I have a large number of scripts at home and one book that I keep picking up and thinking 'Oh, no, we can't do that' is a compilation of plays by Ibsen.
This weekend I decided I'd start reading one of the plays, and having done a Google decided the one to go for was A Doll's House. I started reading it - and was so entranced by the writing and the story that I continued to read it in one sitting. I was completely hooked! And I do hope that you will be to!
The play, first performed in 1879 in Denmark, is important because it marked a turning point in the theatre with its critical look at 19th Century marriage norms and scandalous ending! Indeed in 1891 Ibsen very reluctantly wrote an alternate ending, under strong pressure, for the German theatre. It is just a few lines, and we can read them at the end of the afternoon: they give the play an entirely different meaning and his reluctance is understandable.
I do not want to give away the ending, but Ibsen was inspired by the belief that "a woman cannot be herself in modern society," since it is "an exclusively male society, with laws made by men and with prosecutors and judges who assess feminine conduct from a masculine standpoint." However in 1898 he insisted that his writing was not propaganda for the Women's Rights Movement but for humanity.
- Nora Helmer – wife of Torvald, mother of three, is living out the ideal of the 19th-century wife, but leaves her family at the end of the play.
- Torvald Helmer – Nora's husband, a newly promoted bank manager, suffocates but professes to be enamoured of his wife.
- Dr. Rank – a rich family friend, he is secretly in love with Nora. He is terminally ill, and it is implied that his "tuberculosis of the spine" originates from a venereal disease contracted by his father.
- Kristine Linde – Nora's old school friend, widowed, is seeking employment (sometimes spelled Christine in English translations). She was in a relationship with Krogstad prior to the play's setting.
- Nils Krogstad – an employee at Torvald's bank, single father, he is pushed to desperation. A supposed scoundrel, he is revealed to be a long-lost lover of Kristine.
I like to find some pictures to give you a flavour of the plays we are reading. Looking for pictures for this play was fascinating.
Here is a picture of the original German production, which had the ending re-written.
... and these - the gilded cage a repeated metaphor.
And finally this one, which reminded me of The Yellow Wallpaper, an important feminist text from 1892.
Henrik Johan Ibsen (1828 – 1906)
Born in Norway, Ibsen is a well-known playwright, director and poet, and a founder of the Modernism movement in theatre. He has many major works which are considered as classics today.
Several of his later dramas were considered scandalous to many of his era, when European theatre was expected to model strict morals of family life and propriety. Ibsen's later work examined the realities that lay behind many façades, revealing much that was disquieting to many contemporaries. It utilized a critical eye and free inquiry into the conditions of life and issues of morality.