A Study of Six Plays by Ibsen

By Brian W. Downs | Go to book overview

THE WILD DUCK
(Vildanden) 1884

I

THE two plays by Ibsen which lie between A Doll's House ( 1879) and The Wild Duck ( 1884) are Ghosts ( Gengangere, 1881) and An Enemy of the People ( En Folkefiende, 1882). About Ghosts and the manner with which it links up to, and supplements, A Doll's House, everything needful for present purposes has already been touched upon, except the great scandal which it provoked. Ibsen's staunch defender, Jonas Lie, said that Ghosts was 'a major operation with the knife plunged straight into the unmentionable'1--rotten marriages, sexual misconduct, venereal disease, elimination of the unfit, etc. Small wonder that the public exposure of such things, particularly in a form commonly associated with social entertainment, was fiercely and widely resented. Ibsen had invited the public to a party for which they had had to pay, and then thrown a stink-bomb into their midst.

The reception of Ghosts gave its author the theme of his next play without any of the outward and inward searching and sifting he found necessary at other times. If he was to be accused of malodorous practices he would examine more fully than his critics the justification for indulging in them. So he invented Dr Thomas Stockmann, the large-hearted medical officer to a Spa Committee, who publicly discloses the grave scandal that the Spa's water supply is tainted, and is ignominiously deprived of his livelihood as an Enemy of the People: at the same time, Ibsen made it clear that, to all but those who are 'to Themselves--Enough' and in fact in the eyes of everybody outside the Spa, Thomas Stockmann was doing his duty and that in principles and personality, he was, for all his precipitancy and tactlessness, much to be preferred to those who hounded him out of office.

____________________
1
Cit. Centenary Edition, IX, 32.

-147-

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A Study of Six Plays by Ibsen
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Prefatory Note xi
  • Chronological List of Ibsen's Writings xii
  • Love's Comedy 1
  • Brand - 1866 34
  • Peer Gynt - 1867 70
  • A Doll's House 104
  • The Wild Duck 147
  • The Master Builder 178
  • Select Bibliography 206
  • Index 209
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