Four Great Plays by Henrik Ibsen
Publication Date: September 1, 1981
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Here, in a single volume, are four major plays by the first modern playwright, Henrick Ibsen. Ghosts -the startling portrayal of a family destroyed by disease and infidelity. The Wild Duck -- A poignant drama of lost illusions. An Enemy Of The People -- Ibsen's vigorous attack on public opinion. And A Doll's House -- the play that scandalized the Victorian world with its unsparing views of love and marriage, featuring one of the most controversial heroines -- and one of the most famous exists -- in the literature of the stage.
Henrik Johan Ibsen (Norwegian:20 March 1828 - 23 May 1906) was a major 19th-century Norwegian playwright, theatre director, and poet. He is often referred to as "the father of realism" and is one of the founders of Modernism in theatre. His major works include Brand, Peer Gynt, An Enemy of the People, Emperor and Galilean, A Doll's House, Hedda Gabler, Ghosts, The Wild Duck, Rosmersholm, and The Master Builder. He is the most frequently performed dramatist in the world after Shakespeare, and A Doll's House became the world's most performed play by the early 20th century.
Several of his plays were considered scandalous to many of his era, when European theatre was required to model strict morals of family life and propriety. Ibsen's work examined the realities that lay behind many facades, revealing much that was disquieting to many contemporaries. It utilized a critical eye and free inquiry into the conditions of life and issues of morality. The poetic and cinematic play Peer Gynt, however, has strong surreal elements.
Ibsen is often ranked as one of the truly great playwrights in the European tradition. Richard Hornby describes him as "a profound poetic dramatist---the best since Shakespeare." He is widely regarded as the most important playwright since Shakespeare. He influenced other playwrights and novelists such as George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Arthur Miller, James Joyce, Eugene O'Neill and Miroslav Krle a.
Ibsen wrote his plays in Danish (the common written language of Denmark and Norway) and they were published by the Danish publisher Gyldendal. Although most of his plays are set in Norway---often in places reminiscent of Skien, the port town where he grew up---Ibsen lived for 27 years in Italy and Germany, and rarely visited Norway during his most productive years. Born into a merchant family connected to the patriciate of Skien, his dramas were shaped by his family background. He was the father of Prime Minister Sigurd Ibsen.
William Archer (23 September 1856 - 27 December 1924) was a Scottish critic. He was born in Perth, the son of Thomas Archer. He was educated at the University of Edinburgh, where he received the degree of M.A. in 1876. Archer became a leader-writer on the Edinburgh Evening News in 1875, and after a year in Australia returned to Edinburgh. In 1878 he took up residence in London. In 1879 he became dramatic critic of the London Figaro, and in 1884 of the World, where he remained until 1905. In London he soon took a prominent literary place. Archer had much to do with introducing Ibsen to the English public by his translation The Pillars of Society, produced at the Gaiety Theatre, London, 1880. He also translated, alone or in collaboration, other productions of the Scandinavian stage: Ibsen's A Doll's House (1889), The Master Builder (1893, with Edmund Gosse); Edvard Brandes's A Visit (1892); Ibsen's Peer Gynt (1892, with Charles Archer); Little Eyolf (1895); and John Gabriel Borkman (1897); and he edited Henrik Ibsen's Prose Dramas vols., 1890-1891). In 1897 Archer, along with Elizabeth Robins, H. W. Massingham, and Alfred Sutro, formed the Provisional Committee to organize an association to produce plays of high literary intrinsic merit, such as Ibsen's. The association was called the "New Century Theatre" but was a disappointment by 1899, although it continued until at least 1904. In 1899, a more successful association, called the Stage Society, was formed to replace it. Archer was a friend of George Bernard Shaw, and arranged for his plays to be translated into German. An attempted collaboration on a play, Widower's Houses, did not work, however, and Archer was often critical of Shaw's drama. For a time, Archer lived at 27 Fitzroy Square in central London, while Shaw lived at number 29. During World War I, Archer wrote a series of open letters on behalf of Wellington House, arguing Germany's culpability in starting the conflict. He viewed the Allies (including England) as innocent bystanders, forced into defending the world against German militancy. His play, The Green Goddess, was produced by Winthrop Ames at the Booth Theatre in New York. It was a melodrama, and a popular success, although relatively of much less importance to the art of the drama than his critical work. He was one of the founders of the Simplified Spelling Society in 1908.