2008 -- script.vtheatre.net/413 [ unit 1 ] Before Ibsen and After

Ibsen Before Ibsen


DollHouse (new, 2007)

Ibsen Notes

Ibsen vs. Chekhov Ibsen: "The State is the curse of the individual." + lecture on DH Fall02: "A Doll's House" online
A Doll's House (2002) + Wild Duck online Fall99
"Strindberg Page" I will make, when I teach Ms. July in the Spring 2000 for Dramatic Literature Class. See DramLit Forum

Doll's House and other tapes:

BBC Videos for Education & Training. Rm. AG 150 Woodlands 80 Wood Lane London W12 0TT tel - 081 576 2415


Wilde Duck online 2007 : dramlit


HEDVIG: And there's an old bureau with drawers and flaps, and a big clock with figures that go out and in. But the clock isn't going now. GREGERS: So time has come to a standstill in there — in the wild duck's domain. HEDVIG: Yes. And then there's an old paint-box and things of that sort; and all the books. GREGERS: And you read the books, I suppose? HEDVIG: Oh, yes, when I get the chance. Most of them are English though, and I don't understand English. But then I look at the pictures. — There is one great big book called Harrison's History of London. It must be a hundred years old; and there are such heaps of pictures in it. At the beginning there is Death with an hour-glass and a woman. I think that is horrid. But then there are all the other pictures of churches, and castles, and streets, and great ships sailing on the sea. (Wild Duck) RELLING: Oh, life would be quite tolerable, after all, if only we could be rid of the confounded duns that keep on pestering us, in our poverty, with the claim of the ideal. GREGERS: [looking straight before him] In that case, I am glad that my destiny is what is. RELLING: May I inquire,—what is your destiny? GREGERS: [going] To be the thirteenth at table. RELLING: The devil it is. (Wild Duck)


The majority is never right. Never, I tell you! That's one of these lies in society that no free and intelligent man can help rebelling against. Who are the people that make up the biggest proportion of the population--the intelligent ones or the fools? I think we can agree it's the fools, no matter where you go in this world, it's the fools that form the overwhelming majority. (Ibsen)

Four Major Plays: A Doll's House, Ghosts, Hedda Gabler, the Master Builder (Oxford World's Classics)

Ibsen: 4 Major Plays, Vol. 2: Ghosts/An Enemy of the People/The Lady from the Sea/John Gabriel Borkman
Four of Ibsen's greatest and most popular plays come alive in these theatrically-inspired and production-tested translations. Davis and Johnston bring to Ibsen a fresh combination of scholarly insight and a sense of what communicates in the theater. Too often Ibsen in English ends up sounding like a quaint Victorian parlor dramatist. These texts capture some things that are often missed -- the wit and humor, the purposeful use of certain repeated images, and the sense of daring that helped make Ibsen a revolutionary figure not just for the 19th century, but for all time to come.

Hedda Gabler (Dover Thrift Editions) One of the most widely studied and performed works in the theatrical repertoire, this dark psychological drama, first produced in Norway in 1890, depicts the evil machinations of a ruthless, nihilistic heroine. Readers will discover in the shocking events Hedda Gabler precipitates a masterly exploration of the nature of evil and the potential for tragedy that lies in human frailty.

Hedda Gabler and Other Plays (Penguin Classics)

Doll's House, Study Questions:

1. As the curtain rises at the beginning of the play, and Nora comes in, why, in particular, is she happy?
2. What does Nora's sneaking macaroons suggest about her relationship with Torvald? Is Nora childish?
3. When Nora and Torvald argue about money, whom does Torvald suggest Nora takes after?
4. How does Mrs. Linde serve as a contrast to Nora?
5. Why has Nora had to borrow large sums of money?
6. Why does Nora stoke the fire when Krogstad goes into Torvald's study?
7. What does Dr. Rank think of Krogstad?
8. Dr. Rank describes himself as "wretched." In what respect is he wretched?
9. With what does Dr. Rank equate physical illness?
9. Why has Krogstad come to see Torvald?
10. How does Krogstad blackmail Nora?
11. According to Krogstad, what did Nora do in order to borrow the money?
12. How does Nora rationalize that she has not committed a crime?
13. What does Nora ask the maid to do with the Christmas tree?
14. What does the Christmas tree symbolize at this point in the play?
15. According to Torvald, what was Krogstad's crime?
16. What does Torvald believe is the effect of Krogstad's moral illness? Besides Krogstad, who else has been contaminated?
17. Why does Nora now believe she is corrupt?
18. Where is the Christmas tree at the beginning of Act II? In what condition is it?
19. What is Nora's attitude toward her children?
20. What disease did Dr. Rank inherit from his father?
21. What does Nora beg Torvald to do about Krogstad?
22. Why does Nora respond "Nonsense" to the following statement by Dr. Rank?
"With death staring me in the face?--And to suffer thus for another's sin! Where's the justice of it? An in one way or another you can trace in every family some such inexorable retribution---?
23. How does Nora sexually tease Dr. Rank during their interview?
24. What makes her stop?
25. When Krogstad returns, what does he bring with him?
26. How does Mrs. Linde offer to help Nora?
27. When the last act opens, what time of day is it?
29. In her meeting with Krogstad, what does Mrs. Linde propose?
30. How does Nora express her anxiety through the tarantella?
31. What costume did Nora wear to the ball? What does it seem to suggest?
32. What does Rank leave behind after the ball? What does it suggest?
33. After Torvald reads Krogstad's blackmailing letter, how does he respond to Nora? Provide specific support.
34. Why does Torvald say, "I am saved! Nora, I am saved?"
35. What does Nora's shedding her costume and putting on her everyday dress suggest?
36. Whom does Nora suggest has done her a great injustice?
37. In the end, what does Nora see as the real corruption in life if it is not her forgery and little lies?
38. In the end, how is Nora compared to the Mrs. Linde we met at the beginning of the play?
39. Is Nora's departure from her family equated with Dr. Rank's departure from life?
40. What does Nora put on as she departs her home at the end of the play? Is this a fitting symbol?

[ home-take test ]

HS SG -- what grade do they read it?

* When did Chekhov see Ibsen? [ Chekhov once told Stanislavsky, with soft surprise as if it were something too obvious to say: ‘But listen, Ibsen is no playwright! . . . Ibsen just doesn’t know life. In life it simply isn’t like that.’ ] (... the didactic A Doll’s House, one sees why George Bernard Shaw admired Ibsen.)

Literature Lesson Plans, Teacher's Guides, and Study Guides for Middle School and High School English Teachers - LitPlans.com:

Shakespeare (Hamlet) > Ibsen

[ they have it all = quizes, Links, Resources and etc. ]

The Three: Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov – "the rise of the modern drama"

... The reaction of Sweden's August Strindberg to Ibsen was considerably more complex, determined largely by the miasmic turbulence of his shattering psyche. Ibsen's stylistic advances were important to his work, but Strindberg felt personally threatened by Ibsen's social ideas, especially by those about women. A few years after The Father (1887) and Miss Julie (1888), Strindberg moved from this fertile realistic period into one of self-exploration, in which he plumbed his subconscious, searching for dramatic forms to express his dreams, fears, and feelings of guilt. With A Dream Play (1902), Strindberg's dramatic techniques became virtually expressionistic. *

Modern Drama: Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov and After... This is where THR413 Playscript Anlysis starts... Arthur Miller, August Wilson, Eugene O'Neill, Edward Albee, Paula Vogel... [ no time to think, they have to read the scripts! ]

* G.V. Plekhanov * Ibsen, Petty Bourgeois Revolutionist (1891)

"Of course, those critics who compare Ibsen to Shakespeare fall into rather extreme exaggeration. For even if Ibsen were possessed of Shakespeare’s genius, as works of art his dramas could not attain the heights of Shakespeare. They have an inartistic – an artificial – quality which can be sensed by anyone who reads Ibsen’s dramas carefully and repeatedly. And that is why his dramas, replete with the greatest suspense and interest, every now and then become dull and boring.

If I were opposed to works of art expressing ideas, I might say that this artificial element in Ibsen’s dramas is due to the fact that they are saturated with ideas. And a statement of this kind might even, at first glance, seem very apt."

"... In other words, the real reason for the artist’s weakness lies not in the ideological content of his work, as might appear on first thought, but quite the contrary, in his confusion or lack of ideas."

Marxism & Literature [ Bernard Shaw * Bertolt Brecht * see ]

19th Century Melodrama: Realism of spectacle led to the elimination of the wing and drop sets, and the development of the "box set," with three walls and perhaps a ceiling to represent interiors. It was not used consistently until the end of the 19th century.

This "realism" also led to the leveling of the stage floor, stagehands moving scenery manually (though grooves or chariot-and-pole systems were still used), revolving stages, elevators, rolling platforms, groundrows (cutaway flats), closed front curtain, acting upstage of the proscenium line (rather than on the apron), and the 4th wall convention was accepted more fully.

With the use of electric lighting, which illuminated much better, there was an increased need for greater scenic realism.

But the plays themselves were still romantic and melodramatic. The movement of Realism would shake things up a bit.

* "Given Ibsen's own interests and emphases, PSYCHOLOGICAL analysis has always been the preferred angle of approach to his work in all phases of his career, but most especially to the great plays of the middle period. HISTORICAL criticism has been relevant not only to an analysis of Ibsen's own use of historical materials in his early plays, but more generally to an understanding of the literary and theatrical context out of which his plays originated and the ways which he all but singlehandedly transformed that context, creating a tradition of realistic dialogue and character portrayal, making the stage a supple instrument for serious investigations into the nature of modern life, and then going beyond the limits of realism in his last plays." [ discuss ]

"Ibsen's obvious sympathy for women and his unusual ability to portray them not in an idealized manner, but as psychological entities every bit as nuanced and sophisticated as their male counterparts, has led to a good deal of GENDER analysis of his plays, especially those, like A Doll's House and Hedda Gabler, which feature complex female protagonists. And the mode of READER-RESPONSE criticism has allowed us to appreciate the richness and depth of his portrayal of life's unresolvable complexities, as well as his refusal to impose easy answers on situations that often have no answers at all." [ Longman Publishers ]

[ some from * Pinkmonkey.com ]: references --

"Shakespear had put ourselves on the stage but not our situations.... Ibsen supplies the want left by Shakespear. He gives us not only ourselves but our situations. The things that happen to his stage figures are things that happen to us. One consequence is that his plays are much more important to us than Shakespear's. Another is that they are capable both of hurting us cruelly and of filling us with excited hopes of escape from idealistic tyrannies and with visions of intenser life in the future." George Bernard Shaw, The Quintessence of Ibsenism, 1913

"A Doll's House almost irresistibly invites sweeping generalizations. It is the first Modern Tragedy, as Ibsen originally named it. The strong divorce play and the social drama are alike descended from it. A Doll's House stands in relation to modern drama as Queen Victoria to the royal families of Europe. It is not Ibsen's greatest play, but it is probably his most striking achievement, in the sense that it changed most decisively the course of literature. Its significance for contemporaries is quite distinct from its permanent significance or, again, from its place in the personal development of Ibsen as an artist." M. C. Bradbrook, Ibsen the Norwegian, 1948

'The modern tragedy' does not end in ruin, as Ibsen originally had intended, but in a new start. However, values are destroyed as the whole of Nora's world collapses. This happens precisely because she is true to the best in herself. She grows in stature, and is purged by suffering. In defeat she is victorious. In the majority of theories about 'the tragic' these are significant factors. When everything lies in ruins round her, Nora emerges strong and independent as never before, and takes the consequences of her newly gained understanding; she is in the process of becoming 'herself'; at the same time she points to a freer and more honest humanity in a healthier society. It is in this sense that she is a modern, tragic heroine, and the play precisely what it claims to be, a 'modern tragedy'." Edward Beyer, Ibsen: The Man and His Work, 1980

In 1871, eight years before Henrik Ibsen wrote A Doll's House, Ibsen met a Norwegian girl called Laura Petersen. Ibsen took quite a fancy to her and called her his 'skylark.' In 1872, she married a Danish schoolmaster, Victor Kieler, who subsequently contracted tuberculosis. His doctors prescribed a warmer climate, but they were poor, and Victor became hysterical at the mention of money. Laura arranged a loan without her husband's knowledge, for which a friend stood security. The trip to Italy thus financed was successful, and Victor made a good recovery.

Two years later, however, repayment of the loan was demanded. Laura did not have the money herself, dared not tell her husband and, worse, still, the friend who had stood security had himself fallen on hard times. Laura attempted to pay off the loan by forging a check. The forgery was discovered, the bank refused payment, and Laura was forced to tell her husband the whole story. Despite the fact that she had done it purely to save his life, Victor Kieler treated Laura like a criminal. He claimed she was an unfit wife and mother and when she suffered a nervous breakdown, he had her committed to a public asylum, and demanded a separation so that the children could be removed from Laura's care. She was discharged after a month, and managed to persuade Victor to take her back for the children's sake, which he eventually, but grudgingly, agreed to do.

In September 1878, only a couple of months after hearing about Laura's committal to the asylum, Ibsen began work on A Doll's House. In his notes he wrote the following: A woman cannot be herself in modern society, with laws made by men and with prosecutors and judges who assess female conduct from a male standpoint. Copyright © 1996-1998 Frank McGuinness [ * ]

... Ibsen's Women (Hardcover) by Joan Templeton 0521590396


The productive life of Ibsen is conveniently divided into three periods: the first ending in 1877 with the successful appearance of The Pillars of Society; the second covering the years in which he wrote most of the dramas of protest against social conditions, such as Ghosts; and the third marked by the symbolic plays, The Master Builder and When We Dead Awaken.

Ibsen, Henrik Johan (1828-1906), Norwegian dramatist, whose well-constructed plays dealing realistically with psychological and social problems won him recognition as the father of modern drama.
Ibsen was born on March 20, 1828, and schooled in Skien. He briefly assisted an apothecary and began medical studies before beginning a lifetime association with the theater. He was stage manager-playwright at the National Theater at Bergen from 1851 to 1857 and later director of the theater at Christiania (now Oslo) from 1857 to 1862. During these years of practical theater work he wrote his first plays. From 1863 to 1891 Ibsen lived chiefly in Italy and Germany. He subsisted first on a traveling scholarship and later on an annual pension, granted by the Storting, the Norwegian parliament. In 1891 he returned to Christiania; he died there May 23, 1906.
Ibsen's early work included two verse dramas. The first, Brand (1866; first produced in 1885), dramatized the tragedy of blind devotion to a false sense of duty; the second, Peer Gynt (1867), related, in allegorical terms, the adventures of a charming opportunist. With Pillars of Society (1877), the story of an unscrupulous businessman, Ibsen began the series of plays that brought him worldwide fame. A Doll's House (1879), Ghosts (1881), and Hedda Gabler (1890) have probably been the most frequently performed of his plays. The first tells of a loveless marriage and an overprotected wife; the second deals with hereditary insanity and the conflict of generations; the third portrays the relationships of a strong-willed woman with those around her. Among the other plays written by Ibsen are An Enemy of the People (1882), The Wild Duck (1884), Rosmersholm (1886), The Lady from the Sea (1888), The Master Builder (1892), and When We Dead Awaken (1900).
Although Ibsen's plays shocked contemporary audiences, they were championed by such serious critics as George Bernard Shaw and William Archer in England and Georg Brandes in Denmark. Ibsen's characters, the critics pointed out, were recognizable people; their problems were familiar to the audience. Ibsen's plays marked the end of the wildly romantic and artificial melodramas popular in the 19th century. His influence on 20th-century drama is immeasurable.

[Notes on Ibsen are from my THR413 Playscript Analysis Class (1998): THE WILD DUCK (1884), A Doll's House -- DramLit class.]

"We see that we have never lived." (Ibsen, The Dramatic Epilogue)

New Drama: Not between people, but within myself. (Inner conflict. Our Father is Hamlet). Self is a situation and story. Man as a text and narrative. (see Raymond Williams p. 88, Modern Drama Textbook).

Socialism, marxism and modernism. Nietzsche. False relations, society.

"New" Feelings?

Ibsen: 1) the social critic, 2) the romantic or existentialist

Self-liberation. Time of Nietzsche, the final revolt.
Self against Self. Guilt (internal and personal). "Every move towards relationship ends in guilt." "to be born is to be guilty." (R. Williams 91)

Next -- Freud. But first Chekhov, when a character is a story.

"It was self-murder, a deadly sin against myself." (92)

The surest way to destroy a man
Is to turn him into an individual.

Realism: between Naturalism and Symbolism (blindness).
The prose drama.
Realistic mise-en-scene [ ]

The World Before Chekhov. Two Ibsen-s. Wild Duck and Seagull (compare).

French (classic) forms (units) and the Romantic hero Gregers) are together.
Raisonneur (Horatio).

Verisimilitude: "Well-made play" with a series of "secrets" -- revelations. The burden of the past and present (society).
Family (Fathers and Sons. Generations: Parents and Children). The foundation of the family : husband and wife is in question. That's why the naive "futurists" (Americans) loved the future.

[Connect with the following Brecht's revolt against the realism. Also, Dada, Futurism and etc.]

COMPLICATIONS -- rising action, escalation of conflicct. Real drama is in the evolution of situation. What is the suspense? Plot and story, the gap -- tension between the knowledge of the audience and characters. Identification and separateness.

Why do we come so close (inside) an individual? 20 century drama. Character -- complexity, the universe. Finaly we can see it.

How is it different from Oedipus? No gods. Nobody to blame. Society! New God.

Modernity = individual. Woman as a human, finally.

Naturalism and Realism. Sanislavsky -- p. 1148
Line of action and INTERNAL TECHNIQUE
Emotions, continuity and their reality.

A Doll's House
Dramatic Literature THR 215 (Compact Bedford)

Basic Freud must be introduced. Psychology as a science is a product of high modernity. Also, Dr. Freud is needed for interpretation of symbols (see Symbolism).

Woman's revolt against "society" starts with her revolt against social institution of marriage. Woman became "individual" (How is it different from the antiquity heroines?)

See p. 379 Notes for the Modern Tragedy (1878)

Separate sensibility (spiritual law) for man and women. (Strindberg) Sex as a social construction (Foucault).

Woman became a new tragic hero. War against all is her war now.

Nora and next -- Chekhov's women.

Methods: PSYCHOLOGICAL analysis has always been the preferred angle of approach to his work in all phases of his career, but most especially to the great plays of the middle period. HISTORICAL criticism, SOCIOLOGICAL, MYTHOLOGICAL criticism, and the BIOGRAPHICAL approach.


Notes for the Modern Tragedy (1878) and Geordge Bernard Shaw "The Problem Play -- A symposium" (1895): modern and contemporary traditions (Miller). "The Technical Novelty in Ibsen's Plays" (Levy 849)

"Well made play" and new drama.

Suicide, Death and Ibsen.

"Dramatic discussion"?

Bernard Shaw on "A Doll's House"


Post your 200 words on Ibsen!

p. 713 -- A Doll's House: Ibsen the Moralist.


Notes for Hedda Gabler by Ibsen.

Northern mentality in Europe ("North" America)

Next: Chekhov
BERNICK: I didn't get you here to argue with you. I sent for you to tell you that the Indian Girl must be ready to sail the day after tomorrow. The day after tomorrow, do you hear? At the same time as our own ship; not an hour later. I have my reasons for hurrying the affair. Have you read this morning's paper? Ah!--then you know that the Americans have been making disturbances again. The ruffianly crew turn the whole town topsy-turvy. Not a night passes without fights in the taverns or on the street; not to speak of other abominations. And who gets the blame of all this? It is I--yes, I--that suffer for it. These wretched newspaper-men are covertly carping at us for giving our whole attention to the Palm Tree. And I, whose mission it is to set an example to my fellow citizens, must have such things thrown in my teeth! I won't bear it. I cannot have my name bespattered in this way. Not just now; precisely at this moment I need all the respect and goodwill of my fellow citizens, I have a great undertaking in hand, as you have probably heard; and if evil-disposed persons should succeed in shaking people's unqualified confidence in me, it may involve me in the most serious difficulties. I must silence these carping and spiteful scribblers at any cost; and that is why I give you till the day after tomorrow. [ PILLARS OF SOCIETY ] BERNICK: I find I can talk to you as I can to no one else; I shall conceal nothing from you. I had my share in spreading the rumour. You must not condemn me without remembering how matters stood at the time. As I told you yesterday, I came home to find my mother involved in a whole series of foolish undertakings. Disasters of various kinds followed; all possible ill-luck seemed to crowd upon us; our house was on the verge of ruin. I was half reckless and half in despair. Lona, I believe it was principally to deaden thought that I got into that entanglement which ended in Johan's going away. You can easily imagine that there were all sorts of rumours in the air after you two had left. It was said that this was not his first misdemeanour. Some said Dorf had received a large sum of money from him to hold his tongue and keep out of the way; others declared she had got the money. At the same time it got abroad that our house had difficulty in meeting its engagements. What more natural than that the scandal-mongers should put these two rumours together? Then, as Madam Dorf remained here in unmistakable poverty, people began to say that he had taken the money with him to America; and rumour made the sum larger and larger every day. I clutched at the rumour as a drowning man clutches at straw. I did not contradict it. Our creditors were beginning to press us; I had to quiet them--to prevent them from doubting the solidity of the firm. I let it be thought that a momentary misfortune had befallen us, but that if people only refrained from pressing us--if they would only give us time--every one should be paid in full. And every one was paid in full. Yes, Lona; that rumour saved our house and made me the man I am. A lie ... yes ... but whom did it hurt, then? Johan intended never to return. [Pause.] Look into any man you please, and you will find at least one dark spot that must be kept out of sight. [ PILLARS OF SOCIETY ] Ibsen Amazon


A melodrama in a more neutral and technical sense of the term is a play, film, or other work in which plot and action are emphasised in comparison to the more character-driven emphasis within a drama. Melodramas can be distinguished from tragedy by the fact that it is open to having a happy ending. [ wiki ]

When Ibsen's A Doll's House was first performed, it was praised for its ‘naturalness’.
A Doll's House fits the criteria for what is known today as the WELL-MADE PLAY:
* It has strong temporal restraints.
* succession of rising and falling action
* several peaks/false conclusions/climaxes
* plot is based on a secret that is known to audience
* plot is a culmination of a long period of events

However, despite these and other identifiable ‘naturalistic’ characteristics, there are still some remnants of the old melodramatic soliloquies.
A Doll's House is usually considered to be a realistic play.
However, in this specific sense it cannot be considered realistic because of its dependence on folk lore (NB the trolls are still there).
It is also unlike most realistic plays because of its famous conclusion/non-conclusion which leaves the play open and unresolved.
A realistic play has a succinct closure which reinstates the old social order with all its flaws being corrected.

A Doll's House can be read in terms of melodrama. Consider the theme of blackmail which is a frequently used melodramatic plot device which enables the villain to have a hold over the heroine: [but this consideration begs us to ask just who is the villain Helmer or Krogstad?]
We see the redemption of the villain through love (ie Krogstad).
This play borrows from domestic melodrama the idea that domestic harmony (as symbolized by the happy home) is under threat from an outside force.
Nora plays the model of the fallen woman who leaves home and children. Fallen women in 19th century melodrama, usually find are redeemed and they die before the end of the fourth act: Nora actually plans this.

* bedford: Study and Discussion Questions

Writing Suggestions: ... Reread the dance scene in act II. What symbolic significance does the dance hold for Nora? Explore the levels of meaning it holds.


on video: try http://www.facets.org/sysbin/asticat.cgi. It has only one, the Philip Bosco/James Daly "Enemy of the People." The same video is also offered by The Broadway Theatre Archive (http://www.broadwayarchive.com), along with about ten more. I was just curious, so I did an Ibsen search at http://us.imdb.com. There have been 81 movies (for feature release and for tv), with the earliest listed made in 1911. Unfortunately, even facets.org only listed about a dozen that are currently available.

There's a version of ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE with Philip Bosco and Kate Reid. It's available from www.broadwayarchive.com

SHOWS: A Doll's House

Première Royal Theatre, Copenhagen, 21 December, 1879

Betty Hennings as Nora.

Critic Herman Bang:

after we have but once seen her, she follows us from scene to scene, we see her and not Nora, even as we read . . . because we continually place the stress where Fru Hennings has placed it, because, influenced by her, we hesitate where she hesitates, we close our eyes where she closes them. (Bang 1880 trans. and cited in Marker and Marker 1989, p.48)

It was said that Hennings was Nora:

I have seen many Noras: Eleonora Duse and Réjane and Agnes Sorma in Berlin; but Fru Hennings played the part as if it had been written for her. (Maurice Baring trans. and cited by Marker and Marker, 50)

Documentation of the first production emphasises the naturalistic elements of the set:

In the living-room itself, a well-stocked sewing basket and woodbox placed beside the stoneware oven gave the actors additional opportunities to create an atmosphere of living reality on the stage. Such items as flowering plants, floral bouquets, and chairs with flowered seat-covers conveyed an air of middle-class refinement in the Helmer household. Two provocative objects commented (whether intentionally or not) on Nora's two principal functions in the marriage; on the bookcase, among sets of books in expensive bondings, stood a bust of Venus, while a reproduction of Raphael's Madonna with Child hung conspicuously in the middle of the rear wall, above the piano. (Marker and Marker 1989, 53)

Conservative critics felt they were only too aware of the likely outcome of Nora's and women's emancipation. In future, wrote a contemporary pastor:

her place will not be in the innermost sanctuary of the home, like a priestess at its hearth and altar. The emancipated woman has taken her place at the door, always ready to depart, with her suitcase in her hand. (cited by Finney 1989, 150)

the ‘little Nordic Frou-Frou’ of the first two acts, could not credibly transform herself into a ‘Søren Kierkegaard in skirts’ by the end of the play (Marker and Marker 1989, 48).

Christiania Theatre, Norway, January 1880

Johanne Juell as Nora

Said to have ‘brought a new sense of genuine mental anguish’ to the first two acts, which better anticipated the Nora of the third (Marker & Marker, 55).

Edvard Brandes, who had reservations about Hennings’ Nora, approved of Juell’s performance, claiming she showed us how madness lurked in poor Nora's confused brain, as the terrible fear crushed her spirit. (Brandes cited in Marker and Marker, 55)

Juell was:

the first to hold Nora’s character together, so that the childish gaiety of the first act did not clash incomprehensibly and crudely with the mature seriousness that follows the catastrophe. (contemporary critic Ove Rode translated and cited by Marker and Marker, 55-6)

1893 tour of London, the great Italian actor Eleanora Duse created a repressed Nora whose true-self was buried under the surface of an everyday-self:

Behind the clouded veil of infatuation which obscured husband and home and society for her, there waited, fully formed, the mature, wholly conscious woman, needing only an inducement to break through her veil. (contemporary critic Gunnar Heiberg translated and cited in Marker & Marker 1989, 57)

The Russian actor-manager, Vera Kommisarjevskaya, who first performed Nora for Russian audiences at her theatre in St. Petersburg in 1904, is described in the memoirs of Aleksandra Brustejn (published in 1956) as similarly psychologically motivated:

Even in the first act, which almost to the end is without shadows for Nora, Kommisarjevskaya would shut herself off for a fraction of a second from her surroundings. In the midst of laughter, the teasing, the games and noise with the children, her eyes turned inward on something agonizing, something oppressive. (Brustejn translated and cited in Marker and Marker, 63)

Eleonora Duse – ‘hollow-eyed, ashen face’

Agnes Sorma (Berlin, 1894) ‘hostile eyes’ and ‘distorted smile’.

Kommisarjevskaya's eyes ‘turned inward on something agonizing, something oppressive’.

Liv Ullman (1974) ‘shows Helmer – and us – her [Nora's] true face’ (Törnqvist 1995,78).

William Archer pointed out that it was worth remembering that Nora was a dramatic character:

Habitually and instinctively men pay Ibsen the compliment (so often paid to Shakespeare) of discussing her as though she were a real woman, living a life of her own, quite apart from the poet's creative intelligence. (from ‘Ibsen and English Criticism’ Major Essays 1889-1919 reproduced in Egan, 117)

Liv Ullman, touring as Nora for Det Norske Teatret in 1974, reflected that, . . . in the first acts Nora is not just the songbird and the squirrel; neither is she pure wisdom and feminine strength in the last (Ullman cited in Törnqvist 1995, 78).

In the scene with Kristina, Nora keeps repeating ‘I’m so happy.’ I doubt very much that Ibsen isn’t so clever and so wise about people that if he gives the line ‘I’m so happy’ over and over you are not happy. So I play against it. (Ullman in David Outerbridge Without Makeup: Liv Ullmann A Photo-Biography William Morrow & Co. NY, 1979 p. 121)

In 1906, Meyerhold at St. Petersburg

Meyerhold’s radical revision of the naturalistic stage:

In place of the lovely, soft furnishings that so credibly represented the doll-wife's warm nest, we are instead shown a cramped corridor passageway with a decrepit piano in one corner . . . evidently meant to represent a ‘stylization’ of the cozy atmosphere so often talked about in the play. (from Theatre and Art, 1906/52 translated and cited in Marker and Marker 1989, 63-4)

Edward Braun records that it caused a scandal:

It was rushed on after five rehearsals and performed against a background of flats taken straight from stock and propped back to front against the stage walls, symbolizing – or so Meyerhold claimed – ‘the bourgeois milieu against which Nora rebels’. (Braun 1981, 183.)

A London Daily Telegraph review of a 1921 feel nothing but a detached interest in it as a great piece of drama that was once something like life.

Theatre historian and critic, Frederik Schyberg, argued that a more historical approach had to be taken:

it must be presented as a picture from the period (and an image of the period) – and it is so well constructed, so strong in its theatrical temperament, that it would surely then work with redoubled force, because the ‘historical’ premises have been provided for and the audience is not duped – and it has been here [in a modernized 1936 Copenhagen production]. (Schyberg 1936 translated and cited by Marker and Marker, 69)

German director Peter Zadek's 1967 version at the Bremer Kammerspiele, Germany

Designer Guy Sheppard dispensed with the naturalistic set and created an open performance-space. The production was interpreted as Brechtian in influence.

Ingmar Bergman's production of the play at the Residenz Theatre Münich, 1981

The three acts of the original text are rewritten as fifteen scenes,

Children and the nurse omitted

A painted curtain depicts a street in Christiania in the 1880s and the exterior of the Helmer's apartment building

At curtain-up the audience sees a modern stage

The interior of the Helmer’s apartment is set on a raised platform within the larger performance space, as a stage-within-a-stage

The characters wear nineteenth-century costume: high collars and grey or black for men, a corseted wine-red dress for Nora

Dining room chairs line the walls where the actors sit, in character, when they are not performing.

Mrs Linde, Rank, Krogstad and Helmer watch the action taking place on the raised platform;

In the final moments of the performance, a hidden aperture in the wood-panelled wall opens and Nora steps through it and out of the space (Marker and Marker 1983, 9ff. and 1989, 81ff.).

Bergman claimed an interest in society's influence on the relationship between men and women:

Why does it [society] cripple men and women to such an extent that when they try to live with one another the result is, for the most part, a catastrophe? (Bergman interviewed in Marker and Marker 1983, 3)

... again

the THEMES :

1. Women in a masculine world: A Doll's House and Hedda Gabler.

2. Nora's search for self.

3. Truth as constructive and destructive in A Doll's House.

4. Nora and Torvald as symbols of male and female.

5. Heredity and disease in A Doll's House.

6. The theme of death in A Doll's House.

7. How the present is "pregnant with the past" in A Doll's House.

8. Society and the individual in A Doll's House.

9. Appearance and reality in A Doll's House.

10. Reactions to A Doll's House: in Ibsen's time and today.



Beyer, Edward. Ibsen: The Man and His Work. New York: Taplinger, 1980. Complete, easy-to-read overview of Ibsen's life and plays. Brandes, Georg. Henrik Ibsen. New York: B. Blom, 1964 (first published 1899). Interesting commentary by one of Ibsen's contemporaries.

Downs, Brian W. A Study of Six Plays by Ibsen. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1950. Includes an interesting study of A Doll's House.

Durback, Errol. Ibsen the Romantic. Athens, Ga.: Univ. of Georgia Press, 1982. A scholarly treatise on Ibsen's later works.

Gray, Ronald. Ibsen-A Dissenting View. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1980. Raises some commonsense questions about Ibsen's plays.

Ibsen, Henrik. Letters and Speeches. Edited by Evert Sprinchorn. New York: Hill and Wang, 1964. Searing comments and insights from Ibsen himself.

Jorgenson, Theodore. Henrik Ibsen: His Life and Drama. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Edwards Brothers, 1963. Good interpretive discussion of the plays.

Lucas, F. L. The Drama of Ibsen and Strindberg. New York: Macmillan, 1962. Practical and readable discussions of each play.

Meyer, Hans Georg. Henrik Ibsen. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1972. Examines the moral issues in the plays.

Shaw, George Bernard. The Quintessence of Ibsenism. New York: Hill and Wang, 1957 (first published 1913). A classic work by the great dramatist who helped bring Ibsen international acclaim.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Doll's_House => script.vtheatre.net/doc/dollhouse.html (new)


Henrik Ibsen
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