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Henrik Ibsen

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An Introduction on Henrik Ibsen
Henrik Ibsen is one of the world's greatest dramatists. He was the leading figure of an artistic renaissance that took place in Norway around the end of the nineteenth century.
Ibsen lived from 1828 ,in the little Norwegian village of Skien, to 1906. He grew up in poverty, studied medicine for a while, and then abandoned that to write plays.
He had early attempts at dramatic composition. His spare hours were spent in preparation for entrance to Christiania University. About 1851 Ibsen was given the position of "theater poet" at the newly built National Theater in Bergen, a post which he held for six years. In 1857 he became director of the Norwegian Theater in Christiania; In 1858, he published his first play, The Vikings at Helgeland, Brand and Peer Gynt which were long, historical verse plays. And in 1862, with Love's Comedy, became known in his own country as a playwright of promise. Seven years later, in the starting of 1869, he began to write prose plays, giving up the verse form. Some critics characterize this switch as an abandonment of poetry in favor of realism. In the same year, discouraged with the reception given to his work and out of sympathy with the social and intellectual ideals of his country, he left Norway, not to return for a period of nearly thirty years. He established himself first at Rome, later in Munich. In 1877, Ibsen began what would become a series of five plays in which he examines the moral faults of modern society. The group includes A Doll's House, The Wild Duck, and Ghosts. Late in life he returned to Christiania, where he died May 23, 1906.


IN the entire history of literature, there are few figures like Ibsen. Practically his whole life and energies were devoted to the theater; and his offerings, medicinal and bitter, have changed the history of the stage.
Until the latter part of the nineteenth century, theater remained a vehicle of entertainment. Insights into the human condition were merely incidental factors in the dramatist's art. Ibsen, however, contributed a new significance to drama which changed the development of modern theater. Discovering dramatic material in everyday situations was the beginning of a realism that novelists as different as Zola and Flaubert were already exploiting. With Ibsen, the stage became a pulpit, while the dramatist exhorting his audience to reassess the values of society, became the minister of a new social responsibility.

ibsen's twenty-six plays during fifty years of writing inspired subsequent drama so purposefully that gained him the reputation of "father of the modern drama". His significance was attributed to introducing the social play and realistic problem play to the stage of theater. Ibsen's realistic problem play and his interest in socialism and feminism makes him one of the most continually played dramatists that had unquestionable influence on following dramatists.


Analysis of Ghosts
The main theme of Ghosts is the extent to which society invades personal lives. Mrs. Alving, obsessed with keeping up appearances, tries to protect her late husband's reputation. But because of this concern, she not only ends up living a lie and building a memorial to her husband's false reputation, but she also ruins the lives of her husband's two children, Oswald and Regina.
Pastor Manders is also ruled by a neurotic concern for public opinion. It leads him to much foolishness, to the extent that he is eventually tricked into funding Engstrand sailor's saloon. In the Pastor, we see the connection between public opinion and duty. When the Pastor tells Mrs. Alving that she must save Oswald from sin, it is unclear whether he is motivated by a pure sense of moral duty or by a deference to public opinion, because for him they are essentially the same. It is because of the Pastor's principles that he does not give in to the mutual attraction that he and Mrs. Alving share and that would have made them both happy.
Mrs. Alving's speech on "ghosts," in the second act, establishes the play's key metaphor. The "ghosts" of duty and public opinion come to dominate and ruin generations of lives. Mrs. Alving feels that all people are haunted not only by their inheritances from specific people, but by general superstitions that exist within a community. The idea of filial piety, or duty to family members above all else, is such a ghost.

Analysis of Ghosts

It was written in 1881 and first staged in 1882.[1] Like many of Ibsen's better-known plays, Ghosts is a scathing commentary on 19th-century morality.

in Ghosts there is an exposition of a fate-tragedy darker and more searching even than in Oedipus; and in each of the social dramas there is exposed some moral cancer. Ibsen forced his characters to scrutinize their past, the conditions of the society to which they belonged, and the methods by which they had gained their own petty ambitions, in order that they might pronounce judgment upon themselves. The action is still for the most part concerned with men's deeds and outward lives, in connection with society and the world; and his themes have largely to do with the moral and ethical relations of man with man.

Analysis of Ghosts

Like all of Ibsen's plays, Ghosts was originally written in Norwegian

Above all did he thunder his fiery indictment against the four cardinal sins of modern society: the Lie inherent in our social arrangements; Sacrifice and Duty, the twin curses that fetter the spirit of man; the narrow-mindedness and pettiness of Provincialism, that stifles all growth; and the Lack of Joy and Purpose in Work which turns life into a vale of misery and tears.

So strongly did Ibsen feel these matters, that in none of his works did he lose sight of them. These issues form the keynote to the revolutionary significance of his dramatic works, as well as to the psychology of Henrik Ibsen himself.
It is, therefore, not a little surprising that most of the interpreters and admirers of Ibsen so enthusiastically accept his art, and yet remain utterly indifferent to, not to say ignorant of, the message contained in it. That is mainly because they are, in the words of Mrs. Alving, "so pitifully afraid of the light." Hence they go about seeking mysteries and hunting symbols, and completely losing sight of the meaning that is as clear as daylight in all the works of Ibsen, and mainly in the group of his social plays: The Pillars of Society, A Doll's House, Ghosts, and An Enemy of the People.


Realism and Symbolism are Ibsen's main dramatic elements in Ghosts:

Realism is the prevailing mode of the play, with its focus on an ordinary family in an ordinary domestic setting. The action and dialogue of the characters is quite naturalistic and the play's themes are on a recognizably quotidian level, dealing with family relationships and social issues, the kind of things that affect many people in real life. Its lack of real closure, its refusal to provide a neat resolution in the manner of more traditional and conventional literature, can also be deemed realistic. Its inconclusiveness mimics real life, where so often things are not worked out, settled, and rounded off.

The play is also realistic in a more specialized sense, in relation to its particular literary historical context. It first appeared in the early 1880s, and immediately courted controversy in its depiction of such sordid facts as venereal disease. In its exploration of the grim truths that might lie behind a veneer of social respectability and problematic family relationships, it dealt unapologetically with the more sordid side of human life, which conventional and polite literature shied away from. It was a harbinger of things to come, as more and more writers began to take up the challenge of depicting the darker side of human existence.

The play also employs several instances of symbolism. The symbolism is not obtrusive - it does not disrupt the dominant mode of realism - but it is important. The central symbol is that of Oswald's illness, which is congenital syphilis, unwittingly and most irresponsibly passed on to him by his philandering father. This disease symbolizes the insidious influences of family heritage, just as the play's title refers to the lingering and pernicious influences of the past as a whole - past actions, customs, and ideas. The past continues to haunt and undermine the present. The father's legacy looms ominously over the son, while his wife has been constrained by old ideas about social respectability to maintain a facade of family honour and pride.

The corruption of Oswald by his father, then, is both literal and metaphorical. Not only has he inherited a physical illness, he also takes after his father in his behaviour, most notably perhaps in his dalliance with the family maid, Regina, which is the direct echo of his father's flirtation with a servant many years earlier (Regina is in fact the product of this affair).

Another example of symbolism in the play is the orphanage which Mrs Alving erects in her husband's memory. With its connotations of children who lack parental support, the orphanage takes on an ironic significance: Mr Alving did nothing worthwhile for his son.


In Ibsen’s dramas the symbols overtake as changes in relevant drama itself. The ghosts have their footprints in the construction and completion of the orphanage which finally gets flamed. The strong connection between the character, the subject and the symbol makes Ibsen’s drama unique as well as pleasing in its style. In every drama the symbol is introduced in action, as we may re-mention Ghosts, where since the first act Regina and Engstrand discuss on the completion of the orphanage. These characters wander through the drama in a so mysterious and invisible manner, giving color and light to inner character. They reappear without being understood in different and unexpected moments. That’s what happens in Ghosts where the orphanage is set on fire at the critical moment when all the plans of Mrs. Alving are destroyed in her hands – The pastor Menders returns to her, Engstrand takes his prey and leaves, and so on. Mrs. Alving remains with the ruins of her personal life, which are burned out with her. Because the action in the drama is psychological, its culminating point – i.e. psychological moment - coincides with the moment of decision making. In each case we are dealing with a psychological battle: either short or long. Also with a turning point: either an acceptance of fate that has captured the character and given to him voluntarily, or a wild rebellion against this fate. The chance of psychological momentum and the symbol in the drama is so ubiquitous that it has become a special and brilliant feature of Ibsen’s style of writing. The main symbol in the work, among many other possible symbols that come to light during deeper analysis of works of Ibsen, could be crucial in passing from the culmination point of action to the psychological moment.

Ghosts is one of the dramas with greater presence of ghost-symbols, not just for reasons that shocked the public sensitivity by their appearance, but by building a sick state and the addiction of the society to its injuries, as venereal diseases and adultery. This drama is a damning indictment on outdated notions that were associated with the gender issues of the role of women in the family. The drama Ghosts does not portray a wife, but also a widow - mother at the same time, which fights against prejudice and bigotry of the time. Through this drama the author brings a new realism to the genre of drama and in the cheerless nature of its thinking. The strongest attack of the drama falls on 'sexual ownership' that spouses tend to keep on their wives, to whom the author provides human understanding on that part of society that still shackled after outdated ideas. Precisely this is the symbolic of the ghosts: dead but unburied dogmas and moral codes, that smell around us the disgusting smell of mold and rottenness, the broken thoughts that vivify in the corners of the collective consciousness. These are the ghosts that Mrs. Alving desperately wants to escape.

Here Ibsen affirms his greatness and compelling admiration that comes from the force that he has to deliver traditional principles in which people live freely in relation to themselves, as well as to force them to examine the roots or foundations of their moral and social opinions. A brilliant, vital and lively drama that survives time, Ghosts is one of the most memorable plays of the early modern drama. Its focus to unravel family secrets in disregarding the hypocritical nature of a husband who was drunkard, immoral, perverse in the eyes of the community and of his children, was a taboo for the time. Mrs. Alving reveals the true reason for her son’s disease: to her son's promiscuity inherited from his father. But it’s too much to say that this promiscuity is inherited. There are other important factors that led Osvald to degradation of Osvald, that’s for sure. Among most fervent wishes of Mrs. Alving is her son's happiness. He was sent to a boarding school since his childhood, not to be influenced by his father, Captain Alving. When he returns she realizes the futility of departure, then she understands that this is hereditary. In antagonism with the symbol of Ghosts, Ibsen uses the symbol of the sun, which comes out in beginning of the play when Mrs. Alving promised to fulfill this desire of Osvald’s childhood: to bring the sun and not despair, and, as it is mentioned in other dramas, this symbol returns at the end of the play when Osvald during his delirium requires the sun again, but hopeless now. The sun gives life and hope, the sun that provides death and heat.
In the analytical examination of drama it is to be noticed the spirit it reveals in its depth and content, concerning the censorship of conscience act, self-condemnation the uncomfortable complex of guilt. Manders and Mrs. Alving as characters make us shudder just for their innocence. Ibsen brought the time when we had to ask ourselves not to justice our motives but their wisdom. Analyzing the drama Ghosts, one must understand that the individual should rethink in detail the sources of action and the basics of his obedience in order to act. All this thinking philosophy makes Ibsen writing unique, as well as in the perception of situations that he brings thanks to modern drama. What Ibsen asks the audience is not to consider the facts as his goal or target in order to convey the moral of his work, but to consider the overall result that the work leaves at the audiences, by using good sense. Let us take Mrs. Alving, who rebukes her former love for not accepting her return to him. On the contrary, Menders suggest she returns to her husband. Mrs. Alving then scolds herself for not feeling the lustful yearning for her husband, something which she experienced in illegitimate relationships. In the case of Mrs. Alving, Ibsen does not want to teach us, as readers, on the legitimate moral standards generally accepted as standards of behaving in society. In the opposite, he prefers to show us the characters movements by hitting us with high terror of the tragedy without a single hesitation, even by using all its possible and efficient ways.


Character Analysis
It's difficult to understand the symbolic resonance of names when the original language is Norwegian, but there is one name we recognize: Helene or Helen. Mrs. Alving's first name links her to the Greeks – not only to the strong heroines of Greek tragedy but to a particular "Hellenic" idea of spiritual and intellectual freedom that she is eventually able to enact.

In Ghosts, each character's occupation says something about how he or she relates to the greater social structure depicted in the play, and the particular demands they must fulfill within that structure. Mrs. Alving is a housewife, widow, and mother. These are the only parts of herself she allows to be seen publicly. She keeps her reading under wraps, unless someone comes to visit, and attributes her improvements on the estate to her husband.

Pastor Manders' position gives him a place to settle his rule-abiding personality and turn his moral weakness into power.

As an artist, Oswald is immersed in color, light, and movement – three things not to be found at Rosenvold. His occupation brings him in contact with interesting people and new ideas, with the possibility of disease.

Regina's presence as maid in the house creates a daily reminder of Captain Alving. It also prompts her anger at the end of the play, when she discovers that she is half a "lady."

Engstrand's carpentry establishes him as a working man, but it also gives him a certain power. He builds, but he can take away. He assigns guilt to Pastor Manders, then absolves it by taking the blame for the fire on himself.

Where these characters live has a huge impact on them. Ibsen sets up a great war of North and South – Norway vs. Paris – and each character takes a side. Pastor Manders is the General for the North, advocating conformity and propriety, even if it causes suffering. His pal Engstrand is also for the North. Engstrand is moving to town because miserable men desire an outlet – his Sailor's Home (a.k.a. his brothel). He wants Regina on their team but she's all about Paris. A lively, vibrant girl, Regina is an unhappy slave in this dreary, rule-oriented house. She's hoping to hitch a ride on the horse of the Southern General, Oswald, whose impassioned arguments for sunshine, holidays, free love, and champagne sound pretty good to her. Where is Mrs. Alving? Somewhere in the middle. Caught in between the ideas of "duty" and the "joy of life," she's uncomfortable where she is, but also seems to be unwilling to leave.


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...Is Anything Really as it Seems Marion Graham Eng 125 Dr. Dolores Kiesler February 18, 2013 Is Anything Really as it Seems “A Doll’s House” is a play where nothing is as it seems; the play written by Henrik Ibsen was an extremely controversial play in that time. Many thought that Ibsen wrote as part of a feminist movement but when asked about this, Ibsen said that this wasn’t so he meant it to be about humanism. He saw it as, every person has the right to be who they wanted to be no matter what their gender was. In “A Doll’s House” everyone is keeping some kind of secret from some other character, that is till the very end where everything comes out and it causes hard feelings between some characters and some to come together. “A Doll’s House” is set during the holiday season. The Helmer is in the midst of getting ready for the Christmas season, buying presents and Christmas trees. Christmas and New Year’s celebrate the birth of Jesus and the renewal of the New Year. This is symbolic of the rebirth that the characters go through during the course of the play. Nora is awakened and brought to a realization that her marriage is in some ways, what one might call a sham. She realizes that to her husband she is not another person, not really. She is seen as most women at that time were as a second rate human being, somebody to satisfy man and take care of his needs, as well as help him in reproducing more human beings. She is unable to be her own person as......

Words: 692 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

Doll's Huose

...The Struggle for Identity in A Doll's House A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen, is a play that was written ahead of its time. In this play Ibsen tackles women's rights as a matter of importance. Throughout this time period it was neglected. A Doll's House was written during the movement of Naturalism, which commonly reflected society. Ibsen acknowledges the fact that in 19th century life the role of the woman was to stay at home, raise the children and attend to her husband. Nora Helmer is the character in A Doll House who plays the 19th woman and is portrayed as a victim. Michael Meyers said of Henrik Ibsen's plays: "The common denominator in many of Ibsen's dramas is his interest in individuals struggling for and authentic identity in the face of tyrannical social conventions. This conflict often results in his characters' being divided between a sense of duty to themselves and their responsibility to others."(1563) All of the aspects of this quote can be applied to the play A Doll House, in Nora Helmer's character, who throughout much of the play is oppressed, presents an inauthentic identity to the audience and throughout the play attempts to discovery her authentic identity. The inferior role of Nora is extremely important to her character. Nora is oppressed by a variety of "tyrannical social conventions." Ibsen in his "A Doll's House" depicts the role of women as subordinate in order to emphasize their role in society. Nora is......

Words: 1496 - Pages: 6