Henrik Ibsen.

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'The League of Youth,' "The Pillars of Society,'
" A Doll's House "

Ghosts'' "An Enemy of the People," "The Wild Duck"


"Lady Inger of Ostrat," "The Vikings at Helgeland,"

"The Pretenders."

(From a portrait taken about 1858.)



> ii








Translated by Charles Archer . . i


Translated by William Archer . . . 125


Translated by William Archer . . . 209


The three plays contained in this volume are all that Ibsen
wrote in prose before he began the series of his social
dramas with The League of Youth. Two plays in mingled
prose and verse, The Feast at Solhaug and Olaf Liliekrans,
intervene between Lady Lnger and The Vikings at Helgeland;
one play in verse, Love's Comedy, intervenes between The
Vikings and The Pretenders. Of these, Love's Comedy at
least is certain one day to find a translator ; but, being
entirely composed in rhymed decasyllabics, it does not come
within the scope of this series.

As Lady Lnger and The Pretenders are founded on
Norwegian history, The Vikings on Scandinavian legend,
it may be well to say something as to Ibsen's treatment of
his material. For most of the facts of the case I am
indebted to Herr Jaeger's painstaking and valuable work,
Henrik Lbsen : et literart Livsbillede.

In Lady Lnger Ibsen has chosen a theme from the very
darkest hour of Norwegian history. King Sverre's demo-
cratic monarchy, dating from the beginning of the thirteenth
century, had paralysed the old Norwegian nobility. One
by one the great families died out, their possessions being
concentrated in the hands of the few survivors, who
regarded their wealth as a privilege unhampered by
obligations. At the beginning of the sixteenth century,
then, patriotism and public spirit were almost dead among



the nobles, while the monarchy, before which the old
rr.uy hail fallen, was itself dead, or rather merged
(since 1380) in the crown of Denmark. The peasantry,
too, hail long ago lost all effective voice in political affairs ;
so that Norway lay prone and inert at the mercy of her
Danish rulers. It is at the moment of deepest national
degradation that Ibsen has placed his tragedy; and the
d< -nidation was, in fact, even deeper than he represents
it. for the longings for freedom, the stirrings of revolt,
which form the motive-power of the action, are invented,
or at any rate idealised, by the poet. Fru Inger
Ottisdatt-jr Gyldenlove was in fact the greatest personage
of her day in Norway. She was the best-born, the
wealthiest, and probably the ablest woman in the land.
At the time when Ibsen wrote, little more than this
seems to have been known of her ; so that in making
her the victim of a struggle between patriotic duty and
maternal love, he was perhaps poetising in the absence of
positive evidence rather than in opposition to it. Subse-
quent research, unfortunately, has shown that Fru Inger
was but little troubled with patriotic aspirations. She was
a hard and grasping woman, ambitious of social power and
predominance, but inaccessible, or nearly so, to national
feeling. It was from sheer social ambition, and with no
qualms of patriotic conscience, that she married her
daughters to Danish noblemen. True, she lent some
support to the insurrection of the so-called " Dale-
junker," a peasant who gave himself out as the heir of
Sten Sture, a former regent of Sweden ; but there is not a
tittle of ground for making this pretender her son. He
might, indeed, have become her son-in-law, for, speculating
on his chances of success, she had betrothed one of her
daughters to him. Thus the Fru Inger of Ibsen's play is,
in her character and circumstances, as much a creation of


the poet's as though no historic personage of that name
had ever existed. Olaf Skaktavl, Nils Lykke, and Eline
Gyldenlove are also historic names ; but with them, too,
Ibsen has dealt with the utmost freedom. The real Nils
Lykke was married in 1528 to the real Eline Gyldenlove.
She died four years later, leaving him two children ; and
thereupon Nils Lykke would fain have married her sister
Lucia. Such a union, however, was regarded as incestuous,
and the lovers failed in their efforts to obtain a special dis-
pensation. Lucia then became her brother-in-law's mistress,
and bore him a son. But the ecclesiastical law was, in those
days, not to be trifled with. Nils Lykke was thrown into
prison for his crime, condemned, and killed in his dungeon,
in the year of grace 1535. Thus there was a tragedy ready-
made in Ibsen's material, though it was not the one he
chose to write.

No one can read The Vikings at Helgeland without notic-
ing that it stands in a certain relation to the Volsungasaga,
of which an admirable English version, by Messrs.
Magnusson and Morris, is included in the "Camelot Series."
Scandinavian critics have been much exercised as to how
this relation is to be defined. Can it be called a dramatisa-
tion of the saga or even a free adaptation ? Henrik Jaeger
sums up the case, I think, as accurately as need be. " Like
Sigurd Fafnir's-bane," he says, " Sigurd Viking has achieved
the deed which Hiordis (Brynhild) demands of the man
who shall wed her ; and, again like his heroic namesake, he
has renounced her in favour of his foster-brother, Gunnar,
himself taking another to wife. This other woman reveals
the secret in the course of an altercation with Hiordis
(Brynhild), who, in consequence of this discovery, brings
about Sigurd's death and her own. The reader will observe
that we must keep to very general terms if they are to fit
both the saga and the drama. Are there any- further


coincidences ? Yes, one. After Gudrun has betrayed the
there comes a scene in which she seeks to appease
Brynhild, and begs her to think no more of it ; then follows
a scene in which Sigurd explains to Brynhild how it all
happened; and finally a scene in which Brynhild goads
Gun nar to kill Sigurd. All these scenes have their parallels
in the third act of The Vikings ; but their order is different,
and none of their wording has been adopted." Other
details in the play are suggested by other sagas. The
circumstances under which Ornulf sings his "Drapa" over
his sons are borrowed from Egih saga, and so are Ornulf's
questions as to how Thorolf fell; the feast at Gunnar's
house has many analogies in Icelandic story; Hiordis's
words about the bowstring are suggested by a passage in
JVia/s saga ; and Sigurd and Hiordis are perhaps almost as
closely related to Kiartan and Gudrun in the Laxdcela
saga, as to Sigurd Fafnir's-bane and Brynhild. The reader
must judge for himself whether the poet's utilisation of
hints and suggestions from the sagas impairs, in any valid
sense, the originality of his work.

In The Pretenders Ibsen stands much nearer to history
than in any other play, except, perhaps, Emperor and
Galilean. All the leading characters and many of the
incidents of the drama are historical; but the poet has
treated chronology with a very free hand, and has made use
of psychological motives which are but faintly indicated,
or not at all, in the sources from which he drew. The
play deals with the struggle for power between Hakon
Hakonsson, a grandson of the great King Sverre, and
Skule Bardsson, a descendant of a collateral branch
of the same house. Hakon was supported by the
Birkebeiner, 1 or Birchlegs, a warlike faction which had
been devoted to his grandfather, Sverre. Skule's
1 See Note, p. 215.


adherents were called Varbaelgs or Vargbselgs, 1 a nick-
name of uncertain origin. In characterising these two
factions, the leading Norwegian historian of the day,
J. E. Sars, writing thirteen years after the appearance of
The Pretenders, uses terms which might almost have been
suggested by Ibsen's play. " On the one side," he says,
" we find strength and certainty, on the other lameness and
lack of confidence. The old Birchlegs go to work openly
and straightforwardly, like men who are immovably con-
vinced of the justice of their cause, and unwaveringly
assured of its ultimate victory. Skule's adherents, on the
other hand, are ever seeking by intrigues and chicanery to
place stumbling-blocks in the way of their opponents'
enthusiasm." Hakon represented Sverre's ideal of an
independent democratic kingship, no mere tool of an oli-
garchy of bishops and barons, but "broad based upon the
people's will." " He was," says Sars, " reared in the firm
conviction of his right to the throne; he grew up among
the veterans of his grandfather's time, men imbued with
Sverre's principles, from whom he accepted them as a
ready-made system, the realisation of which could only be
a question of time. He stood from the first in a clear and
straightforward position, to which his whole personality
corresponded. . . . He owed his chief strength to the
repose and equilibrium of mind which distinguished him,
and had its root in his unwavering sense of having right
and the people's will upon his side." His "great king's-
thought," however, seems to be an invention of the poet's.
Skule, on the other hand, represented the old nobility in its
struggle against the new monarchy. " He was the centre
of a hierarchic aristocratic party; but after its repeated
defeats this party must have been lacking alike in numbers
and in confidence. ... It was clear from the first that
1 See Note, p. 308.

x i i / R E FA TOR Y A'O TE.

ins attempt to reawaken the old wars of succession in
Norway was undertaken in the spirit of the desperate gambler,
who does not count the chances, but throws at random, in
the blind hope that luck may befriend him. . . . Skule's
rise had thus no support in opinion or in any pre-
vailing interest, and one defeat was sufficient to crush him."
In the character of Bishop Nicholas, too, Ibsen has
widened and deepened his historical material rather than
poetised with a free hand. " Bishop Nicholas," says Sars,
"represented rather the aristocracy . . . than the cloth to
which he belonged. He had begun his career as a worldly
chieftain, and, as such, taken part in Magnus Erlingsson's
struggles with Sverre ; and although he must have had
some tincture of letters, since he could contrive to be
elected a bishop . . . there is no lack of indications that
his spiritual lore was not of the deepest. During his
long participation in the civil broils, both under Sverre
and later, we see in him a man to whose character
any sort of religious or ecclesiastical enthusiasm must
have been foreign, his leading motives being personal
ambition and vengefulness rather than any care for
general interests — a cold and calculating nature, shrewd
but petty and without any impetus, of whom Hakon
Hakonsson, in delivering his funeral speech . . . could find
nothing better to say than that he had not his equal in
worldly wisdom (veraldar vit)." I cannot find that the
Bishop played any such prominent part in the struggle
between the King and the Earl as Ibsen assigns to him,
and the only foundation for the great death-bed scene
seems to be the following passage from Hakon Hakonsson' s
Saga, Cay. 138: — "As Bishop Nicholas at that time lay
very sick, he sent a messenger to the King praying him to
come to him. The King had on this expedition seized
certain letters, from which he gathered that the Bishop had


not been true to him. With this he upbraided him, and
the Bishop, confessing it, prayed the King to forgive him.
The King replied that he did so willingly, for God's sake ;
and as he could discern that the Bishop lay near to death,
he abode with him until God called him from the world."

A chronological conspectus of the leading events referred
to in The Pretenders (founded on P. A. Munch's History of
the Norwegian People) will enable the reader to estimate
for himself the extent of Ibsen's adherence to, and departure
from, history : —
1 189. Skule Bardsson born.
1204. Hakon Hakonsson born.
1206. Hakon is brought by the Birchlegs to King Inge.

1 217. Hakon chosen King at the Orething. l

1 2 18. Hakon and Skule at Bergen. The Folkmote (Rigs-

mode). Inga undergoes the ordeal.

1 2 19. Hakon betrothed to Skule's daughter, Margrete.
1219-20. Andres Skialdarband and Vegard Vseradal, thanes

of Halogaland.
1221. Vegard Vseradal killed by Andres Skialdarband's

men (reason unknown).
1225. (January), Hakon's campaign in Vermeland.
(May 25), Hakon's marriage with Margrete.
(November 7), Bishop Nicholas's death.
1227. Hakon's eldest son, Olaf, born.
1229. Andres Skialdarband sets forth for Palestine.
1232. Hakon's second son, Hakon, born.

1235. I n g a ) tne King's mother, dies.

1236. The faction of the Vargbaelgs arises.

1237. Skule created Duke.
Dagfinn the Peasant dies.

1239. (November 6), Skule proclaims himself King at the

1 See Note, p. 217.


1240. (March 6), Skulc victorious at Laka.
(April 21), llakon victorious at Oslo.
(May 21), Skule's son Peter killed at Elgesseter.
'May 24), Skule killed at Elgesaeter, and the convent

The titles of the plays in this volume have cost a good
deal of thought and discussion, and are still far from satis-
factory. My brother, the translator of Fru Inger til Ostrat,
maintains strenuously and very plausibly that Dame Inger
of Ostrat, not Lady Inger, is the true rendering of the title.
If words could be divested of mean and trivial associations,
and restored, by an effort of will, to their pristine status,
Dame would certainly be preferable to Lady. But it
seemed to me, and to others whom I consulted, that the
word Dame must either be taken in its technical sense,
which does not apply, or in its popular sense, which calls
up visions of Dame Schools, Dame Trot, Dame Durden,
and Dames of the Primrose League. Lady, on the other
hand, though soiled with all ignoble use, possesses an
inalienable distinction. Therefore, taking a base advan-
tage, perhaps, of my brother's absence at the other side of
the world, I stretched my editorial prerogative so far as
to substitute Lady for Dame throughout the play. If
I have done wrong, I beg the author's, the translator's, and
the reader's pardon. Hcermcendene pa Helgela7id means
literally The Warriors at Helgeland. I have substituted
Vikings, because Warriors seemed pompous, cumbersome,
and un-Teutonic, while Ornulf, Sigurd, and Gunnar all are,
and frequently call themselves, Vikings. The Pretenders, as
a rendering of Kongs-Emnerne, is peculiarly inadequate
and inconvenient; but no other term seemed available.
The word Emne means " material " or " stuff," so that Kongs-
Emne might be translated " such stuff as kings are made of."


It is the word habitually used in the Kings' Sagas to signify
an heir to the throne ; but as the laws of succession were by
no means firmly established in Norway, there were frequently,
if not always, several Kongs-Emner in the field. A Kongs-
Emne was not necessarily an heir-apparent ; on the con-
trary, he was often an heir-presumptive in the widest
possible sense of the term. Wherever it was possible, I
have rendered Kongs-Emne by "Pretender" even at the
risk of uncouthness. But in several cases I have had to
substitute "heir."

As to the vocabulary and style adopted in the following
translations, I can only say that where we have erred,
either in intention or in details of execution, it has
not been for lack of thought and care. It was impos-
sible to render the plays into ordinary, modern English. It
would have been absurd, even had we possessed the skill, to
adhere rigidly to the style of any particular period — for why
should ancient Norwegians talk (say) pure Elizabethan, any
more than pure Victorian ? The only possible course, then,
seemed to be to suggest archaism by adopting a certain
arbitrary convention (or affectation, if you will) and
adhering to it as closely as possible, at least within the
limits of a single play. The reader will observe that my
brother and I have adopted practically the same con-
vention in Lady Inger and The Pretenders, while in
The Vikings a different and more archaic convention
obtains. The reason for this is that the former plays
are historical, their bearings in place and time accurately
laid down, while the latter is purely legendary. It is
true that Ibsen has placed it in the time of Erik Blood-
Axe ; but its theme forms part of the primaeval lore of the
European peoples, its action is in nowise dependent on any
political circumstances, and it belongs in all essentials to
"a past that never was present." The style of the original,


mi delled on that of the sagas, has a peculiar chiselled
weightiness, as of marble, quite different from the romantic
copiousness of Lady Inger and the almost modern
flexibility and alertness of The Pretenders. Therefore I
have used the " thou " form in The Vikings, and allowed
myself certain archaisms of vocabulary which have been
excluded from the other plays. Even in The Vikings,
however, I have rejected the verb formations in " eth,"
as they brought with them Biblical associations which
seemed undesirable. In some passages of Lady Inger
and The Pretenders — for instance, in the last scene
between Nils Lykke and Eline, and the scene be-
tween King Skule and Ingeborg — it cost a struggle to
adhere to the " you " form ; but. on the whole, I am
more doubtful of the propriety of the "thou's" in The
Vikings than of the "you's" in the other plays. The
great, incontestable merit of Ibsen's style in these plays
(at any rate in The Vikings and The Pretenders) is its
nicely-filed terseness, its transparent simplicity. His lan-
guage, while clearly distinguishable from everyday Nor-
wegian, is far nearer to it than mine is to everyday
English. The use of the " thou " would have made the
difference still greater, and involved cumbersome circum-
locutions ; for our "thou" forms have the disadvantage,
for purposes of dialogue, of being often very difficult
to pronounce. Even as it is, with the aid of the
simpler "you" forms, we have too seldom succeeded in
reproducing the Norwegian phrase with anything like its
resonant brevity. It would be extravagant to hope that
the particular conventions we have adopted will be approved
by every reader, or that we shall be found to have
adhered to them at all times with perfect consistency. I
trust that, before judging our lapses too severely, the reader
will try to realise the difficulty of our task.


In the Norwegian of Ornulf's "Drapa" and his other
verses, the second and fourth lines of each stanza rhyme. I
have ventured to suppress the rhymes, while somewhat
emphasising the rude alliteration which is also present in the
original. It is doubtful whether a more skilful versifier than
I could have reproduced both the rhyme and the alliteration
without indulging in paraphrase rather than translation ;
and I had the less scruple in retaining the alliteration
rather than the rhyme, because the rhyme seemed his-
torically out of place in the mouth of an Icelandic skald,
and dramatically out of place in an improvisation. Faith-
fulness to the original is the only merit I can claim for
my metrical renderings as a whole. They are line-for-
line translations, not loose paraphrases. The Norwegian
of Ornulf's death-song, Margrete's lullaby, a

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