A Realistic Tragedy by Henrik Ibsen
IF MOLIÈRE AND French neoclassic drama were most strongly influential in the theater of the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and Shakespeare throughout the nineteenth, certainly Ibsen has exerted the greatest influence thus far upon the twentieth. He has been the "father" of modern drama, as we noted earlier, and Hedda Gabler is doubtless his most effective play in the theater and a most provocative drama.
Henrik Ibsen was born in 1828 in Skein, a shipping town on the southeast coast of Norway. His father was of mixed Danish, Scotch, and German descent; his mother, of German. Financial reverses removed the family from the big house in the center of town to poverty in a little broken-down farmhouse. The boy Henrik was given private schooling until he was fifteen; at that time he wanted to become an artist. At sixteen he left home for good, apprenticed to an apothecary at the seaport village of Grimstad, where he lived out his taciturn and lonely adolescence, compounding drugs and verse lampoons upon the customers, seething with private revolt and the revolutionary causes of 1848. By the time he was twenty-two, he had written a blank-verse tragedy, Cataline, which one of his two friends took up to Christiania ( Oslo) in a vain attempt to find a producer and publisher for him. Ibsen followed, and starved and wrote plays in the capital for a year or so. Then he fortunately secured appointment as "theater poet" of the new National Theater of Bergen, established by the great Norwegian violinist Ole Bull. In Bergen for six years--with a tour for study at the Royal Theater in Copenhagen--Ibsen wrote, translated, adapted, and directed plays, mastering at first hand the problems of theater and dramaturgy. He married at twenty-eight, then accepted an appointment at the second