Henrik Ibsen


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Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), Norwegian dramatist wrote the contemporary drama A Doll's House (1879);

"Our home has been nothing but a play-room. I’ve been your doll-wife here, just as at home I was Papa’s doll-child. And the children have been my dolls in their turn. I liked it when you came and played with me, just as they liked it when I came and played with them. That’s what our marriage has been, Torvald."--Nora Helmer, act 3

Internationally acclaimed during his lifetime and one hundred years after his death, Ibsen remains amongst the most popular studied and produced playwrights ever. Some say second only to Shakespeare. Edvard Munch, famous Norwegian painter, is said to have been inspired by his works. Originally written in Norwegian, translators have devoted themselves to the often difficult task of capturing the nuance and subtleties of his themes.

Henrik Johan Ibsen was born 20 March 1828 in the house then-called `Stockmannsgården' in the port town of Skien, Norway, the son of Marichen and Knud Ibsen, a merchant. The bustling port town, his father's merchant company and decline in fortunes would profoundly affect Ibsen's life and work. While apprenticing with a chemist Ibsen found his true calling, penning Catiline (1850), a tragedy in verse. He then attended Christiania (now Oslo) University where he edited the student paper. By his early twenties however he was completely immersed in the writing and direction of a number of successful dramatic productions throughout Norway.

While living in Germany, in 1858 Ibsen married Suzannah Thoreson with whom he would have a son. Among his many works produced during this time were The Pretenders (1863); Love's Comedy (1863); Brand (1866); Peer Gynt (1867); Emperor and Galilean (1873); Pillars of Society (1877), "The spirit of truth and the spirit of freedom—these are the pillars of society."; Ghosts (1881); and An Enemy of the People (1882). Hedda Gabler (1890) was published in Munich, Germany;

"In your power, all the same. Subject to your will and your demands. No longer free! No! That’s a thought I’ll never endure! Never."--Hedda Gabler, act 4.

As in A Doll's House the theme of suicide again recurs in Hedda Gabler. It has been said that Ibsen himself suffered from depression and at times contemplated suicide. Societal breakdown, stereotypes, class struggle and issues of morality dominate his characters. His later works of deep psychological questioning include The Wild Duck (1884); Rosmersholm (1886); The Lady from the Sea (1888); The Master Builder (1892); Little Eyolf (1894); John Gabriel Borkman (1896) and When We Dead Awaken (1899). Ibsen also wrote poetry, his first edition of Poems published in 1871, and he created a large amount of artwork over his lifetime in the form of watercolours, oils, cartoons, and sketches.

Although he travelled extensively and worked on stage productions in a number of other countries including Italy and Germany, Ibsen returned to Oslo to spend his final years. Plagued by ill health including paralysing strokes that caused him to be bedridden, he died peacefully on 23 May 1906. He lies buried in the Cemetery of Our Saviour, Vår Frelsers Gravlund, in Oslo, Norway. Many obituaries were published about him including a glowing tribute by Georg Brandes, Danish critic and scholar.

Biography written by C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc. Copyright Jalic Inc. 2006. All Rights Reserved.

The above biography is copyrighted. Do not republish it without permission.

Recent Forum Posts on Henrik Ibsen

The tragic fall of Solness in ''The Master Builder?''

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You'd recommend ..? :)

Hi there :) I've recently been reading a bit of Shaw and Joyce, and since those two were admirers of Ibsen, I would like to give him a try, too. But as I'm not familiar with any of his works, I wanted to ask you which play you'd recommend me, which one you've read yourself and liked / disliked, and / or your general opinion on Ibsen. Thanks in advance ! :)...


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