By Michael Egan
Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906). Norwegian dramatist, more often than not said because the founding father of sleek prose drama. Writings contain: A Doll's apartment, Ghosts, Rosmersholm. quantity covers interval 1872-1906.
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Extra resources for Henrik Ibsen (Critical Heritage Series)
An Enemy of the People, Ibsen’s next play, was reviewed everywhere at length, and the fact that he was commenting directly on the outcry which greeted Ghosts was not lost on his American reviewers. Interestingly, whereas in England most commentators took up Stockmann’s aphorism ‘the strongest man is he who stands most alone’, in the mid-west virtually every reviewer built his comments round the statement, ‘the majority is always wrong’. The English response perhaps reflects the interest in the Nietzschean Ubermensch in educated circles at this time; the mid-western reaction suggests the ambivalence of an immigrant’s relationship to the vaunted ideals of American democracy.
By the summer of 1891, after careful research, he was prepared to declare himself publicly an Ibsen supporter; by mid-1892, as Elizabeth Robins testified, he was an enthusiastic convert. It was soon after this that he made a small but significant attempt to learn Norwegian; thereafter, too impatient to attend on the efforts of Archer and Gosse, he used regularly to visit Miss Robins, who spoke the language, to have Ibsen’s latest play translated. 20 From this time onwards Ibsen’s example was increasingly to affect his work.
Truth attacked Ibsen as a ‘crazy fanatic, and determined socialist’, and the Queen dismissed the play as ‘weird and gloomy’. Even Beerbohm Tree, who was later to do so much for Ibsen’s reputation in this country, warned the members of the Dramatic and Musical Benevolent Fund campaign that ‘we are approaching an epoch when love as it has hitherto been used for stage purposes will be banished, the heroine be a protoplasm and the heavy villain a piece of bacillus’. On the other hand, one or two reviewers greeted the play with moderation and even approval.