Sunteți pe pagina 1din 5

Thiswasfoundonline.

Afewinterestinglinesthatcouldbeusedinrelation
toliterarygenreseehighlighted.(andculturalcontextnotfocusedon)

ADoll'sHouseStudyGuide
IbsensADollsHouse(1879),writtenwhileIbsenwasinRomeandAmalfi,
Italy,wasconceivedatatimeofrevolutioninEurope.Chargedwiththe
feverofthe1848Europeanrevolutions,
anewmodernperspective
was
emergingintheliteraryanddramaticworld,challengingtheromantic
tradition.ItisIbsenwhocanbecreditedformasteringandpopularizingthe
realistdramaderivedfromthis
newperspective
.Hisplayswerereadand
performedthroughoutEuropeinnumeroustranslationslikealmostno
dramatistbefore.ADollsHousewaspublishedinCopenhagen,Denmark,
whereitpremiered.

Unexpectedatthetime***

HissuccesswasparticularlyimportantforNorwayandtheNorwegian
language.HavingbeenfreedfromfourcenturiesofDanishrulein1814,
NorwaywasjustbeginningtoshakeoffthelegacyofDanishdomination.A
DollsHousewaswritteninaformofNorwegianthatstillboreheavytraces
ofDanish.Ibsendeliberatelychosea
colloquiallanguagestyle
to
emphasizelocalrealism,thoughT
orvald
Helmerdoesspeakinwhat
MichaelMeyerhasdescribedasstuffyVictorianisms.Ibsenquickly
becameNorwaysmostpopulardramaticfigure.Butitistheuniversalityof
Ibsenswritings,particularlyofADollsHouse,thathasmadethisplayan
oftperformedclassic(seeAStageHistoryfordetailsoftheplayin
performance).

(ItisbelievedthattheplotofADollsHousewasbasedonaneventinIbsensownlife.In1870LauraKieler
hadsentIbsenasequeltoBrand,calledBrandsDaughters,andIbsenhadtakenaninterestinthepretty,
vivaciousgirl,nicknamingherthelark.Heinvitedhertohishome,andfortwomonthsinthesummerof1872,
shevisitedhishomeconstantly.Whenshemarried,acoupleofyearslater,herhusbandfellillandwas
ora
advisedtotakeavacationinawarmclimateandLaura,likeN doesintheplay,secretlyborrowedmoney
tofinancethetrip(whichtookplacein1876).Laurafalsifiedanote,thebankrefusedpayment,andshetold
herhusbandthewholestory.Hedemandedaseparation,removedthechildrenfromhercare,andonlytook
herbackaftershehadspentamonthinapublicasylum.

LauraandNorahavesimilarsoundingnames,buttheirstoriesdiverge.InIbsensplay,Noraneverreturns
home,nordoessheeverbreakthenewstoherhusband.Moreoverherethedifferenceismoststrikingitis
Norawhodivorcesherhusband.ThefinalactoftheplayrevealsTorvaldasgenerousandevensympathetic.

ADollsHousewasthesecondinaseriesofrealistplaysbyIbsen.Thefirst,ThePillarsofSociety(1877),had
causedastirthroughoutEurope,quicklyspreadingtotheavantgardetheatersoftheislandandthecontinent.
Inadoptingtherealistform,Ibsenabandonedhisearlierstyleofsagaplays,historicalepics,andverse
allegories.Ibsenslettersrevealthatmuchofwhatiscontainedinhisrealistdramasisbasedoneventsfrom
hisownlife.Indeed,hewasparticularlyinterestedinthepossibilityoftruewedlockaswellasinwomenin
general.Helaterwouldwriteaseriesofpsychologicalstudiesfocusingonwomen)

OneofthemoststrikingandoftnotedcharacteristicsofADollsHouse
isthewayitchallengesthetechnicaltraditionofthesocalledwellmade
playinwhichthefirstactoffersanexposition,thesecondasituation,
Thiswasthestandardformfromtheearliest
andthethirdanunraveling.
fablesuntilthetimeofADollsHouse,whichhelpedusherinanew,
alternativestandard.Ibsensplaywasnotableforexchangingthelastacts
unravelingforadiscussion,
onewhichleavestheaudienceuncertainabout
howtheeventswillconclude
.Criticsagreethat,untilthelastmomentsof
theplay,ADollsHousecouldeasilybejustanothermoderndrama
broadcastinganothercomfortablemorallesson.Finally,however,when
NoratellsTorvaldthattheymustsitdownanddiscussallthisthathasbeen
happeningbetweenus,theplaydivergesfromthetraditionalform.Withthis
newtechnicalfeature,ADollsHousebecameaninternationalsensation
andfoundedanewschoolofdramaticart.

Additionally,ADollsHousesubvertedanotherdramatictradition.Ibsens
realistdrama
disregardedthetraditionoffeaturinganoldermalemoral
figure.
Dr.Rank
,thecharacterwhoshouldservethisrole,isfarfroma
positivemoralforce.Instead,heisnotonlysickly,rottingfromadisease
pickedupfromhisfathersearliersexualexploits,butalsolascivious,openly
covetingNora.ThechoicetoportraybothDr.Rankandthepotentially
matronly
Mrs.Linde
asimperfecthumansseemedlikeanovelapproachat
thetime.

Therealcomplexity(asopposedtoastylizeddramaticromanticism)of
Ibsenscharactersremainssomethingofachallengeforactors.Many
actressesfinditdifficulttoportraybothasilly,immatureNorainthefirstact
orsoandtheserious,openmindedNoraoftheendofthelastact.Similarly,
actorsarechallengedtoportraythefulldepthofTorvaldscharacter.Many
aretemptedtoplayhimasaslimy,patronizingbrute,disregardingthe
charactersgenuinerangeofemotionandconviction.Suchcomplexity
associatesADollsHousewiththebestofWesterndrama.Theprinted
versionofADollsHousesoldoutevenbeforeithitthestage.

AmoreobviousimportanceofADollsHouseisthefeministmessagethat
rockedthestagesofEuropewhentheplaypremiered.
Norasrejectionof
marriageandmotherhoodscandalizedcontemporaryaudiences
.Infact,the
firstGermanproductionsoftheplayinthe1880susedanalteredending,
writtenbyIbsenattherequestoftheproducers.Ibsenreferredtothis
versionasabarbaricoutragetobeusedonlyinemergencies.

TherevolutionaryspiritandtheemergenceofmodernisminfluencedIbsens
choicetofocusonanunlikelyhero,ahousewife,inhisattackon
middleclassvalues.
QuicklybecomingthetalkofparlorsacrossEurope,
theplaysucceededinitsattempttoprovokediscussion.Infact,itisthe
numerouswaysthattheplaycanbereadandinterpretedthatmaketheplay
sointeresting.Eachnewgenerationhashadadifferentwayofinterpreting
thebook,fromseeingitasfeministcritiquetotakingitasaHegelian
allegoryofthespiritshistoricalevolution.Thisrichnessisanothersignofits
greatness.

Yetpreciselywhatsortofplayisit?GeorgeSteinerclaimsthattheplayis
foundedonthebeliefthatwomencanandmustberaisedtothedignityof
man,butIbsenhimselfbelievedittobemoreabouttheimportanceof
selfliberationthantheimportanceofspecificallyfemaleliberationyethis
contemporaryStrindbergcertainlydisagreed,himselfcallingtheplaya
barbaricoutragebecauseofthefeminismheperceiveditaspromoting.
TherearemanycomicsectionsintheplayonemightarguethatNoras
songbirdandsquirrelacts,aswellasherearlyflirtatiousconversations
withherhusband,areespeciallyhumorous.Still,likemanymodern
productions,ADollsHouseseemstofittheclassicaldefinitionofneither
comedynortragedy.Unusuallyforatraditionalcomedy,attheendthereis
adivorce,notamarriage,andtheplayimpliesthatDr.Rankcouldbedead
asthefinalcurtainfalls.Butthisisnotatraditionaltragedyeither,forthe
endingofADollsHousehasnosolidconclusion.
Theendingnotablyisleft
wideopen:thereisnobrutalevent,nocatharsis,justambiguity.Thisisa
playthatdefiesboundaries.