Henrik Ibsen.

Ghosts & two other plays online

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London: J. M. DENT k SONS, Ltd.
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First Issue of this Edition . 191 1
Repiinted .... 1912, 1914, 1917

All rights resented

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The Warriors at Helgeland {HcsTmandene paa Helge-
land), the first of the three plays included in the present
volume, was written in 1857, when Ibsen (who was then
in his thirtieth year) was at Christiania. Both in concep-
tion and execution it is an enormous advance on the
immature efforts which had preceded it; and, apart from
its own very considerable merits, poetic and dramatic, it
is noteworthy as foreshadowing two aspects of the later
genius that could produce Peer Gynt and The Wild Duck.
Judged as a poetic romance, it has great charm if ap-
proached in the necessary spirit of simplicity. As a
piece of dramatic construction it is admirable, and
already characteristic of the later Ibsen in its methods.
A preface which Ibsen wrote in 1876 for a German trans-
lation of the play affords interesting evidence of his sane
dramatic sense. After remarking that the Volsung Saga
was the source of his inspiration for the play, he goes on
to say that he was nevertheless convinced that " the
idealised and, to a certain extent, impersonal figures
in the Sagas " were unsuitable for representation on the
stage of to-day, and that, apart from this, it had been
his aim in this play to present "not mythical person-
ages, but Scandinavian life in olden times." To realise
the wisdom of this, one has only to compare the human
interest possessed by the characters in The Warriors at
Helgeland with the almost entire lack of it' in the heroes
and heroines of Wagner's Ring der Nibelungen.

Ibsen offered the play to the Royal Theatre at Copen-
hagen and to the Christiania Theatre, and both promptly
rejected it as unsuitable to the tastes of the public. It
was not until 1861, after a tentative performance at
Bergen, that the play was produced at the Christiania
Theatre. It was not seen in Copenhagen until some
fourteen years later. The publication of the translation
referred to above gave the play a footing in Germany


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viii Introduction

where it was fairly often played after that date. Its only
production in London^ so far^ has been that at the
Imperial Theatre in 1903, during Ellen Terry's manage-'
ment, when it was played under the title of The Vikings. '
The remaining two plays here translated. Ghosts
{Gengang^e) and An Enemy of the People (En Folke-
fiende), are closely connected in their origin. Ghosts was
written in 1881, when Ibsen was in Italy, and was pub-
lished at the close of that year. Ibsen could not have
^....^^expected — ^indeed did not expect — ^anything but a mixed
/ /rece ption for a plavsoa ggressi vely daring in its defiance
O^f^sn convgntfcnsi Thought has moved so quickly
in the last thirty years, the boundary-posts (to use a
favourite metaphor of Ibsen's) have been so often shifted
in that time, that it requires a readjustment of one's
point of view to realise fully how daring a thing it was
to publish a play on such a theme as this and expect
it to be performed. It is Ibsen's most remarkable
^ polemical, and perhaps his most remarkable intellectual,
effort; and, as a play, it grips the mind and extorts a
close interest despite alLrepugnance to its subject. Soft-
ening of the brain as the result of diseaisetfihenteSTrom a
licentious father is a subject Aesthetically repulsive, and
must become especially so upon the boards of a theatre.
No doubt the play teaches lessons that social teachers
cannot emphasise too strongly; and in none of his plays
has Ibsen diagnosed a social malady (a proceeding which
he was fond of claiming as his aim in writing these plays)
with more terrible skill. But it is a very open question
whether the acted drama — which, after all, is a form of
art distinguished by peculiar conditions — is a legitimate
medium for the exposition of such truths. There is much
virtue in the old artistic canon as to what may fitly be
displayed coram poptdo.

Another criticism that may fairly be made upon

Ghosts, judged as a play, is that it is too obviously

^ a work with a didactic purpose. The dramatist is plainly

Imore interested in his thesis than in his characters. Tlie

I characterisation is weak, for a writer of Ibsen's rare


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Introduction ix

ability in that respect; his personages seem to be ex-
pounding the dramatist's views, rather than voicing
thoughts that are the result of their own personality.
And yet Ibsen wrote to a friend of his, at this time, that
" in none of his plays did the author stand so entirely
apart from the action as in Ghosts " 1

However prepared he may have thought he was for
the reception of the play, Ibsen was nevertheless con-
siderably taken aback by the bitter storm of abuse it
aroused in Norway. Bjornson was the only public
man who would say a word in his defence; and the
" Liberal " press, on whose professions of broad-
mindedness Ibsen had more or less relied, threw him over
altogether. The result was the writing, at white heat, of
An Enemy of the People, in which Ibsen sought to chastise
his opponents with satire. Dr. Stockmann, the protago-
nist of the play, is not intended as a portrait of the
author; but the picture of his relations to his fellow-
townsmen, to the Liberal press, and to the *' damned
compact majority " — his account of himself as " fight-
ing at the outposts of thought," and standing at a point
which in ten years' time the majority would have
reached, while he himself would be far ahead again —
obviously depict Ibsen's own position towards his coun-
trymen in the matter of Ghosts. Writing to his friend
Brandes at this time about the mntrnvftrsyj Tbggn mip-
p lains of the ljb^alpress^p^«>'"g of ^fifdftTP ^^ o^ti'nn
ftnd thougfitTand tBelTletting the mselves be^e ome merely
tE5"rilayK3rf"lheir sutecrib eis* "opinions jmd f oUowing
thejcaogd instpad^-oElSSc^^IS^; and, again, writes of
himself as being always ten years ahead of the great
mass of the people— expressions identical with those used
by Dr. Stockmann.

Despite its satirical intention. An Enemy of Society
is in many ways more genial than most of Ibsen's ** social
dramas," thanks to the leavening of humour which he
has permitted himself to mix with his scorn. The result
of this, and of the fact that the play contains some
theatriciUlj effective scenes, was that it became immc-


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X Introduction

diately popular on the Scandinavian stage — the audience,
wherever it was played, no doubt considering the satire
peculiarly applicable to every other community but their

Ghosts was at first refused a hearing either in Norway,
Denmark or Sweden; but in 1883 the Swedish actor
August Lindberg was attracted by the play's possibilities,
and toured with it — with the result that soon afterwards
it was played at the Royal Theatre at Stockholm. It
was a good many years, however, before it was seen in
Norway or in Denmark. It was first performed (pri-
vately) in Germany in 1886; in Paris, by the Th6itre
Libre, in 1890; and in London, by the Independent
Theatre, in 1891. Since then it has been played in
most European countries. The censor has always refused
to remove his veto on its public performance in this
country, probably on account of the fact that the plot
of the play involves even uglier questions than hereditary

An Enemy of the People was published in the winter of
1882, and performed early the following year in Norway,
Sweden and Denmark, and since then has been widely
played on the continent. It was first produced in Eng-
land, in 1893, at the Haymarket Theatre, by Sir (then
Mr.) Herbert Beerbohm Tree, who has more than once
revived it.

For the verse translation of Omulf's funeral chant
over his dead sons in Act IV. of The Warriors at Helge-
land, 1 am indebted to the kindness of Mr. Ernest Rhys«

R. Farquharson Sharp.


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Introduction - . vii

The Wariuors at Helgeland • . . . i

Ghosts 67

An Enemy of the People • . . . 143

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A Play in Four Acts

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Omulf of the Fjords, a chieftain in Iceland.
Thorolf , his youngest son.
Sigurd the Strong, a Viking.
Dagny, his wife (daughter of Omulf).
Gunnar, a rich yeoman of Helgeland«
Hjdrdis, his wife (foster-sister to Dagny)«
Egil, his son, four years old.
Kaare, a Heigeland yeoman«
Cmulf 's six elder sons.

Omulf 's and Sigurd's Men, Guests, Servants, Wait-
ing-Women, Outlaws, etc.

{The action takes place in the time of Eric Bloody-Axe; at, and
in the neighbourhood ofy Gunnar's house a$ Heigeland, in nor-
' them Norway^)


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(ScENB. — The top of a high cliff, which in the back-
ground drops sheer down into the sea. On the left is a boat-
shed, on the right hills covered with pine woods. The
masts of two ships of war can be seen down in the creek
below; far out on the right, rocks and islands. The sea is
very rough. It is winter, with storms of wind and snow.

Sigurd comes up from the ships. He is dressed in a
white tunic with silver belt, a blue doak, loose hose, fur
boots and a steel casque, with a short sword hanging at his
side, A moment later, Ornulf comes into sight on the hiU-
side, dressed in a dark lambskin tunic, with breastplate,
greaves worn over woollep hose, and fur boots; over his
shoulders he wears a cloak of brown frieze, with the hood
drawn over his casque in such a way as partly to conceal
his face. He is tall and powerfully built, but has a long
white beard, and is a little bent with age. He is armed
with a round shield, a sword and a spear. Sigurd ad-
vances first, looks around and sees the boat-shed, goes quickly
up to it and tries to burst open the door. Ornulf comes
down from the higher ground, starts when he sees Sigurd,
appears to recognise him, strides forward and calls out to

Ornulf. Stand back, warrior I

Sigurd {turns, and lays his hand on his sword). If I did
that, it would be the first time !

Ornulf. You must and shall 1 I need this boat-shed
for a night's shelter for my men, who are half frozen.

Sigurd. And I need it for a weary woman,

Ornulf. My men are of more worth than your woman \

Sigurd. Outlaws must be of great value in Helgeland,
then I

Ornulf {raising his spear). You shall pay dearly for
those words I


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4 The Warriors at Helgeland [act i.

Sigurd {drawing his sword). It shall go ill with you^
old man I
Ornulf falls upon him; Sigurd defends himself^
Dagny and some of Sigurd's men come up from the
shore; Ornulf's six sons appear on the higher ground
on the right. Dagny, who is dressed in a red kirUe,
blue cape and fur cap, is a little in advance of the
Dagny {calls down towards the ships). Up, all Sigurd's
men 1 My husband is at blows with a stranger !

Ornulf s Sons. To our father's help I {They come

Sigurd {to his men). Stay where you are. Surely I can
deal with him alone I

OrnvXf {to his sons). Let me fight in peace I {Closing
in upon Sigurd.) I will draw your blood !
Sigurd. You shall see your own first I
{Wounds him in the arm, so that his spear falls from his

Ornulf. A good stroke, warrior 1 —

Swift the sword thou swingest,
Keen thy weapon's aim;
Sigurd's self, the Strong One,
It would put to shame I
Sigurd {with a smile). Then would he have shame and
honour at the same time I

Ornulf s Sons {in tones of surprise). It is Sigurd him-
self I Sigurd the Strong 1

Ornulf. But it was a keener stroke you dealt me the
night you stole away Dagny, my daughter I {Throws
back the hood from his face.)
Sigurd and his Men. Ornulf of the Fjords I
Dagny {happily, but with some signs of uneasiness). My
father and my brothers I
Sigurd. Get behind me.

Ornulf. There is no needi {Approaches Sigurd.)
I knew you as soon as I saw you, and that was why I
provoked a quarrel; I wanted to try whether they speak
truly who say of you that you are the best swordsman


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ACT I.] The Warriors at Hdgeland 5

in Norway. Now let there be peace and reconcfliation
between us !

Sigurd, I ask nothing better^ if it may be arranged.

Ornulf, There is my hand. You are a doughty hero;
such swashing blows has no one before exchanged with
old Ornulf .

Sigurd (grasping his outstretched hand). Then may it
be the last time we exchange blows ! And therewith I
beg you to give judgment on the matter that lies between
us. Are you willing to name conditiens on which we
may be at one ?

Ornulf. That I am, and the dispute shall forthwith
be settled. (To the others.) Now shall you all know
what is the matter in question. Five winters ago Sigurd
and Gunnar, on a Vikings' quest, came to Iceland and
received from me free hospitality foy the winter. So it
was that Gunnar, with craft and force, carried off my
foster-daughter, Hjordis; but you, Sigurd, took Dagny,
my own child, and sailed away with her. To atone for
that you shall be sentenced to pay three hundred pieces
of silver, and so shall you expiate your deed of

Sigurd. The conditions you choose seem to me easy
indeed. The three hundred pieces shall be paid, and to
them I will add a broidered cloak of silk that was a
gift to me from King Athelstan of England — such a cloak
as no man in Iceland has ever worn.

Dagny. Well said, my brave husband; and my
thanks, my father, to you; this is the first day I have
known real happiness I (She grasps her father's and
brothers' hands and talks to them aside.)

Ornulf. Now peace is fully established between us,
and from to-day Dagny shall be in every way as honour-
ably esteemed as if you and she had been wedded law-
fully and with her kinsmen's consent.
. Sigurd. And now can you depend upon me as upon
one of your own blood.

Ornulf. Of that I am assured, and i|istantly. mean to
make trial of your goodwill.


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6 The Warriors at Hdgeland [act i.

Sigurd. You shall find me ready. Say on — what do
you require of me ?

Ornulf, Your help in word and deed. I have steered
hither to Helgeland in search of Gunnar, to demand of
him reparation for the carrying-away of Hjordis.

Sigurd (in surprise). Gunnar I

Dagny. And Hjordis I Where are they to be found ?

Ornulf, At home in Gunnar's house, I imagine^

Sigurd. And that is — ?

Ornulf. Not many bow-shots away* Did you not
know that ?

Sigurd {repressing a movement). Not II It is seldom
that I have sought news of Gunnar since last we sailed
from Iceland together. A Viking's life has led me afar
and I have served many kings in foreign lands, while
Gunnar has sat at home. Before the stress of the storm
I came under the lee of this land at daybreak to-day; and
though it is true I knew that Gunnar dwelt here in the
north in the home of his fathers, still

Dagny {to Ornulf). So that was the errand on which yon
set forth from home ?

Ornulf. It was. {To Sigurd.) Our meeting has been
the work of the Mighty Ones above; they have willed
it so. Had I been minded to seek you, I should have had
but little knowledge where I should find you.

Sigurd {thoughtfully). Very true, very true I — But now
about Gunnar — ^tell me, Ornulf, are you resolved to
press him to the uttermost, with all your power, by fair
means or foul ?

Ornulf. That I must do. Listen, Sigurd, to what I
have to say. Last summer I rode to the meeting of the
Thing, where many men of high honour sat with me in
council. When that was over, I sat in the hall and
drank with the men of my own Hundred, and it hap-
pened that our talk turned upon the carrying-off of
women; and then was I reproached with scorn for having
let my disgrace go so long unavenged. Thereupon my
anger rose; and I swore to go to Norway and seek out
Gunnar, and demand amends from him, or vengeance.


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ACT I.] The Warriors at Helgeland 7

for his deed^ and never to journey home again to Iceland
till I had accomplished my purpose.

Sigurd. Ah, well — if that is how it stands, it is clear
that the matter must be hotly pursued in whatever way
is needful.

Ornidf. It must; but I shall not be unreasonable, and
Gunnar is reputed an honourable man. I am glad, too,
to have set out upon this journey; time has hung very
heavily upon my hands in Iceland of late. It was on the
blue waters that I had grown old and grey, and I yearned

to be out upon them once more before I . Ah,

well! — Bergthora, my good wife, is long since dead; my
eldest sons have left me every summer to go on Vikings'
quests; and now, as Thorolf was growing up —

Dagny {happily). Is Thorolf with you ? Where is he ?

Otnulf. On board my ship, put there. {Points to the
background on the right,) A fine lad — you shall see. He
has grown big and strong and comely since you were at
home. He will make a splendid man, Sigurd; he will
be like you some day.

Dagny {with a smile). It is just as it always was^ I see.
Thorolf was ever the nearest to your heart.

Ornulf. He is the youngest, and like his mother; that
is why it is.

Sigurd. But tell me, now — ^your errand with Gunnar —
do vou mean this very day — ?

Ornulf. Rather to-day than to-morrow* I shall be
well content with a reasonable sum paid as penalty; but if
Gunnar refuse such an offer of reconciliation, then must
^he take the consequences that will follow.

(Kaarb enters hurriedly from the hillside. He is
dressed in a coat of grey frieze and a feU hat, and
carries a broken staff in his hand.)

Kaare. Well met, warriors I

Omvlf. Warriors are seldom good to meet«

Kaare. If you are honourable men, let me find safety
among you. Gunnar's men are after me and would kill me!

Ornulf, Gunnar's men!

Sigurd. Then you must have done him some harm 1


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8 The Warriors at Hdgeland [act i.

Kaare. I did no more than I had a rights We had set
our cattle to graze together on an island just off the
shore. Gunnar's people drove ofiE my best oxen^ and one
of his men abused me^ calling me a thrall. For that I
took my sword to him and slew him.

Ornidf. That you had the right to do.

Kaare. But now this morning his men came to make
an attack on me. By good luck I was warned in time
and got away; but I can look but for a short respite^ for
my enemies are seeking me.

Sigurd, I can put but little faith in your story, fellow I
In days gone by I knew Gunnar as well as I know my-
self; and this I know, that never would he attack a
peaceable man.

Kaare, Gunnar has no hand in the matter; he is away
southwards. No, it is Hjordis, his wife —

Dagny, HjordisI

Ornulf (muttering). Yes, it would be just like her I

Kaare. I offered to pay Gunnar a penalty for the
killing of his thrall, and he was willing to accept it; but
then came Hjordis and goaded her husband with scorn-
ful words, and prevented our peace-making; so Gunnar
went away to the south, and this morning —

Sigurd (looking out to the left). Are those not men coming
on the road northward ?

Kaare. It is Gunnar himself I

Ornulf. Take comfort; I fancy I shall be able to make
your peace with him.

(Gunnar, with some of his men, enters from the left*
He is in home dress; brown tunic, woollen hose, a
blue cloak and wide-brimmed hat; the only weapon
he carries is a small axe.)

Gunnar (stopping in wonder and uncertainty at the
sightofthegathering).C>mu\iolthtF]OTds I Yes,in truth — I

Ornulf. Yes, it is he.

Gunnar (approaching). Then welcome to my land 1 —
if you are come in peace.

Ornulf. If you be of the same mind as I, there shall be
peace between us.


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.] The Warriors at Hdgdand

Sigurd {coming forward). Well met^ Gunnar I

Gunnar. Sigurd — foster-brother I {Grasps his hand.)
Nay, if you are with him> I know for certain that Omulf
is come m peace. {To Ornulf.) Give me your hand,
old manl It is not difficult to guess what errand has
brought you here in the north. It concerns Hjdrdis,
your foster-daughter.

Ornulf. It is as you say. It was a great wrong you
did me when you sailed away with her from Iceland with-
out asking my consent.

Gunnar. You have right and custom on your side. A
man must pay for his youth's wild deeds. I have ex-
pected you this many a day, Omulf, for that deed of
mine; and if paying a penalty can make peace between

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Online LibraryHenrik IbsenGhosts & two other plays → online text (page 1 of 18)