Ibsen produced a romantic comedy, St. Johns Night,
which was first printed in the Literary Remains (1909).
It is an exceedingly immature work, confused and triv-
ial in intrigue, and for the most part conventional in
characterization. Nevertheless it is interesting, inas-
much as it contains the germs of many ideas to which
he afterwards returned in his maturer works. In the
personage of Julian Paulsen, for example — Ibsen's first
essay in satirical character-drawing — we find some traits
which reappear in Stensgard, and others which fore-
shadow Hialmar Ekdal. But it is principally of the
Troll-scenes in Peer Gynt that we are reminded. One
of the poet's aims, it would seem, was to point the con-
trast between true and false — between sincere and in-
sincere — romanticism. To this end, he shows us a fairy
revel on St. John's Night, which is seen in its true colors
by the hero and heroine, while the ridiculous Paulsen
and his affected inamorata mistake it for a dance of peas-
ants around a bonfire. Moreover, Paulsen, who is really
an amusing character, confesses that he was consumed
by an ideal passion for the "huldra" or dryad of North-
ern mythology, until he learned that she was provided
with a tail, which shocked his aesthetic sensibilities.
Thus at many points we find the poet's mind already
moving upon the plane of fantasy to which it was to re-
turn fourteen years later in the second and third acts of
Peer Gynt. The play had no success, and was per-
formed only twice. For the next Foundation Day, Jan-
uary 2, 1854, Ibsen prepared a revised version of The
Warrior's Barrow, ah-eady produced in Christiania. A
year later, January 2, 1855, Lady Inger of Ostrat was
produced — a work still immature, indeed, but giving, for
the first time, no uncertain promise of the master dram-
atist to come.
In an autobiographical letter to the Danish critic,
Peter Hansen, written from Dresden in 1870, Ibsen says:
"Lady Inger of Ostrat is the result of a love-affair —
hastily entered into and violently broken off — to which
several of my minor poems may also be attributed, such
as Wild-flowers and Pot-plajits, A Bird-Song, etc." The
heroine of this love-affair can now be identified as a lady
named Henrikke Hoist, who seems to have preserved
through a long life the fresh, bright spirit, the overflow-
ing joyousness, which attracted Ibsen when she was only
in her seventeenth year. Their relation was of the most
innocent. It went no further than a few surreptitious
rambles in the romantic surroundings of Bergen, usu-
ally with a somewhat older girl to play propriety, and
with a bag of sugar-plums to fill up pauses in the con-
versation. The "violent" ending seems to have come
when the young lady's father discovered the secret of
these excursions, and doubtless placed her under more
careful control. What there was in this episode to sug-
gest, or in any way influence. Lady Inger, I cannot under-
stand. Nevertheless the identification seems quite cer-
tain. The aftair had a charming little sequel. During
12 LADY INGER OF OSTRAT
the days of their love's young dream, Ibsen treated the
"wild- flower" with a sort of shy and distant chivalry at
which the wood-gods must have smiled. He avoided
even touching her hand, and always addressed her by
the "De" (you) of formal politeness. But when they
met again after many years, he a famous poet and she a
middle-aged matron, he instinctively adopted the "Du"
(thou) of affectionate intimacy, and she responded in
kind. He asked her whether she had recognised her-
self in any of his works, and she replied: "I really don't
know, unless it be in the parson's wife in Love's Com-
edy, with her eight children and her perpetual knitting."
"Ibsen protested," says Herr Paulsen, in whose Samliv
med Ibsen a full account of the episode may be read. It
is interesting to note that the lady did not recognise her-
self in Elina Gyldenlove, any more than we can.
It must have been less than a year after the produc-
tion of Lady higer that Ibsen made the acquaintance of
the lady who was to be his wife. Susanna Dae Thore-
sen was a daughter (by his second marriage) of Pro-
vost^ Thoresen, of Bergen, whose third wife, Magdalene
Krag, afterwards became an authoress of some celebrity.
It is recorded that Ibsen's first visit to the Thoresen
household took place on January 7, 1856,^ and that on
that occasion, speaking to Susanna Thoresen, he was
suddenly moved to say to her: "You are now Elina, but
'Provost ("Provst") is an ecclesiastical title, roughly equivalent
2 See article by Dr. Julius Elias in Die neue Rundschau, December,
190G, p. 1463. Dr. Brahm, in the same magazine (p. 1414), writes
as though this were Ibsen's first meeting with his wife; and a note
by Halvdan Koht, in the Norwegian edition of Ibsen's Letters,
in time you will become Lady Inger." Twenty years
later, at Christmas, 1876, he gave his wife a copy of the
German translation of Lady Inger, with the following
inscription on the fly-leaf:
"This book is by right indefeasible thine,
"Who in spirit art born of the Ostrat line."
In Lady Inger Ibsen has chosen a theme from the
very darkest hour of Norwegian history. King Sverre's
democratic monarchy, dating from the beginning of the
thirteenth century, had paralysed the old Norwegian no-
bility. 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 un-
hampered by obligations. At the beginning of the six-
teenth century, then, patriotism and public spirit were
almost dead among the nobles, while the monarchy, be-
fore which the old aristocracy had fallen, was itself dead,
or rather merged (since 1380) in the Crown of Denmark.
The peasantry, too, had 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 degradation was, in fact, even deep-
er than he represents it, for the longings for freedom, the
seems to bear out this view. But it would appear that what Fni
Ibsen told Dr. Elias was that on the date mentioned Ibsen "for the
first time visited at her father's house." The terms of the anecdote
almost compel us to assume that he had previously met her else-
where. It seems almost inconceivable that Ibsen, of all people,
should have made such a speech to a lady on their very first meeting.
14 LADY INGER OF OSTRAT
stirrings of revolt, which form the motive-power of the
action, are invented, or at any rate ideaUsed, by the
poet. Fru Inger Ottisdatter Gyldenldve 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, lit-
tle more than this seems to have been known of her;
so that in making her the victim of a struggle between pa-
triotic duty and maternal love, he was perhaps poetising
in the absence of positive evidence, rather than in oppo-
sition to it. Subsequent research, unfortunately, has
shown that Fru Inger was but little troubled with patri-
otic aspirations. She was a hard and grasping woman,
ambitious of social power and predominance, but inac-
cessible, 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 insur-
rection of the so-called "Dale-junker," a peasant who
gave himself out as the heir of Sten Sture, a former re-
gent 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 char-
acter 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 Elina Gylden-
love 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 Elina Gylden-
love. She died four years later, leaving him two chil-
dren; and thereupon he would fain have married her
sister Lucia. Such a union, however, was regarded as
incestuous, and the lovers failed in their effort to obtain
a special dispensation. Lucia then became her brother-
in-law's mistress, and bore him a son. But the ecclesi-
astical law was in those days not to be trifled with;
Nils Lykke was thrown into prison for his crime, con-
demned, 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 tragedy he chose
The Bergen public did not greatly take to Lady Inger,
and it was performed, in its novelty, only twice. Nor
is the reason far to seek. The extreme complexity of
the intrigue, and the lack of clear guidance through its
mazes, probably left the Bergen audiences no less puz-
zled than the London audiences who saw the play at the
Scala Theatre in 1906.^ It is a play which can be ap-
preciated only by spectators who know it beforehand.
Such audiences it has often found in Norway, where it
was revived at the Christiania Theatre in 1875; but in
Denmark and Germany, though it has been produced
several times, it has never been very successful. We
need go no further than the end of the first act to under-
stand the reason. On an audience which knows noth-
ing of the play, the sudden appearance of a "Stranger,"
to whose identity it has not the slightest clue, can pro-
1 Stage Society performances, January 28 and 29, 1906. Lady
Inger was played by Miss Edyth Olive, Elina by Miss Alice Craw-
ford, Nils Lykke by Mr. Henry Ainley, Olaf Skaktavl by Mr. Alfred
Brydone, and Nils Stensson by Mr. Harcourt Williams.
16 LADY INGER OF OSTRAT
duce no effect save one of bewilderment. To rely on
such an incident for what was evidently intended to be
a thrilling "curtain," was to betray extreme inexperi-
ence; and this single trait is typical of much in the play.
Nevertheless Lady Inger marks a decisive advance in
Ibsen's development. It marks, one may say, the birth
of his power of invention. He did not as yet know how
to restrain or clarify his invention, and he made clumsy
use of the stock devices of a bad school. But he had
once for all entered upon that course of technical
training which it took him five-and-twenty years to
complete. He was learning much that he was after-
wards to unlearn; but had he not undergone this ap-
prenticeship, he would never have been the master he
When Ibsen entered upon his duties at the Bergen
Theatre, the influence of Eugene Scribe and his imita-
tors was at its very height. Of the one hundred and
forty-five plays produced during his tenure of office, more
than half (seventy-five) were French, twenty-one being
by Scribe himself, and at least half the remainder by
adepts of his school, Bayard, Dumanoir, Melesville, etc.
It is to this school that Ibsen, in Lady Inger, proclaims
his adherence; and he did not finally shake off its in-
fluence until he wrote the Third Act of A DolVs House
in 1879. Although the romantic environment of the
play, and the tragic intensity of the leading character,
tend to disguise the relationship, there can be no doubt
that Lady Inger is, in essence, simply a French drama of
intrigue, constructed after the method of Scribe, as ex-
emplified in Adrienne Lecouvreur, Les Conies de la Reine
de Navarre,^ and a dozen other French plays, with the
staging of which the poet was then occupied. It might
seem that the figure of EHna, brooding over the thought
of her dead sister, coflSned in the vault below the ban-
queting-hall, belonged rather to German romanticism;
but there are plenty of traces of German romanticism
even in the French plays with which the good people
of Bergen were regaled. For the suggestion of grave-
vaults and coffined heroines, for example, Ibsen need
have gone no further than Dumas's Catherine Howard,
which he produced in March, 1853. I do not, however,
pretend that his romantic colouring came to him from
France. It came to him, doubtless, from Germany, by
way of Denmark. My point is that the conduct of the
intrigue in Lady Inger shows the most unmistakable
marks of his study of the great French plot-manipulators.
Its dexterity and its artificiality alike are neither Ger-
man nor Danish, but French. Ibsen had learnt the
great secret of Scribe — the secret of dramatic movement.
The play is full of those ingenious complications, mis-
takes of identity, and rapid turns of fortune by which
Scribe enchained the interest of his audiences. Its cen-
tral theme — a mother plunging into intrigue and crime
for the advancement of her son, only to find that her son
himself has been her victim — is as old as Greek tragedy.
The secondary story, too — that of Elina's wild infatua-
tion for the betrayer and practically the murderer of her
sister — could probably be paralleled in the ballad litera-
* These two plays were produced, respectively, in March and
October, 1854, at the very time when Ibsen must have been plan-
ning and composing Lady Inger.
18 LADY INGER OF OSTRAT
ture of Scotland, Germany, or Denmark, and might, in-
deed, have been told, in verse or prose, by Sir Walter
Scott. But these very un-Parisian elements are handled
in a fundamentally Parisian fashion, and Ibsen is clearly
fascinated, for the time, by the ideal of what was after-
wards to be known as the "well-made play." The fact
that the result is in reality an ill-made play in no way in-
validates this theory. It is perhaps the final condemna-
tion of the well-made play that in nine cases out of ten
— and even in the hands of far more experienced play-
wrights than the young Bergen "theatre-poet" — it is apt
to prove ill-made after all.
Far be it from me, however, to speak in pure dispar-
agement of Lady Inger. With all its defects, it seems to
me manifestly the work of a great poet — the only one of
Ibsen's plays prior to The Vikings at Helgeland of which
this can be said. It may be that early impressions mis-
lead me; but I still cannot help seeing in Lady Inger a
figure of truly tragic grandeur; in Nils Lykke one of the
few really seductive seducers in literature; and in many
passages of the dialogue, the touch of a master hand.
LADY INGER OF OSTRAT
Lady Inger Ottisdaughter Romer, widow of High Steward
Elina Gyldenlove, her daughter.
Nils Lykke, Danish knight and councillor.
Olaf Skaktavl, an outlawed Norwegian noble.
Jens Bielke, Swedish commander.
BiORN, majordomo at Ostrat.
Finn, a servant.
EiNAR HuK, bailiff at Ostrat.
Servants, peasants, and Sivedish men-at-arms.
The action takes place at Ostrat Manor, on the Trondhiem Fiord,
in the year 1528.
[Pronunciation of Names. — Ostrat = Ostrot; Elina (Nor-
wegian, Eline) = Eleena; Stensson = Staynson; Biorn = Byorn;
Jens Bielke = Yens Byelke; Huk = Hook. The g's in "Inger"
and in "Gyldenlove" are, of course, hard. The final e's and
the o's pronounced much as in German.]
LADY INGER OF OSTRAT
DRAMA IN FIVE ACTS
A room at Ostrat. Through an open door in the hack, the
Banquet Hall is seen in faint moonlight, ivhich shines
fitfully through a deep boto-window in the opposite
wall. To the right, an entrance-door; further for-
ward, a curtained windoio. On tJie left, a door lead-
ing to the inner rooms; further forward a large open
fireplace, which casts a glow over tJie room. It is a
BioRN and Finn are sitting by the fireplace. The latter
is occupied in polishing a helmet. Several pieces of
armour lie near them, along with a sword and shield.
\After a pause.] Who was Knut^ Alfson ?
My Lady says he was the last of Norway's knighthood.
And the Danes killed him at Oslo-fiord .'
* Pronounce Knoot.
22 LADY INGER OF OSTRAT [act i
If you know not that, ask any child of five.
So Knut Alfson was the last of our knighthood ? And
now he's dead and gone! [Holds up the helmet.] Well,
thou must e'en be content to hang scoured and bright in
the Banquet Hall; for what art thou now but an empty
nut-shell ? The kernel — the worms have eaten that
many a winter agone.
What say you, Biorn — may not one call Norway's land
an empty nut-shell, even like the helmet here; bright
without, worm-eaten within ?
Hold your peace, and mind your task! — Is the helmet
It shines like silver in the moonlight.
Then put it by. — See here; scrape the rust off the
[Turning the sword over and examining it.] Is it
worth while ?
What mean you ?
The edge is gone.
ACT I] LADY INGER OF OSTRAT 23
What's that to you? Give it me.— Here, take the
[As before.] There is no grip to it!
[Mutters.] Let me get a grip on y o u
[Finn hums to himself for a while.
What now ?
An empty helmet, a sword with no edge, a shield with
no grip — so it has all come to that. Who can blame
Lady Inger if she leaves such weapons to hang scoured
and polished on the walls, instead of rusting them in
Danish blood ?
Folly ! Is there not peace in the land ?
Peace ? Ay, when the peasant has shot away his last
arrow, and the wolf has reft the last lamb from the fold,
then is there peace between them. But 'tis a strange
friendship. Well, well; let that pass. 'Tis fitting, as I
said, that the harness hang bright in the hall; for you
know the old saw: "Call none a man but the knightly
man." So now that we have never a knight in the land.
24 LADY INGER OF OSTRAT [act i
we have never a man; and where no man is, there must
women order things; therefore
Therefore — therefore I bid you hold your foul prate!
The evening wears on. Enough; you may hang the
helmet and armour in the hall again.
[I71 a low voice.] Nay, best let it be till to-morrow.
What, do you fear the dark ?
Not by day. And if so be I fear it at even, I am not
the only one. Ah, you may look; I tell you in the house-
folk's room there is talk of many things. [Lower.] They
say that, night by night, a tall figure, clad in black, walks
the Banquet Hall.
Old wives' tales!
Ah, but they all swear 'tis true.
That I well believe.
The strangest of all is that Lady Inger thinks the
ACT I] LADY INGER OF OSTRAT 25
[Starting.] Lady Inger? What does she think?
What Lady Inger thinks? I warrant few can tell
that. But sure it is that she has no rest in her. See
you not how day by day she grows thinner and paler?
[Looks keenly at him.] They say she never sleeps — and
that it is because of the black figure
[While he is sfeaking, Elina Gyldenlove has ap-
peared in the half-open door on the left. She stops
and listens, unobserved.
And you believe such follies ?
Well, half and half. There be folk, too, that read
things another way. But that is pure malice, I'll be
bound. — Hearken, Biorn — know you the song that is
going round the country ?
Ay, 'tis on all folks' lips. 'Tis a shameful scurril
thing, for sure; yet it goes prettily. Just listen:
[Sings in a low voice.
Dame Inger sitteth in Ostrat fair,
She wraps her in costly furs —
26 LADY INGER OF OSTRAT [act i
She decks her in velvet and ermine and vair,
Red gold are the beads that she twines in her hair —
But small peace in that soul of hers.
Dame Inger hath sold her to Denmark's lord.
She bringeth her folk 'neath the stranger's yoke —
In guerdon whereof
[BioRN enraged, seizes him hy the throat. Elina
Gyldenlove withdraws without having been seen.
I will send you guerdonless to the foul fiend, if you
prate of Lady Inger but one unseemly word more.
[Breaking from his grasp.] Why — did / make the
song? [The blast of a horn is heard from the right.
Hark — what is that .''
A horn. Then there come guests to-night.
[At the window.] They are opening the gate. I hear
the clatter of hoofs in the courtyard. It must be a knight.
A knight ? Nay, that can scarce be.
ACT I] LADY INGER OF OSTRAT 27
Why not ?
Did you not say yourself: the last of our knighthood
is dead and gone ? \Goes out to tlie right.
The accursed knave, with his prying and peering!
What avails all my striving to hide and hush things?
They whisper of her even now — ; soon all men will be
shouting aloud that
[Comes in again through the door on the left; looks
round her, and says with suppressed emotion:] Are you
alone, Biorn ?
Is it you. Mistress Elina ?
Come, Biorn, tell me one of your stories; I know you
can tell others than those that
A story? Now — so late in the evening ?
If vou count from the time when it grew dark at
Ostrat, then 'tis late indeed.
28 LADY INGER OF OSTRAT [act i
What ails you ? Has aught crossed you ? You seem
There is something amiss. I have hardly known you
this half year past.
Bethink you: this half year past my dearest sister
Lucia has been sleeping in the vault below.
That is not all, Mistress Elina — it is not that alone
that makes you now thoughtful and white and silent,
now restless and ill at ease, as you are to-night.
Not that alone, you think ? And wherefore not ? Was
she not gentle and pure and fair as a summer night ?
Biorn, — I tell you, Lucia was dear to me as my life.
Have you forgotten how many a time, when we were
children, we sat on your knee in the winter evenings.''
You sang songs to us, and told us tales
Ay, then you were blithe and gay.
Ah, then, Biorn! Then I lived a glorious life in fable-
land, and in my own imaginings. Can it be that the
ACT I] LADY INGER OF OSTRAT 29
sea-strand was naked then as now? If it was so, I
knew it not. 'Twas there I loved to go weaving all mv
fair romances; my heroes came from afar and sailed
again across the sea; I lived in their midst, and set forth
with them when they sailed away. [Sinks on a chair.]
Now I feel so faint and weary; I can live no longer in
my tales. They are only — tales. [Rising, vehemently.]
Biorn, know you what has made me sick? A truth; a
hateful, hateful truth, that gnaws me day and night.
What mean you ?
Do you remember how sometimes you would give us
good counsel and wise saws ? Sister Lucia followed them;
but I — ah, well-a-day!
[Consoling her.] Well, well !
I know it — I was proud, overweening! In all our
games, I would still be the Queen, because I was the
tallest, the fairest, the wisest! I know it!
That is true.
Once you took me by the hand and looked earnestly
at me, and said: "Be not proud of your fairness, or your
wisdom; but be proud as the mountain eagle as often
as you think: I am Inger Gyldenlove's daughter!"
30 LADY INGER OF OSTRAT [act i
And was it not matter enough for pride ?
You told me so often enough, Biorn! Oh, you told
me many a tale in those days. [Presses his hand.]
Thanks for them all! — Now, tell me one more; it might
make me light of heart again, as of old.
You are a child no longer.
Nay, indeed! But let me dream that I am. — Come,
[Throws herself into a chair. Biorn sits on the edge
of the high hearth.
Once upon a time there was a high-born knight
[Who has been listening restlessly in the direction of the
hall, seizes his arm and breaks out in a vehement whisper.]
Hush! No need to shout so loud; I can hear well!
[More softly.] Once upon a time there was a high-
born knight, of whom there went the strange report
[Elina half rises, and listens in anxious suspense in
the direction of the hall.
ACT I] LADY INGER OF OSTRAT 81
Mistress EHna, — what ails you ?
[Sits down again.] Me ? Nothing, Go on.
Well, as I was saying — did this knight but look straight
in a woman's eyes, never could she forget it after; her