Ibsen’s views
he was a staunch advocate for individual freedom and rights: “I think that all of
us have nothing other or better to do than in spirit and sincerity to realize
ourselves. That, to my mind, is the real liberalism.”
he believed that honesty in facing facts is the first requisite of a decent life
he claimed that human nature has dark recesses which must be explored and
illuminated; life has pitfalls which must be recognized to be avoided; and society
has humbugs, hypocrisies, and obscure diseases which must be revealed before
they can be cured. To recognize these facts is not pessimism; it is the moral
obligation laid upon intelligent people. However, to face these problems requires
courage, honesty, and faith in the ultimate worth of the human soul. Man must be
educated until he is not only intelligent enough, but courageous enough to work
out his salvation through patient endurance and nobler ideals.
an important point in understanding Ibsen is that experience and life are a
happiness in themselves, not merely a means to happiness; and in the end good
must prevail.
he preached the emancipation of the individual, especially women
he noticed that domestic relationships were based on sentimentalism, on a
desire to dominate, on hypocrisy and lies
he was critic of the middle-class values of his time
Ibsen’s authorial intent
he believed that tragedy should revolve around recognizable human beings
Ibsen wanted to create a more naturalistic drama; presenting human
relationships and characters of real psychological depth
Ibsen on A Doll’s House: “It is a serious play, really a domestic family drama,
dealing with contemporary problems in regard to marriage.”
Why was the play controversial when first published?
it was sharply critical of the Victorian marriage norms and how marriage can
limit women
Nora’s rejection of marriage and motherhood scandalized contemporary
the play sparked heated discussion all across Europe, which was Ibsen’s intent
it was only 10 years after the first performance that Ibsen received some more
positive reviews
Where does A Doll’s House fit in the dramatic tradition?
it diverges from the traditional form of the well-made play – Elements of the
Well-Made Play:
o a type of play following strict technical principles, with a logical plot
aimed to cause suspense
o FORMULA: exposition, suspense, dramatic incitement (climax), happy
ending (denouement)
o suspense was usually created by misunderstandings of characters,
secrets, or false identities
o usually a character takes the role of the “raisonneur” who restores
morality and confirms the beliefs of the audience
o the climax is towards the end of the play
o it allows the audience to connect with the characters in the play
o Ibsen made this type of play more realistic, by focusing on social
o he substituted a discussion for the denouement and left the play open
ended and less comedic (as compared to the traditional model)
it is a realist play – Elements of Realism:
 theater should be more purposeful in society
 simple setting
 focus on middle class – middle class clothing
 attention to detail in the exposition
 heavy use of dramatic irony
 dialogue seems like day-to-day conversation
 incomplete sentences, mimicking real-life conversations
 the characters’ language is relatable to the audience due to the colloquial
style and everyday conversational topics
 focus on subtext a(what is unsaid) s well as text – builds suspense and a
realistic understanding of social relationships
 characters: focus on the social environment and individual characters
 strong focus on people’s morals and values characters as humans
within the context of the emergence of modernism, Ibsen focused on the unlikely
hero – a housewife – in his attack on the middle-class values
Ibsen’s portrayal of the flawed heroine Nora is viewed as one of the most striking
dramatic depictions of women in the 19th century
compared to Shakespeare due to the depth of the human relationships and the
strong ethical discussions
compared to the Greek playwrights due to the artistic quality of his works
his concerns with the hypocrisy in his contemporary society (Nora is expected to
support her husband, but when she does so, she is accused of a crime)
the characters always face a dilemma – psychological conflicts
characters are always faced with some regretful abandonment or sacrifice, no
matter what choices they make
focus on individualism – he exaggerated his characters’ pursuit for independence
and pursuit of freedom
he spoke against conformity and social conventions
he was described as a social intruder
his plays are “problem plays” – dealing with social issues that were vastly
ignored or silenced
A Doll’s House – Literary Merit
a work that has influenced society
divorce rate tripled after the play was published/performed (although the play
might not have been the only reason for this)
Nora’s leaving her husband teaches the audience about gender equality