A Study of Six Plays by Ibsen

By Brian W. Downs | Go to book overview

THE MASTER BUILDER
(Bygmester Solness) 1892

I

THE WILD DUCK was followed at the normal two years' interval by Rosmersholm ( 1886), Rosmersholm by The Lady from the Sea ( 1888), and The Lady from the Sea by Hedda Gabler ( 1890). Rosmersholm, in re-echoing the great constitutional struggle of Left and Right in Norway, seems to represent something of a return to the social dramas preceding The Wild Duck. Its directly political message, however, amounts to 'a plague o' both your houses', and the drama turns on whether or not Rosmer and Rebecca can find any grounds for remaining alive. After Rosmersholm the outside world, in which political parties clash and newspapers write about it, ceases to exist for Ibsen's characters and for Ibsen himself even more completely than it had done in The Wild Duck: the dramas henceforward are all inner dramas, as indeed Rosmer's had been, of the inhibited personality contending with its inhibitions.1 In The Lady from the Sea the struggle ends in victory,2 but Hedda Gabler is steeped in gloom with the same (if fewer) macabre flashes of sardonic humour as The Wild Duck.

A couple of months after the publication of Hedda Gabler in February 1891, the author told his German translator, Elias,3 that he had conceived the idea of a new play in vague outline

____________________
1
This is true, I think, even of Little Eyolf, though it affords a partial exception to them generalisations since at the end the outside world is called on, rather sketchily, to redress the balance of the inner world.
2
Even this is denied by many critics. Hans, for instance ( Ibsens Selbstporträt in seinen Dramen, 1911, p. 173), contrasts the 'defeat' of Ellida Wangel in her effort to free herself from a Philistine, loveless environment with Nora Helmer's victory. It is curious that up to this time outdoor scenes in Ibsen's plays are generally associated with comedy, and The Lady from the Sea takes place entirely out-of-doors: to be sure, the later When We Dead Awaken has no indoor scenes, and the fresh air actually kills John Gabriel Borkman.
3
Repeated by him in 'Christianiafahrt' in New Rundschau, XVII, ii, 1462.

-178-

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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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