Haymarket Theatre, 13 February 1913
A WORLD of shrines and sanctuaries, a world where women must bear the ordeal of glowing iron on naked flesh, a world which will always be challenging its God to speak out what He knows, to make clear whom He has chosen, to accomplish His blessings on the pure in heart. Such simple faith is not what you think of as the inspiration of the children of Ibsen. But it is the creative spirit, the essential inherent energy of The Pretenders. With every art he had at his command, pageantry, fascination of story, mystery and magic of phrase, symbolism and character upon the titanic plan, he set himself to conjure up the greatest of the ages of faith, the mediaeval world.
It would be manufacture of misty paradoxes to argue that Ibsen, like some of the greatest men of the last century, was born to love the middle ages and republish their gospel to a generation of economists and calculators. All that he cared for in that or any other moment of the past was its capacity to produce the heroic character, the 'great man with a great thing to pursue'. But he was in every phase of his thought a dramatist. When he wanted to write the tragedy of a man, splendidly equipped in mind and heart, but cursed with lack of faith in himself and his mission, it was almost inevitable that he should put his hero against a world where the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen were to everyone real as life.
We know that Skule, the soul-sick hero, and Hakon,