Henrik Ibsen's Life Essay

3733 words - 15 pages

Loyalty, duty, obligation. These are only some of the sociallaws that Henrik Ibsen wrote out against in his later works. Ibsen believedthat these bourgeois beliefs were hindering the individual's, as well as thenation's, realization of the self. To Ibsen, it was far more important tohave the freedom to express oneself than to adhere to outdated,conventional ideas. In "A Doll House" and "Ghosts", both heroines areforced to confront these social hindrances. Both women attempt toovercome these powerful restraints in their attempts to find themselves,one more successfully than the other."Ibsen's effect on his contemporaries and his influence on thecourse of modern drama were immediate and profound".1 More than anyother dramatist, he gave theater a new vitality by bringing into Europeanbourgeois drama an ethical gravity, a psychological depth, and a socialsignificance which the theater had lacked since the days of Shakespeare.For the better part of fifty years, Ibsen contributed to giving Europeandrama a vitality and artistic quality comparable to the ancient Greektragedies. This contribution to theatrical history gained for Ibsen thereputation of being the greatest and most influential dramatist of his time.He "gave the stage its first distinctively modern characters:complex, contradictory individuals driven by a desire for something - the'joy of life', a sense of themselves - that they can barely recognize orname".2 His realistic contemporary drama was a continuation of theEuropean tradition of tragic plays.In these plays he portrays ordinary middle class people of hisday. Routines, and schedules usually taken for granted, are suddenlyturned upside down as they are forced to confront a major crisis. Nora, in"A Doll House", must finally confess to her husband that she borrowedmoney illegally in a desperate attempt to save him. A fact she is terrifiedto reveal. Mrs. Alving in "Ghosts" must confront herself, the ghosts whichshe carries around with her, and those she perpetuates into the lives of thechildren in her care. She is forced to come to terms with her owncowardice in the face of stringent social norms. Ibsen makes it painfullyclear that these women have only themselves to blame, and forces them todeal with that knowledge.It is the tragic life feeling that gives Ibsen's drama its uniquequality. This experience of missing out on life and plodding along in astate of living death. The alternative is pictured as an existence infreedom, truth and love, in short, a happy life. In Ibsen's world the maincharacter strives toward a goal, but this struggle leads out into the cold, toloneliness. Yet the possibility of opting for another route is always there,one can chose human warmth and contact. The problem for Ibsen'sprotagonists is that the choices can be deceiving, and the individual cannotalways see the consequences of his decision.His characters are distinguished by their staunch,well-established bourgeois lives. Nevertheless, their world is...

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