Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) was a famous Norwegian playwright whose works still raise much controversy and draw the public’s attention. In 1862, at the age of 34, Ibsen was forced to move to Italy. Several years later, the writer moved to Germany, where he created one of his most distinguished plays, A Doll’s House (1868) (“Henrik Ibsen Biography”). Ibsen’s other notable works include Brand (1862), Peer Gynt (1867), and Hedda Gabler (1890) (“Henrik Ibsen Biography”). The author had a large body of work: he created 26 plays during his life (Lombardi) and about 300 poems (“Henrik Ibsen Biography”).
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The themes raised in Ibsen’s plays were so important that they continue to be popular even nowadays. The author mostly focused his works on family relationships. In his most famous play, A Doll’s House and Hedda Gabler, Ibsen concentrated on the roles of women in the family and society. Many critics dedicated research to analyzing whether Ibsen’s female characters were feminists. In her study on A Doll’s House, Moi remarks that Nora, the main character, suffered from being misunderstood both as a woman and as a human being (256-257).
In the analysis of Hedda Gabler, Farfan mentions that Hedda, the main heroine, was a powerful woman who strived to express her femininity (61-62). Thus, it is relevant to notice that relationships between genders and within the society constituted some of the most crucial themes in Ibsen’s plays.
The features given by Ibsen to his female characters made scholars consider him “the first male feminist” (Blake). Whereas in real life, women appealed for autonomy and the extension of their rights, no author before Ibsen reflected those demands on the stage (Blake). In the works of other playwrights, the main characters were predominantly men. Ibsen revolutionized the theater in that respect by putting women in the first place and allowing their characters to tell the story of all the female population.
Henrik Ibsen was associated with a literary trend called the Modernist theater movement. He was considered the founder of the movement (Lombardi). The focus on people’s relationships that persisted in his plays allowed Ibsen to “break new ground” and made him an innovative artist in the literature (Lombardi). Also, the playwright received the nickname “the father of realism” due to concentrating on domestic interactions in his works (Lombardi). The purpose of realism was to enable the reflection of real-life at the theater and create natural dialogue.
Having spent many years in exile and having written most of his famous works in several different countries, Ibsen returned to Norway in 1891 as a “literary hero” (“Henrik Ibsen Biography”). The writer ran Christiania theater, where large numbers of fans could communicate with him and express their admiration. Ibsen was happily married and had two children, one of them with his wife, and another one from an early relationship (“Henrik Ibsen Biography”). Whereas the author provided both sons with financial support, he never met the elder one.
Henrik Ibsen’s literary life allows referring to him as one of the most famous and controversial authors of all times. The themes he raised in his plays made the audience reconsider their attitudes towards male-female relationships as well as the position of women in society. Even today, Ibsen’s works fascinate the audiences and challenge viewers to analyze the themes raised in them.
Blake, Elissa. “Was Playwright Henrik Ibsen the First Male Feminist?” The Sydney Morning Herald. 2014. Web.
Farfan, Penny. “From “Hedda Gabler” to “Votes for Women”: Elizabeth Robins’s Early Feminist Critique of Ibsen.” Theatre Journal, vol. 48, no. 1, 1996, pp. 59-78.
“Henrik Ibsen Biography.” Biography. 2015. Web.
Lombardi, Esther. “Henrik Ibsen’s List of Works.” ThoughtCo.. 2017. Web.
Moi, Toril. “First and Foremost a Human Being”: Idealism, Theatre, and Gender in A Doll’s House.” Modern Drama, vol. 49, no. 3, 2006, pp. 256-284.