Whenever groups of people join together to pay homage to the achievements of some literary artist, I cannot help thinking of what T. S. Eliot wrote about the reputation of Ben Jonson: "To be universally accepted; to be damned by the praise that quenches all desire to read the book; to be afflicted by the imputation of virtues which excite the least pleasure; and to be read only by historians and antiquaries—this is the most personal conspiracy of approval."
The celebration of the 150th anniversary of Ibsen's birth has made us conscious that his reputation is considerably more muscular than that. After all, he is being read by other than antiquaries and historians—by those of us who teach him, for example, and by the students of those of us who teach. But I cannot throw off the suspicion that, like Ben Jonson, Henrik Ibsen may have become something of an academic icon, who has entered our libraries without finding a place in our minds, a familiar figure in our classroom, but a relative stranger to our stage. It is true that the Ibsen Sesquicentennial is at present inspiring productions here and there in various parts of the country, as did the Pirandello Centennial some years ago. But if the productions of Henry IV and Right You Are in 1967 are any guide, the performances today of Peer Gynt and The Wild Duck and A Doll's House will not be followed by much in the way of further celebration, once the candles on the cake have been____________________
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Publication information: Book title: Henrik Ibsen. Contributors: Harold Bloom - Editor. Publisher: Chelsea House. Place of publication: Philadelphia. Publication year: 1999. Page number: 133.
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