Henrik Ibsen.

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Copyright, 1911, by Charles Scribner's Sons




"a doll's house" 23

Translated by William Archer

introduction to " ghosts " 195

"ghosts" 207

Translated by Wiluam Arcbeb


HENRiK IBSEN ABOUT 1879 Frontispiece




house" 184






On June 27, 1879, Ibsen wrote from Rome to Marcus
Oronvold: "It is now rather hot in Rome, so in about a
week we are going to Amalfi, which, being close to the
sea, is cooler, and offers opportunity for bathing. I in-
tend to complete there a new dramatic work on which I
am now engaged." From Amalfi, on September 20, he
wrote to John Paulsen: "A new dramatic work, which I
have just completed, has occupied so much of my time
during these last months that I have had absolutely none
to spare for answering letters." This "new dramatic
work" was Et Dukkehjem, which was published in Co-
penhagen, December 4, 1879. Dr. George Brandes has
given some account of the episode in real life which sug-
gested to Ibsen the plot of this play; but the real Nora,
it appears, committed forgery, not to save her husband's
life, but to redecorate her house. The impulse received
from this incident must have been trifling. It is much
more to the purpose to remember that the character and
situation of Nora had been clearly foreshadowed, ten
years earlier, in the figure of Selma in The League of

Of A DolVs House we find in the Literary Remains a
first brief memorandum, a fairly detailed scenario, a com-

* Copyright, 1906, by Charles Scribner's Sons


plete draft, in quite actable form, and a few detached frag-
ments of dialogue. These documents put out of court
a theory of my own' that Ibsen originally intended to
give the play a "happy ending," and that the relation
between Krogstad and Mrs. Linden was devised for that
• Here is the first memorandum: —


Rome, 19/10/78.

There are two kinds of spiritual laws, two kinds of
conscience, one in men and a quite different one in women.
They do not understand each other; but the woman is
judged in practical life according to the man's law, as if
she were not a woman but a man.

The wife in the play finds herself at last entirely at sea
as to what is right and what wrong; natural feeling on
the one side, and belief in authority on the other, leave her
in utter bewilderment.

A woman cannot be herself in the society of to-day,
which is exclusively a masculine society, with laws writ-
ten by men, and with accusers and judges who judge
feminine conduct from the masculine standpoint.

She has committed forgery, and it is her pride; for she
did it for love of her husband, and to save his life. But
this husband, full of everyday rectitude, stands on the basis
of the law and regards the matter with a masculine eye.

' Stated in the Fortnightly Review, July 1906, and repeated in the
first edition of this Introduction.

^The definite article does not, I think, imply that Ibsen ever in-
tended this to be the title of the play, but merely that the notes
refer to "the" tragedy of contemporary hfe which he has had for
some time in his mind.


Soul-struggles. Oppressed and bewildered by belief in
authority, she loses her faith in her own moral right and
ability to bring up her children. Bitterness. A mother
in the society of to-day, like certain insects, (ought to) go
away and die when she has done her duty towards the
continuance of the species. Love of life, of home, of
husband and children and kin. Now and then a woman-
like shaking off of cares. Then a sudden return of ap-
prehension and dread. She must bear it all alone. The
catastrophe approaches, inexorably, inevitably. Despair,
struggle, and disaster.

In reading Ibsen's statement of the conflict he meant
to portray between the male and female conscience, one
cannot but feel that he somewhat shirked the issue in
making Nora's crime a formal rather than a real one.
She had no intention of defrauding Krogstad ; and though
it is an interesting point of casuistry to determine whether,
under the stated circumstances, she had a moral right to
sign her father's name, opinion on the point would
scarcely be divided along the line of sex. One feels that,
in order to illustrate the "two kinds of conscience," Ib-
sen ought to have made his play turn upon some point of
conduct (if such there be) which would sharply divide
masculine from feminine sympathies. The fact that
such a point would be extremely hard to find seems to
cast doubt on the ultimate validity of the thesis. If, for
instance, Nora had deliberately stolen the money from
Krogstad, with no intention of repaying it, that would
certainly have revealed a great gulf between her morality
and Helmer's; but would any considerable number of
her sex have sympathised with her? I am not denying


a marked dijfference between the average man and the
average woman in the development of such character-
istics as the sense of justice; but I doubt whether, when
women have their full share in legislation, the laws re-
lating to forgery will be seriously altered.

A parallel-text edition of the provisional and the final
forms of A Doll's House would be intensely interesting.
For the present, I can note only a few of the most salient
differences between the two versions.

Helmer is at first called "Stenborg";^ it is not till the
scene with Krogstad in the second act that the name Hel-
mer makes its first appearance. Ibsen was constantly
changing his characters' names in the course of composi-
tion — trying them on, as it were, until he found one that
was a perfect fit.

The first scene, down to the entrance of Mrs. Linden,
though it contains all that is necessary for the mere de-
velopment of the plot, runs to only twenty-three speeches,
as compared with eighty-one in the completed text. The
business of the macaroons is not even indicated; there
is none of the charming talk about the Christmas-tree
and the children's presents; no request on Nora's part
that her present may take the form of money, no indica-
tion on Helmer's part that he regards her supposed ex-
travagance as an inheritance from her father. Helmer
knows that she toils at copying far into the night in order
to cam a few crowns, though of course he has no suspicion
as to how she employs the money. Ibsen evidently felt
it inconsistent with his character that he should permit

* This name seems to have haunted Ibsen. It was also the origi-
nal name of Stensgard in The League of Youth.


this, so in the completed version we learn that Nora, in
order to do her copying, locked herself in under the pre-
text of making decorations for the Christmas-tree, and,
when no result appeared, declared that the cat had de-
stroyed her handiwork. The first version, in short, is
like a stained glass window seen from without, the sec-
ond like the same window seen from within.

The long scene between Nora and Mrs. Linden is more
fully worked out, though many small touches of character
are lacking, such as Nora's remark that some day "when
Torvald is not so much in love with me as he is now,"
she may tell him the great secret of how she saved his life.
It is notable throughout that neither Helmer's sestheticism
nor the sensual element in his relation to Nora is nearly so
much emphasised as in the completed play; while Nora's
tendency to small fibbing — that vice of the unfree — is al-
most an afterthought. In the first appearance of Krog-
stad, and the indication of his old acquaintance with Mrs.
Linden, many small adjustments have been made, all
strikingly for the better. The first scene with Dr. Rank,
— originally called Dr. Hank — has been almost entirely re-
written. There is in the draft no indication of the doc-
tor's ill-health or of his pessimism; it seems as though
he had at first been designed as a mere confidant or rai-
sonneur. This is how he talks: —

Hank. Hallo ! what's this "? A new carpet } I con-
gratulate you ! Now take, for example, a handsome car-
pet like this; is it a luxury ? I say it isn't. Such a car-
pet is a paying investment; with it underfoot, one has
higher, subtler thoughts, and finer feelings, than when one
moves over cold, creaking planks in a comfortless room.


Especially where there are children in the house. The
race ennobles itself in a beautiful environment.

Nora. Oh, how often I have felt the same, but could
never express it.

Hank. No, I dare say not. It is an observation in
spiritual statistics — a science as yet very little cultivated.

As to Krogstad, the doctor remarks: —

If Krogstad's home had been, so to speak, on the sunny
side of life, with all the spiritual windows opening towards
the light, ... I dare say he might have been a decent
enough fellow, like the rest of us.

Mrs. Linden. You mean that he is not. . . . ?

Hank. He cannot be. His marriage was not of the
kind to make it possible. An unhappy marriage, Mrs.
Linden, is like small-pox: it scars the soul.

Nora. And what does a happy marriage do ?

Hank. It is like a "cure" at the baths; it expels all
peccant humours, and makes all that is good and fine in
a man grow and flourish.

It is notable that we find in this scene nothing of Nora's
glee on learning that Krogstad is now dependent on her
husband ; that fine touch of dramatic irony was an after-
thought. After Helmer's entrance, the talk is very difiFer-
ent in the original version. He remarks upon the painful
interview he has just had with Krogstad, whom he is
forced to dismiss from the bank; Nora, in a mild way,
pleads for him; and the doctor, in the name of the sur-
vival of the fittest,' denounces humanitarian sentimen-

' It is noteworthy that Darwin's two great books were translated
into Danish very shortly before Ibsen began to work at A Doll's


tality, and then goes off to do his best to save a patient
who, he confesses, would be much better dead. This
discussion of the Krogstad question before Nora has
learnt how vital it is to her, manifestly discounts the ef-
fect of the scenes which are to follow: and Ibsen, on re-
vision, did away with it entirely.

Nora's romp with the children, interrupted by the en-
trance of Krogstad, stands very much as in the final ver-
sion; and in the scene with Krogstad there is no essen-
tial change. One detail is worth noting, as an instance
of the art of working up an effect. In the first version,
when Krogstad says, "Mrs. Stenborg, you must see to it
that I keep my place in the bank," Nora replies: "I?
How can you think that I have any such influence with
my husband ? " — a natural but not specially effective re-
mark. But in the final version she has begun the scene
by boasting to Krogstad of her influence, and telling him
that people in a subordinate position ought to be careful
how they offend such influential persons as herself; so
that her subsequent denial that he has any influence be-
comes a notable dramatic effect.

The final scene of the act, between Nora and Helmer,
is not materially altered in the final version; but the first
version contains no hint of the business of decorating the
Christmas-tree or of Nora's wheedling Ilelmer by pre-
tending to need his aid in devising her costume for the
fancy dress ball. Indeed, this ball has not yet entered
Ibsen's mind. He thinks of it first as a children's party in
the flat overhead, to which Helmer's family are invited.

In the opening scene of the second act there are one or
two traits that might perhaps have been preserved, such


as Nora's prayer: "Oh, God! Oh, God! do something
to Torvald's mind to prevent him from enraging that
terrible man! Oh, God! Oh, God! I have three lit-
tle children! Do it for my children's sake." Very nat-
ural and touching, too, is her exclamation, "Oh, how
glorious it would be if I could only wake up, and come to
my senses, and cry, ' It was a dream ! It was a dream ! ' "
A week, by the way, has passed, instead of a single night,
as in the finished play; and Nora has been wearing her-
self out by going to parties every evening. Helmer enters
immediately on the nurse's exit; there is no scene with
Mrs. Linden in which she remonstrates with Nora for
having (as she thinks) borrowed money from Dr. Rank,
and so suggests to her the idea of applying to him for aid.
In the scene with Helmer, we miss, among many other
characteristic traits, his confession that the ultimate
reason why he cannot keep Krogstad in the bank is that
Krogstad, an old schoolfellow, is so tactless as to tutoyer
him. There is a curious little touch in the passage where
Helmer draws a contrast between his own strict rectitude
and the doubtful character of Nora's father. "I can
give you proof of it," he says. " I never cared to mention
it before — but the twelve hundred dollars he gave you
when you were set on going to Italy he never entered in
his books: we have been quite unable to discover where
he got them from." When Dr. Rank enters, he speaks
to Helmer and Nora together of his failing health; it is
an enormous improvement which transfers this passage,
in a carefully polished form, to his scene with Nora alone.
That scene, in the draft, is almost insignificant. It con-
sists inainlv of somewhat melodramatic forecasts of dis-


aster on Nora's part, and the doctor's alarm as to her
health. Of the famous silk-stocking scene — that invalu-
able sidelight on Nora's relation with Helmer there is not
a trace. There is no hint of Nora's appeal to Rank for
help, nipped in the bud by his declaration of love for her.
All these elements we find in a second draft of the scene
which has been preserved. In this second draft, Rank
says, "Helmer himself might quite well know every
thought I have ever had of you; he shall know when I
am gone." It might have been better, so far as England
is concerned, if Ibsen had retained this speech; it might
have prevented much critical misunderstanding of a per-
fectly harmless and really beautiful episode.

Between the scene with Rank and the scene with Krog-
stad there intervenes, in the draft, a discussion between
Nora and Mrs. Linden, containing this curious passage: —

Nora. When an unhappy wife is separated from her
husband she is not allowed to keep her children ? Is that
really so ?

Mrs. Linden. Yes, I think so. That's to say, if she
is guilty.

Nora. Oh, guilty, guilty; what does it mean to be
guilty ? Has a wife no right to love her husband ?

Mrs. Linden. Yes, precisely, her husband — and him

Nora. Why, of course; who was thinking of any-
thing else ? But that law is unjust, Kristina. You can
see clearly that it is the men that have made it.

Mrs. Linden. Aha — so you have begun to take up
the woman question ?

Nora. No, I don't care a bit about it.


The scene with Krogstad is essentially the same as in
the final form, though sharpened, so to speak, at many
points. The question of suicide was originally discussed
in a somewhat melodramatic tone: —

Nora. I have been thinking of nothing else all these

Krogstad. Perhaps. But how to do it? Poison?
Not so easy to get hold of. Shooting? It needs some
skill, Mrs. Helmer. Hanging ? Bah— there's something
ugly in that. . . .

Nora. Do you hear that rushing sound ?

Krogstad. The river? Yes, of course you have
thought of that. But you haven't pictured the thing to

And he proceeds to do so for her. After he has gone,
leaving the letter in the box, Helmer and Rank enter, and
Nora implores Helmer to do no work till New Year's
Day (the next day) is over. He agrees, but says, " I will
just see if any letters have come"; whereupon she rushes
to the piano and strikes a few chords. He stops to lis-
ten, and she sits down and plays and sings Anitra's song
from Peer Gijnt. When Mrs. Linden presently enters,
Nora makes her take her place at the piano, drapes a
shawl around her, and dances Anitra's dance. It must
be owned that Ibsen has immensely improved this very
strained and arbitrary incident by devising the fancy
dress ball and the necessity of rehearsing the tarantella
for it; but at the best it remains a piece of theatricalism.
As a study in technique, the re-handling of the last act
is immensely interesting. At the beginning, in the earlier


form, Nora rushes down from the children's party over-
head, and takes a significant farewell of Mrs. Linden,
whom she finds awaiting her. Helmer almost forces her
to return to the party; and thus the stage is cleared for
the scene between Mrs. Linden and Krogstad, which, in
the final version, opens the act. Then Nora enters with
the two elder children, whom she sends to bed. Helmer
immediately follows, and on his heels Dr. Rank, who an-
nounces in plain terms that his disease has entered on its
last stage, that he is going home to die, and that he will not
have Helmer or any one else hanging around his sick-
room. In the final version, he says all this to Nora alone
in the second act; while in the last act, coming in upon
Helmer flushed with wine, and Nora pale and trembling
in her masquerade dress, he has a parting scene with them,
the significance of which she alone understands. In the
earlier version, Rank has several long and heavy speeches
in place of the light, swift dialogue of the final form,
with its different significance for Helmer and for Nora.
There is no trace of the wonderful passage which precedes
Rank's exit. To compare the draft with the finished
scene is to see a perfect instance of the transmutation of
dramatic prose into dramatic poetry.

There is in the draft no indication of Helmer's being
warmed with wine, or of the excitement of the senses
which gives the final touch of tragedy to Nora's despair.
The process of the action is practically the same in both
versions; but everywhere in the final form a sharper edge
is given to things. One little touch is very significant.
In the draft, when Helmer has read the letter with which
Krogstad returns the forged bill, he cries, "You are saved,


Nora, you are saved!" In the revision, Ibsen cruelly
altered this into, " I am saved, Nora, I am saved ! " In the
final scene, where Nora is telling Helmer how she expected
him, when the revelation came, to take all the guilt upon
himself, we look in vain, in the first draft, for this pas-
sage : —

Helmer. I would gladly work for you night and day,
Nora — bear sorrow and want for your sake. But no
man sacrifices his honour, even for one he loves.

Nora. Millions of women have done so.

This, then, was an afterthought: was there ever a more
brilliant one?

It is with A DolVs House that Ibsen enters upon his
kingdom as a world-poet. He had done greater work in
the past, and he was to do greater work in the future; but
this was the play which was destined to carry his name be-
yond the limits of Scandinavia, and even of Germany, to
the remotest regions of civilisation. Here the Fates were
not altogether kind to him. The fact that for many years
he was known to thousands of people solely as the author
of A Doll's House and its successor. Ghosts, was largely
responsible for the extravagant misconceptions of his
genius and character which prevailed during the last
decade of the nineteenth century, and are not yet entirely
extinct. In these plays he seemed to be delivering a direct
assault on marriage, from the standpoint of feminine indi-
vidualism; wherefore he was taken to be a preacher and
pamphleteer rather than a poet. In these plays, and in
these only, he made physical disease a considerable factor


in the action ; whence It was concluded that he had a mor-
bid predilection for " nauseous " subjects. In these plays
he laid special and perhaps disproportionate stress on the
influence of heredity; whence he was believed to be pos-
sessed by a monomania on the point. In these plays,
finally, he was trying to act the essentially uncongenial
part of the prosaic realist. The effort broke down at
many points, and the poet reasserted himself; but these
flaws In the prosaic texture were regarded as mere be-
wildering errors and eccentricities. In short, he was in-
troduced to the world at large through two plays which
showed his power, indeed, almost In perfection, but left
the higher and subtler qualities of his genius for the most
part unrepresented. Hence the grotesquely distorted
vision of him which for so long haunted the minds even
of intelligent people. Hence, for example, the amazing
opinion, given forth as a truism by more than one critic
of great ability, that the author of Peer Gynt was devoid
of humour.

Within a little more than a fortnight of its publication,
A DolVs House was presented at the Royal Theatre,
Copenhagen, where Fru Hennings, as Nora, made the
great success of her career. The play was soon being
acted, as well as read, all over Scandinavia. Nora's
startling "declaration of independence" afforded such
an inexhaustible theme for heated discussion, that at last
it had to be formally barred at social gatherings, just as,
in Paris twenty years later, the Dreyfus Case was pro-
claimed a prohibited topic. The popularity of Pillars
of Society in Germany had paved the way for its successor,
which spread far and wide over the German stage in the


spring of 1880, and has ever since held its place in the
repertory of the leading theatres. As his works were at
that time wholly unprotected in Germany, Ibsen could
not prevent managers from altering the end of the play
to suit their taste and fancy. He was thus driven, under
protest, to write an alternative ending, in which, at the
last moment, the thought of her children restrained Nora
from leaving home. He preferred, as he said, "to com-
mit the outrage himself, rather than leave his work to the
tender mercies of adaptors." The patched-up ending
soon dropped out of use and out of memory. Ibsen's own
account of the matter will be found in his Correspondence,
Letter 142.

It took ten years for the play to pass beyond the limits
of Scandinavia and Germany. Madame Modjeska, it
is true, presented a version of it in Louisville, Kentucky,
in 1883, but it attracted no attention. In the following
year Messrs. Henry Arthur Jones and Henry Herman pro-
duced at the Prince of Wales's Theatre, London, a play
entitled Breaking a Butterfly, which was described as be-
ing "founded on Ibsen's Norah,'^ but bore only a remote
resemblance to the original. In this production Mr.
Beerbohm Tree took the part of Dunkley, a melodra-
matic villain who filled the place of Krogstad. In 1885,
again, an adventurous amateur club gave a quaint per-
formance of Miss Lord's translation of the play at a hall
in Argyle Street, London. Not until June 7, 1889, was
A DoWs House competently, and even brilliantly, pre-
sented to the English public, by Mr. Charles Charring-
ton and Miss Janet Achurch, at the Novelty Theatre,
London, afterwards re-named the Kingsway Theatre.


It was this production that really made Ibsen known to
the English-speaking peoples. In other words, it marked
his second great stride towards world-wide, ' as distinct
from merely national, renown — if we reckon as the first
stride the success of Pillars of Society in Germany. Mr.
and Mrs. Charrington took A DolVs House with them on
a long Australian tour; Miss Beatrice Cameron (Mrs.
Richard Mansfield) was encouraged by the success of the
London production to present the play in New York,
whence it soon spread to other American cities; while in
London itself it was frequently revived and vehemently
discussed. The Ibsen controversy, indeed, did not break
out in its full virulence until 1891, when Ghosts and Hedda
Gabler were produced in London; but from the date of the
Novelty production onwards, Ibsen was generally recog-
nised as a potent factor in the intellectual and artistic
life of the day.

A French adaptation of Et Dukkehjem was produced
in Brussels in March 1889, but attracted little attention.

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