Henrik Ibsen - A Dolls House, The Lady from the Sea, & Ghosts


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It depicts a mermaid who haa become stranded on land, and has died. Ballested himself speaks of how he had acclimatised after the theatrical company he had been working for had broken up. This ability we have to adapt ourselves, to change in order to accommodate ourselves to our circumstances, allows us to live, and not perish like the mermaid: it may even be our saving grace.

Like Rebecca West in Rosmersholm , she is an outsider: and, again like Rebecca, she is originally from the far north — not from the banks of a narrow fjord, as here, but from the shores of the vast, open sea. But how she longs for that open sea from her younger days! Dear God, the water here is never fresh. The water is sick here in the fjord.

Of course, by this stage, we all know a symbol when we see one. But what exactly does that open sea represent? This is a question not even to be asked.

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Seeing Ellida so obviously unhappy, her husband, the kindly Dr Wangel, offers for her sake to move north, away from the environment in which he had lived all his life; but he mistakes the symbol for that which it symbolises. The narrow fjord, the open sea — these are but symbols: the underlying malaise lies deeper.

Ellida is the second wife of Dr Wangel, a man much older than her. He had been a widower when he had first met her, and when he had proposed to her, she had agreed, because, as she later explains, for no better reason than that she had not been in a position to refuse.

But Ellida has never settled into life in her new home, with her husband, and with his daughters from his first marriage: she has remained detached from them all, and, while her husband is pained and concerned by her detachment, the two daughters are resentful: the elder, Bolette, not much younger than Ellida herself, generally tries to keep her dislike hidden under her polite exterior, while the younger daughter, Hilde — who, as her sister correctly intuits, secretly longs to be close to her stepmother — frequently comes close to expressing her dislike openly.

Nor, frankly, has she tried to: she has throughout remained remote and distant. But before the reason unravels, we find ourselves in a strange world where the real and the unreal seem to mingle. For Ellida is, quite literally, haunted. Back in the north, where she had grown up, she had once promised herself to an American sailor. He was a mysterious figure, and, most likely, a dangerous man: he had disappeared after the captain of his ship had been found murdered, and it had been generally assumed that it was he who had been the murderer.

Indeed, as Ellida reveals later, he had admitted to her that he had killed the captain, and, although he did not go into the details of the matter, gave her to understand that he had not been at fault.

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Henrik Ibsen: the demon inside A Doll's House

But he had to leave. And before he left, he promised Ellida that he would come back for her. They were, in a sense, already married: they had put their rings together on a keychain, and had thrown it far into the sea. They were married themselves to the vast, mysterious sea itself.

The Greatest Books: Written by Henrik Ibsen

And he seemed to exert a strange power over her. His eyes, she claimed, changed colour with the sea itself. And this strange, dangerous man, with eyes the colour of the sea, continued to haunt her. Three years earlier, this American sailor had, most likely, died in a shipwreck. Lyngstrand, the young consumptive who visits the Wangels, had been a sailor, and had nearly died as well in that same shipwreck. But one day, he found in the papers a wedding announcement: the woman he loved has married another man.

Lyngstrand had heard his howl of despair. But later, the American sailor had told him in a calm voice:. And she will come to join me, even if I go as a drowned man to claim her.

About the Book

And Lyngstrand, who fancies himself a sculptor, imagines a work he will create, with the deceiving woman lying asleep in bed, dreaming, while standing over her was a ghostly drowned man, still wet from the sea, returning to keep his promise. This story naturally resonates with Ellida. And he has been visiting her ever since.

And he terrifies her. Not with me. We are very far now from the very realistic dramatic world Ibsen had been presenting till now. We are far even from the world of Rosmersholm , with its mythical white horses that presage doom. The setting here is realistic enough, but we have entered the realm of ghost stories, of folklore.

Of course, others too see the ghost if ghost he is : but the creation of the mind taking on real, physical form should not surprise us from the author of Peer Gynt , a play in which reality and unreality prove infinitely malleable. The past cannot remain repressed: it will out. Here, that stranger with eyes like the sea does not merely haunt Ellida at nights: he keeps his promise, and comes to the town claim her. Or, more prosaically than either, he may be a living man who had, against expectations, escaped the shipwreck.

In a play such as this, in which reality and unreality meld into each other, it hardly seems to matter. Ellida is not the only one who sees the stranger. Her husband, to whom she confides, also sees her.

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Lyngstrand and the others see him too. But things are more complicated. And, as in the earlier play, the wife cannot continue to live a lie, and has some serious things to say to her husband that are painful. Or hiding the truth. The real truth of the matter is that you came out there and bought me. I agreed to the bargain. Left home and sold myself to you. Depicting one woman's struggle to be treated as a rational human being, and not merely a wife, mother or fragile doll, the play changed the course of theatrical history and sparked debates worldwide about the roles of men and women in society.

Ibsen's follow-up Ghosts was no less radical, with its unrelenting investigation into religious hypocrisy, family secrets and sexual double-dealing. These two masterpieces are accompanied here by The Pillars of the Community and An Enemy of the People, both set in Norwegian coastal towns and exploring the tensions and dark compromises at the heart of society.

The new Penguin series of Ibsen's major plays offer the best available editions in English, under the general editorship of Tore Rem. The plays have been freshly translated by the best modern translators and are based on the recently published, definitive Norwegian edition of Ibsen's works.

They all include new introductions and editorial apparatus by leading scholars. Other books in this series. Meditations Marcus Aurelius. Add to basket. Letters from a Stoic Seneca. The Republic Plato. Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad. Frankenstein Mary Shelley. Eichmann in Jerusalem Hannah Arendt. Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte. The Three Theban Plays Sophocles. Thus Spoke Zarathustra Friedrich Nietzsche. The Prince Niccolo Machiavelli. Twelve Angry Men Reginald Rose. Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen. Beyond Good and Evil Friedrich Nietzsche.

Some critics say it was Ibsen's response to the backlash he received for Ghosts. With Hedda Gabler , Ibsen created one of the theater's most notorious characters.

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Hedda, a general's daughter, is a newlywed who has come to loathe her scholarly husband, but yet she destroys a former love who stands in her husband's way academically. The character has sometimes been called the female Hamlet, after Shakespeare's famous tragic figure. In , Ibsen returned to Norway as a literary hero. He may have left as a frustrated artist, but he came back as internationally known playwright.

For much of his life, Ibsen had lived an almost reclusive existence. But he seemed to thrive in the spotlight in his later years, becoming a tourist attraction of sorts in Christiania. He also enjoyed the events held in his honor in to mark his seventieth birthday. His later works seem to have a more self-reflective quality with mature lead characters looking back and living with the consequences of their earlier life choices. And each drama seems to end on a dark note. The first play written after his return to Norway was The Master Builder. The title character encounters a woman from his past who encourages him to make good on a promise.

In When We Dead Awaken , written in , an old sculptor runs into one of his former models and tries to recapture his lost creative spark. It proved to be his final play. In , Ibsen had a series of strokes that left him unable to write. He managed to live for several more years, but he was not fully present during much of this time. Ibsen died on May 23, His last words were "To the contrary! Considered a literary titan at the time of his passing, he received a state funeral from the Norwegian government.

While Ibsen may be gone, his work continues to be performed around the world.

Henrik Ibsen - A Dolls House, The Lady from the Sea, & Ghosts Henrik Ibsen - A Dolls House, The Lady from the Sea, & Ghosts
Henrik Ibsen - A Dolls House, The Lady from the Sea, & Ghosts Henrik Ibsen - A Dolls House, The Lady from the Sea, & Ghosts
Henrik Ibsen - A Dolls House, The Lady from the Sea, & Ghosts Henrik Ibsen - A Dolls House, The Lady from the Sea, & Ghosts
Henrik Ibsen - A Dolls House, The Lady from the Sea, & Ghosts Henrik Ibsen - A Dolls House, The Lady from the Sea, & Ghosts
Henrik Ibsen - A Dolls House, The Lady from the Sea, & Ghosts Henrik Ibsen - A Dolls House, The Lady from the Sea, & Ghosts
Henrik Ibsen - A Dolls House, The Lady from the Sea, & Ghosts Henrik Ibsen - A Dolls House, The Lady from the Sea, & Ghosts
Henrik Ibsen - A Dolls House, The Lady from the Sea, & Ghosts Henrik Ibsen - A Dolls House, The Lady from the Sea, & Ghosts
Henrik Ibsen - A Dolls House, The Lady from the Sea, & Ghosts Henrik Ibsen - A Dolls House, The Lady from the Sea, & Ghosts

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