Henrik Ibsen (Critical Heritage Series) by Michael Egan

By Michael Egan

Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906). Norwegian dramatist, quite often stated because the founding father of glossy prose drama. Writings comprise: A Doll's condominium, Ghosts, Rosmersholm. quantity covers interval 1872-1906.

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Sample text

These two communities, with their cultural, linguistic and geographic differences, overlapped only slightly; we are dealing with two histories, not one. Yet where they did come into contact the effect was crucial. 24 On the other hand, it is probable that Anderson’s subsequent volte face over Ibsen, which led him in later years to condemn what he took to be the improprieties rampant in the prose tragedies, was affected by his contact with the eastern Puritan tradition in the criticism of men such as William Winter, theatre reviewer on Greeley’s Tribune.

Or rather, he broke into it by mining the auriferous 12 INTRODUCTION vein of European social comedy and transforming its emphases; he created the tragedy of manners. But during the nineties all this was by no means clear. Ibsen was confusion and chaos. He was ‘gloomy’ because where levity was anticipated he was serious, ‘boring’ because where action was wanted he analysed, ‘obscene’ because where titillation was customary he judged. Arthur Symons and Ibsen’s other defenders in England were compelled to remind his attackers what they already well knew: that Ibsen ‘paints ordinary life; his people are…the people one meets in the City, one’s lawyer, one’s banker, the men one hears discussing stocks and shares…’ 16 Symons’s catalogue is of course revealing in its ingenuousness; but it illustrates sufficiently the point I am making.

Some of the smaller journals almost succeeded in recreating the spirit of 1891: ‘Deplorably dull’ was the judgment of the Referee; ‘A work more dreary in theme or more contrary to real life cannot be imagined,’ complained Lloyd’s Weekly News. But the decade had gone, the century had turned; Ibsen had come to stay and everybody knew it. When, later in the year, The Vikings at Helgeland was staged at the Imperial under the direction of Gordon Craig, the Daily Chronicle greeted the event with banner headlines over three columns and two large illustrations in the text.

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