com.au/news/arts/cate-reels-themin/2006/02/27/1141020023979.html?age=fullpage
• http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki Hedda_Gabler#cite_note2
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