Ibsen:Historical Analysis Of A Doll’s House Essay, Research Paper
To view a work of art separately from it?s environment, ignoring the context, will often undermine important aspects of the work. However, embracing the context will allow one to appreciate the full scope and depth of the piece. In order to fully absorb and understand it, one must consider factors in the artist?s life and surroundings, i.e. the context.
Henrik Ibsen created A Doll?s House between 1878 and 1880. Like any significant work of art the context not only influenced the play, but were essential parts of it.
Norway, in the early 19th century, was united with Sweden, who maintained seniority in the relationship. Norway?s crown was based in Sweden, and most Norwegians felt thier freedom was restricted. The linguistic difference that existed prohibited any cultural merging. A good example being the relationship between Denmark and Norway, the latter being a colony of Denmark?s until 1814. During the Danish rule of Norway, there was a cultural synthesis involving literature. This influence was still prominant during Ibsen?s time and throughout his work.
During the early part of the 19th century a patriotic movement materialized, mainly sparked by a student named Henrik Wergeland. He studied and popularized neglected folklore and other forgotten art and renewed confidence and pride in the otherwise disappearing Norwegian artists.
Wergeland and other patriots, including Ibsen had their opposition. The Party of Intelligence felt that Norway could only be redeemed by staying involved in the Euro- stream, while the patriots preached isolationism and felt that Norway could only find new strength from within itself. The Party considered the patriots crude and violent, while the patriots saw in the Party the future of the establishment they were currently trying to derail.
Nasjonalromantikken, or national romaticism, became a widely popular idea, in part because of Wergeland?s writings. This movement centered around a restored appreciation for Norway?s non- material resources, including the painters, musicians and folklorists. Asbjornsen and Moe researched, rewrote, and published collections of Norwegian folktales and restoration was begun on the Trondheim Cathedral, a very important piece of national pride.
There was much debate regarding language when new Norwegian dialects were created while the most commonly spoken language, Landsmaal, was not yet accepted as a written language. This caused many problems for the writers, as they spoke one language, but were forced to write in another. Aasmund Vinje, a schoolmaster and writer, created a written lanuage based on Landsmaal and helped advance towards a solution. Ibsen, like most writers, though, continued to work using the Dano – Norsk dialect, (Danish influenced Norwegian) called riksmaal, and spoke out against Landsmaal.
A Euro- romantic movement around the middle of the century produced many Norwegian artists including Andreas Munch, Bjornstjerne Bjornson, and Vinje. Wergeland?s sister, Fru Collett, published The Sheriff?s Daughters in 1855 and it was considered the first Norwegian novel of any stature. Danish writers continued to exert their influence when Hans Christain Anderson and Ingemann became popular and many Norsk writers looked to them for ideas and techniques.
During the 1870s, a Realist movement hit Norway and changed the writing of Ibsen, Bjornson, and the ?Father of the Norwegian Novel,? Kielland. During this time, prose drama and fiction dominated this Norsk, artistic rennaisance, while poetry had little or no place in it. Some saw poetry becoming popular around 1890, but this was more of a prose poetry, or prose that invoved the evocation of moods.
Henrik Ibsen was born on March 28, 1828 in the small, southern town of Skien. When he was young, Henrik?s father went bankrupt, which was considered very disgraceful at the time. This affected young Ibsen greatly and he used it to allegorize in The Wild Duck. Henrik attained an apprenticeship for a pharmacist, but despised the job and moved to Christiana, where he intended to attend school. Instead, he became the house poet and eventually stage manager at the Norske Theatre in Bergen. He then went back to Christiana where he directed at the Mollergate Theatre until 1862. During this time he married Susannah Thoreson and wrote The Vikings in Helgeland, which popularized him as a writer in Norway.
In 1864 he applied for a poet?s pension from the government but was refused. He became enraged at his homeland and left it, headed for Italy and Germany, though he still made known his love for his homeland. He continued to write and produced a number of plays and traveled to Egypt, among other countries. Ibsen was not pleased with the nationalism of the foreigners he traveled with. He offended many when he commented on this in a poem to a Swedish lady he knew, referring to “A herd of German wild pigs, almost tamed.” It made him glad he was from a smaller, ?non- competative,? country. He was also disgusted with the lack of religious importance in the Middle East, stating that the gods of Greece still live, and Zeus still moves in the capitol, but “Where is Horus? Where is Hathor? No trace exists, no memory.”
When in Rome, Ibsen began work on a play titled Et Dukkehjem. A Doll?s House (in English) is a drama in which a woman (Nora), as a result of certain events, realizes how one – sided her love for her husband is. Throughout their marriage, she is viewed as an object, rather than a caring equal. She leaves her husband, and her children, in the search for individuality and freedom.
At the time of it?s peformance, most viewers were offended at the way Nora spoke to her husband. At the time, marriage was a private thing, not suited for discussion in one of the most public of art forms, and divorce was something one did not bring up at all.
Many called Ibsen an anarchist for suggesting that women leave their families in search of themselves. Ibsen was not suggesting anyone do anything. His reply was that his job was to ask questions, not to answer them. He was mearly requesting that people look at, and think about, the social structure they support. One of Ibsen?s main ideologies was that every human being has the right to act on private judgement against conventional beliefs. The play reflects this clearly, and the rebel in it is a woman for a reason. Ibsen knew no one would contemplate his theme so thoroughly had Nora been a man or child.
Many view this play as a feminist drama, one created to better women?s lives. Ibsen?s only purpose was to better human interactions. He once offended a dinner party, thrown in honor of him, by a woman?s rights group, when he stated that he did not know what the woman?s cause was. He did not see woman?s causes as any different than human causes. In Ibsen?s notes for A Doll?s House, he speaks of two types of moral consciousness, one for men and one for women. He felt that the two did not understand each other, but, in practical life, women were judged by masculine law as though they were men. “A woman cannot be herself in today?s society.” He was also quoted as saying that: “A man is easy to study, but one never fully understands a woman. They are a sea which none can fathom.”
The rule over Norway, by Sweden, made freedom a popular topic of that time. Ibsen, though, saw political freedom and personal freedom as two very different things.
I shall never agree to identify Freedom with political freedom. What you call Freedom, I call freedoms, and what I call the battle for Freedom is nothing but the continuous pursuit of the idea of Freedom. He who possesses Freedom otherwise than as something to be striven for possesses something dead and meaningless, for by it?s very definition Freedom perpetually expands as one seeks to embrace it, so that if, during the quest, anyone stops and says: ?Now I have it!? he shows thereby that he has lost it.
According to Ibsen?s view of ?Freedom,? it is not something that can be given to someone, the way Denmark had “given” it to Norway, with the stipulation that Sweden be the big sister in the relationship. Norway was considered ?free? by the Swedes. They had thier own crown, and government, but it was so closely intertwined with that of Sweden that any Norsk individuality was lost.
Sweden, like Nora?s husband Torvald, was undoubtedly dominant. Norway had freedoms, and could be involved in the legislation of itself. Nora had freedoms, and was allowed her own life, to some degree. But any concern for Nora?s (or Norway?s) personal being was purely superficial. Eventually both became tired of having thier ?Freedom? restricted and took action. The search for ?Freedom? for Nora, like Norway, began from within.
The most direct historical comparison that can be made with the play is with the woman it is based on. Laura Kieler was a woman whose conduct was admired greatly by Ibsen. So much so that he based his most rebellious character on her, clearly solidifying the connection between context and art. Laura, unlike Nora, did not, however, leave her husband. It swiftly became common knowledge that this was the woman that Nora was based on, and Laura?a life was all but ruined. Ibsen expressed much concern and regret upon learning what effect his play had had on her, but by then there was nothing to be done.
A Doll?s House had many critics, and the ending we know was not the one shown all over at first. One actress refused to participate unless the ending was changed, citing that she would never leave her children. Ibsen decided that, if it was necessary that the ending be changed, he should be the one to change it. He considered this the lesser of two evils, though still calling the situation a “barbaric outrage.” Ibsen?s contemporary, Bjornson, said about the play, “It is technically excellent, but written by a vulgar and evil mind.” Ibsen had this to say about his critics and his writing:
Most critical objections boil down to a reproach against the writer for being himself, thinking, feeling, seeing and writing as himself, instead of seeing and writing as the critic would have done, had he been able. The essential thing is to protect one?s essential self, to keep it pure and free of all intrusive elements, and to draw a clear distinction between what one has merely experienced and what one has spiritually lived through; for only the latter is proper matter for creative writing.
Ibsen?s supporters eventually outnumbered his critics, and A Doll?s House, with the original ending, made him artistically, socially, and financially successful. The play is not nearly the social phenomenon it was at the time, but it?s content, like that of all great art, can be a lesson to us still.