View Full Version : Kierkegaard's Christian – through the eyes of Ibsen

10-31-2008, 09:07 PM
Has anyone read Henrik Ibsen’s play ‘Brand’, written as an epic poem with a radical and compelling Christian theology?

The young (Lutheran?) priest Brand and his wife Agnes are outrageous and heroic in their ‘naught or all’ struggle of the will, towards death. It is my surmise that through Brand and Agnes, Ibsen portrays the 'true Christian' of great Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard - an unordained priest who died a decade before the publication of ‘Brand’. Disclaiming knowledge of Kierkegaard, Ibsen once said he 'had read very little and understood even less'.

‘Brand’ combines two Biblical ideas:

And he [God] said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. (Exodus 33:20)

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

Midway through the play, Agnes has voluntarily given up everything, even the tiny cap of her deceased toddler, Alf. Having sacrificed ‘all’, in a ‘leap of faith’ she becomes ‘pure in heart’, ‘sees’ God, and so must die. ‘ As Brand says earlier to his aged mother, ‘Your guilt you never shall put by | Till you, like Job, in ashes die. ’

At the end, Brand too has committed and lost all: his mother, his mission, his great church, his congregation, his wife and only son, his inheritance, his courage and even sees compromise itself – shot down like a ‘black hawk’. Consequently pure in heart, this firebrand of a Christian inevitably ‘sees’ God, and is snuffed out by the Almighty’s frozen avalanche. Rightly understood, this divine crushing of man’s will is a ‘work of love’ for ‘God is love’. So, the play ends.

In Kierkegaard’s words, ‘I can do nothing: He, everything’. The unembellished theology of the Danish genius seems well illustrated in ‘Brand’.

Any comments?


03-16-2009, 12:49 AM
Reading today 'The Fire Sermon' from T.S. Elliot's 'The Waste Land', I noticed

To Carthage then I came

Burning burning burning burning
O Lord Thou pluckest me out
O Lord Thou pluckest


At the end of Ibsen's play, Brand is not so much burning as frozen. Nevertheless, compelling is the connection between the play's title and catastrophic end, with the Bible verse:

Zechariah 3:2___And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?

The paramount question of the play!