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2013-05-28 00:22:20 (UTC)

IBSEN: His Assumptions and Mine

Part 1:

Henrik Johan Ibsen(1828-1906) was a major 19th-century Norwegian playwright, theatre director, and poet. He is often referred to as "the father of realism." He is one of the founders of Modernism in the theatre. His major works include: Peer Gynt, An Enemy of the People, A Doll's House, Hedda Gabler, Ghosts, The Wild Duck, and The Master Builder, among others. He is the most frequently performed dramatist in the world after Shakespeare. A Doll's House became the world's most performed play by the early 20th century.

Ibsen completely rewrote the rules of drama with a realism which was to be adopted by Chekhov and others. His works are one of the major foundations of the theatre in our day. Beginning significantly with dramatists like Ibsen, novelists like Dickens and Hardy, scientists like Darwin, psychologists like Freud, and sociologists like Durkheim, many societal assumptions were seen as outworn shibboleths and archaic creeds. They needed to be challenged if not totally dismantled.

Part 2:

Playwrights like Ibsen spoke directly about issues in society, and this is considered to be one of the factors that makes a play, or a novel, art, and not just entertainment. Ibsen had a profound influence on the young James Joyce among others. Joyce venerated him in his early autobiographical novel "Stephen Hero".1 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Wikipedia, 23/5/’13.

Your exploration of interior life1
represented a major advance in
modern theatre, and your work
was partly autobiographical. As2
got older you became obsessed
with younger women, a common
event in many men’s lives, giving
a basis to the dirty old-man story.

You did not trust society and, in
fact, questioned its customs and
mores, all your life. The basis of
society has been examined more
& more since the late 19th fin de
siecle years, years in which a new
religion in Iran challenged Islamic
assumptions, and helped the Babi-
Baha’i blood-bath to continue into
the 20th century, & even trickle into
our time, this 21st century, in Iran:
where my co-religionists still suffer
their beleaguered fate in prison and
create a global, continuing, diaspora.

They were years which saw your
last works; your insights into the
human condition did not seem as
acute as in the many earlier plays.3

1 This poem speaks to, or addresses, Ibsen directly.
2 I first studied Ibsen more than 50 years ago in 1962 in grade 12 in Ontario. My writing, like Ibsen’s, and a myriad other writers, has come to be highly autobiographical. Some literary critics argue that all writing is autobiographical, if not directly, then indirectly.
3 I wrote this prose-poem after reading a review of a current production of Ibsen’s The Master Builder at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theatre. The review was by Martin Filler: “Ibsen’s Broken Homes,” in The New York Review of Books, 23 May 2013.

Ron Price