Henrik Ibsen


Advanced Search

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?''

I would have trouble coming up with a reading that viewed the fall of Solness as a 'happy' one (perhaps reminiscent of the Fortunate Fall...). His fall, literal and figurative, doesn't strike me as being a happy one. But is it a tragic fall? In any event, what courage by Ibsen to portray the dramatic (and perhaps tragic) fall of Solness by means of a physical fall, meaning how on earth is he going to do a satisfactory job on this? (An aside: I don't know Norwegian and I don't know if the 'fall' in any Norwegian expression for 'dramatic fall' is the same 'fall' used for a physical fall.) Is it really being linear-minded and literal-minded just to think that the physical fall of Solness stands for his tragic fall? I would look to the narcissism of Solness as my way into this matter. And I would call it his magical narcissism, his belief that he can will things into being. And I would add one more word there....'youth' as in narcissism of youth or something like that. At the end of the play, Solness's youthful aggressive and self-confident ways come back to destroy him, is a tentative reading. I would even see Hilde as partaking in this narcissism. Maybe Ragnar and his father stand for something more solid, more community-minded. But I am really struck by the 'magical narcissism.' This is something like obsessive-compulsive behaviour, in my view, and it is very modern. I would love to hear from some Ibsen scholars or fans on this topic, if just to see if I am on the right track or not! I think I like these forums and I hope to participate from time to time. K. H.


Ibsen and Comedy?

As a self confessed comedy buff any plays of Henrik that will make me laugh or considered comedic?


Play on Ibsens Life

Hi all, Just wondered if there is a play that exists based on Henrik Ibsen's life? If so, can someone point me in the right direction of it please? Looking for different plays to put on with my theatre company Crimson Horse :) :thumbs_up


Emperor and Galilean - Countercurrents

Ibsen spent eight years writing the double play he regarded as his seminal work, Emperor and Galilean (1873), dramatizing the last decade of the erudite Julian, nephew of the first Christian emperor, Constantine the Great. In 361 AD, the 30-year-old pristine Julian succeeds the murderous Constantius II as Roman emperor. Emperor Julian, labelled the Apostate, dies three years later in a Persia from a spear wound. http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/toj/img/julian.jpg Shocking is the transition of Julian from lone man of integrity - in a Christian empire crippled by mediocrity and corruption - to deified tyrant. But more shocking is the transition of Christianity from impotent complacency to vigorous and compassionate fervour under Julian's escalating persecution. Ibsen's subtext is fascinating.


Ibsen on stage and film

Having seen a few of Ibsen plays on film, I have been disappointed by what has been cut for the performance. Removing a dozen or more lines from Ibsen seems to alter the meaning of the whole. Am I alone in this?


Kierkegaard's Christian – through the eyes of Ibsen

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 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? http://www.schauspielhaus.ch/images/plays/BRAND_BG_1.jpg


Peer Gynt - a poem!

After reading most of the later plays, the stream of consciousness that is Peer Gynt is a shock to the system. And the play seems so long. Should I attempt 'Brand'?


Ibsen - Interlinked and Stunning

Is anyone else enchanted by massive interlinking, combined with the unexpected, in Ibsen plays? I find myself beginning to understand each play weeks after reading it. So much, in so few words.


Shoot "The Wild Duck"!

Alone in the attic, Hedvig finally shoots 'the wild duck', rescued from the sexual adventures of Werle, her father. Therefore, Hjalmar repents of rejecting Hedvig, in a glorious vindication of idealistic Gregers, Hedvig's half-brother. Is there more?


Assignment on the Wild Duck

Hello all, I'm currently in my last year of IB higher level english and I have been set a task to write a creative piece about some aspect of The Wild Duck. After reading over the play a couple times, I have decided on what I believe could be a potentially strong piece of work. I decided to write a reflection from the point of the doctor Relling (Gregers opposite half) about the sudden death of Hedvig. As the criteria for the assignment requires, I intend to write from Relling's point of view, in his voice and personality, and focus on the themes of the play and their meaning (such as lies, truths, blindness, etc.) by reflecting on how Hedvig happened to kill herself under Relling's application of the "life illusion" in the Ekdal household. Any advice/opinions on this task I'm getting into would be greatly appreciated!


Post a New Comment/Question on Ibsen

Quizzes on Henrik Ibsen

No quizzes available to take yet.

Please submit a quiz here.


Related links for Henrik Ibsen

Here is where you find links to related content on this site or other sites, possibly including full books or essays about Henrik Ibsen written by other authors featured on this site.

    Sorry, no links available.






Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Email:
Sonnet-a-Day Newsletter
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.
Email: