Henrik Ibsen.

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Produced by Martin Adamson. HTML version by Al Haines.



Henrik Ibsen

Translated by R. Farquharson Sharp


A play in five acts


Dr. Thomas Stockmann, Medical Officer of the Municipal Baths.
Mrs. Stockmann, his wife.
Petra (their daughter) a teacher.
Ejlif & Morten (their sons, aged 13 and 10 respectively).
Peter Stockmann (the Doctor's elder brother), Mayor of the
Town and Chief Constable, Chairman of the Baths' Committee, etc.
Morten Kiil, a tanner (Mrs. Stockmann's adoptive father).
Hovstad, editor of the "People's Messenger."
Billing, sub-editor.
Captain Horster.
Aslaksen, a printer.

Men of various conditions and occupations, a few women, and a troop of
schoolboys - the audience at a public meeting.

The action takes place in a coastal town in southern Norway,



(SCENE. - DR. STOCKMANN'S sitting-room. It is evening. The room is
plainly but neatly appointed and furnished. In the right-hand wall are
two doors; the farther leads out to the hall, the nearer to the
doctor's study. In the left-hand wall, opposite the door leading to the
hall, is a door leading to the other rooms occupied by the family. In
the middle of the same wall stands the stove, and, further forward, a
couch with a looking-glass hanging over it and an oval table in front
of it. On the table, a lighted lamp, with a lampshade. At the back of
the room, an open door leads to the dining-room. BILLING is seen
sitting at the dining table, on which a lamp is burning. He has a
napkin tucked under his chin, and MRS. STOCKMANN is standing by the
table handing him a large plate-full of roast beef. The other places at
the table are empty, and the table somewhat in disorder, evidently a
meal having recently been finished.)

Mrs. Stockmann. You see, if you come an hour late, Mr. Billing, you
have to put up with cold meat.

Billing (as he eats). It is uncommonly good, thank you - remarkably good.

Mrs. Stockmann. My husband makes such a point of having his meals
punctually, you know.

Billing. That doesn't affect me a bit. Indeed, I almost think I enjoy a
meal all the better when I can sit down and eat all by myself, and

Mrs. Stockmann. Oh well, as long as you are enjoying it - . (Turns to
the hall door, listening.) I expect that is Mr. Hovstad coming too.

Billing. Very likely.

(PETER STOCKMANN comes in. He wears an overcoat and his official hat,
and carries a stick.)

Peter Stockmann. Good evening, Katherine.

Mrs. Stockmann (coming forward into the sitting-room). Ah, good
evening - is it you? How good of you to come up and see us!

Peter Stockmann. I happened to be passing, and so - (looks into the
dining-room). But you have company with you, I see.

Mrs. Stockmann (a little embarrassed). Oh, no - it was quite by chance
he came in. (Hurriedly.) Won't you come in and have something, too?

Peter Stockmann. I! No, thank you. Good gracious - hot meat at night!
Not with my digestion.

Mrs. Stockmann. Oh, but just once in a way -

Peter Stockmann. No, no, my dear lady; I stick to my tea and bread and
butter. It is much more wholesome in the long run - and a little more
economical, too.

Mrs. Stockmann (smiling). Now you mustn't think that Thomas and I are

Peter Stockmann. Not you, my dear; I would never think that of you.
(Points to the Doctor's study.) Is he not at home?

Mrs. Stockmann. No, he went out for a little turn after supper - he and
the boys.

Peter Stockmann. I doubt if that is a wise thing to do. (Listens.) I
fancy I hear him coming now.

Mrs. Stockmann. No, I don't think it is he. (A knock is heard at the
door.) Come in! (HOVSTAD comes in from the hall.) Oh, it is you, Mr.

Hovstad. Yes, I hope you will forgive me, but I was delayed at the
printers. Good evening, Mr. Mayor.

Peter Stockmann (bowing a little distantly). Good evening. You have
come on business, no doubt.

Hovstad. Partly. It's about an article for the paper.

Peter Stockmann. So I imagined. I hear my brother has become a prolific
contributor to the "People's Messenger."

Hovstad. Yes, he is good enough to write in the "People's Messenger"
when he has any home truths to tell.

Mrs. Stockmann (to HOVSTAD). But won't you - ? (Points to the

Peter Stockmann. Quite so, quite so. I don't blame him in the least, as
a writer, for addressing himself to the quarters where he will find the
readiest sympathy. And, besides that, I personally have no reason to
bear any ill will to your paper, Mr. Hovstad.

Hovstad. I quite agree with you.

Peter Stockmann. Taking one thing with another, there is an excellent
spirit of toleration in the town - an admirable municipal spirit. And it
all springs from the fact of our having a great common interest to
unite us - an interest that is in an equally high degree the concern of
every right-minded citizen.

Hovstad. The Baths, yes.

Peter Stockmann. Exactly - -our fine, new, handsome Baths. Mark my
words, Mr. Hovstad - the Baths will become the focus of our municipal
life! Not a doubt of it!

Mrs. Stockmann. That is just what Thomas says.

Peter Stockmann. Think how extraordinarily the place has developed
within the last year or two! Money has been flowing in, and there is
some life and some business doing in the town. Houses and landed
property are rising in value every day.

Hovstad. And unemployment is diminishing,

Peter Stockmann. Yes, that is another thing. The burden on the poor
rates has been lightened, to the great relief of the propertied
classes; and that relief will be even greater if only we get a really
good summer this year, and lots of visitors - plenty of invalids, who
will make the Baths talked about.

Hovstad. And there is a good prospect of that, I hear.

Peter Stockmann. It looks very promising. Inquiries about apartments
and that sort of thing are reaching us, every day.

Hovstad. Well, the doctor's article will come in very suitably.

Peter Stockmann. Has he been writing something just lately?

Hovstad. This is something he wrote in the winter; a recommendation of
the Baths - an account of the excellent sanitary conditions here. But I
held the article over, temporarily.

Peter Stockmann. Ah, - some little difficulty about it, I suppose?

Hovstad. No, not at all; I thought it would be better to wait until the
spring, because it is just at this time that people begin to think
seriously about their summer quarters.

Peter Stockmann. Quite right; you were perfectly right, Mr. Hovstad.

Hovstad. Yes, Thomas is really indefatigable when it is a question of
the Baths.

Peter Stockmann. Well remember, he is the Medical Officer to the Baths.

Hovstad. Yes, and what is more, they owe their existence to him.

Peter Stockmann. To him? Indeed! It is true I have heard from time to
time that some people are of that opinion. At the same time I must say
I imagined that I took a modest part in the enterprise.

Mrs. Stockmann. Yes, that is what Thomas is always saying.

Hovstad. But who denies it, Mr. Stockmann? You set the thing going and
made a practical concern of it; we all know that. I only meant that the
idea of it came first from the doctor.

Peter Stockmann. Oh, ideas yes! My brother has had plenty of them in
his time - unfortunately. But when it is a question of putting an idea
into practical shape, you have to apply to a man of different mettle.
Mr. Hovstad. And I certainly should have thought that in this house at

Mrs. Stockmann. My dear Peter -

Hovstad. How can you think that - ?

Mrs. Stockmann. Won't you go in and have something, Mr. Hovstad? My
husband is sure to be back directly.

Hovstad. Thank you, perhaps just a morsel. (Goes into the dining-room.)

Peter Stockmann (lowering his voice a little). It is a curious thing
that these farmers' sons never seem to lose their want of tact.

Mrs. Stockmann. Surely it is not worth bothering about! Cannot you and
Thomas share the credit as brothers?

Peter Stockmann. I should have thought so; but apparently some people
are not satisfied with a share.

Mrs. Stockmann. What nonsense! You and Thomas get on so capitally
together. (Listens.) There he is at last, I think. (Goes out and opens
the door leading to the hall.)

Dr. Stockmann (laughing and talking outside). Look here - here is
another guest for you, Katherine. Isn't that jolly! Come in, Captain
Horster; hang your coat up on this peg. Ah, you don't wear an overcoat.
Just think, Katherine; I met him in the street and could hardly
persuade him to come up! (CAPTAIN HORSTER comes into the room and
greets MRS. STOCKMANN. He is followed by DR. STOCKMANN.) Come along in,
boys. They are ravenously hungry again, you know. Come along, Captain
Horster; you must have a slice of beef. (Pushes HORSTER into the
dining-room. EJLIF and MORTEN go in after them.)

Mrs. Stockmann. But, Thomas, don't you see - ?

Dr. Stockmann (turning in the doorway). Oh, is it you, Peter? (Shakes
hands with him.) Now that is very delightful.

Peter Stockmann. Unfortunately I must go in a moment -

Dr. Stockmann. Rubbish! There is some toddy just coming in. You haven't
forgotten the toddy, Katherine?

Mrs. Stockmann. Of course not; the water is boiling now. (Goes into the

Peter Stockmann. Toddy too!

Dr. Stockmann. Yes, sit down and we will have it comfortably.

Peter Stockmann. Thanks, I never care about an evening's drinking.

Dr. Stockmann. But this isn't an evening's drinking.

Peter Stockmann. It seems to me - . (Looks towards the dining-room.) It
is extraordinary how they can put away all that food.

Dr. Stockmann (rubbing his hands). Yes, isn't it splendid to see young
people eat? They have always got an appetite, you know! That's as it
should be. Lots of food - to build up their strength! They are the
people who are going to stir up the fermenting forces of the future,

Peter Stockmann. May I ask what they will find here to "stir up," as
you put it?

Dr. Stockmann. Ah, you must ask the young people that - when the times
comes. We shan't be able to see it, of course. That stands to
reason - two old fogies, like us.

Peter Stockmann. Really, really! I must say that is an extremely odd
expression to -

Dr. Stockmann. Oh, you mustn't take me too literally, Peter. I am so
heartily happy and contented, you know. I think it is such an
extraordinary piece of good fortune to be in the middle of all this
growing, germinating life. It is a splendid time to live in! It is as
if a whole new world were being created around one.

Peter Stockmann. Do you really think so?

Dr. Stockmann. Ah, naturally you can't appreciate it as keenly as I.
You have lived all your life in these surroundings, and your
impressions have been blunted. But I, who have been buried all these
years in my little corner up north, almost without ever seeing a
stranger who might bring new ideas with him - well, in my case it has
just the same effect as if I had been transported into the middle of a
crowded city.

Peter Stockmann. Oh, a city - !

Dr. Stockmann. I know, I know; it is all cramped enough here, compared
with many other places. But there is life here - there is promise - there
are innumerable things to work for and fight for; and that is the main
thing. (Calls.) Katherine, hasn't the postman been here?

Mrs. Stockmann (from the dining-room). No.

Dr. Stockmann. And then to be comfortably off, Peter! That is something
one learns to value, when one has been on the brink of starvation, as
we have.

Peter Stockmann. Oh, surely -

Dr. Stockmann. Indeed I can assure you we have often been very hard put
to it, up there. And now to be able to live like a lord! Today, for
instance, we had roast beef for dinner - and, what is more, for supper
too. Won't you come and have a little bit? Or let me show it you, at
any rate? Come here -

Peter Stockmann. No, no - not for worlds!

Dr. Stockmann. Well, but just come here then. Do you see, we have got a

Peter Stockmann. Yes, I noticed it.

Dr. Stockmann. And we have got a lamp-shade too. Do you see? All out of
Katherine's savings! It makes the room so cosy. Don't you think so?
Just stand here for a moment - no, no, not there - just here, that's it!
Look now, when you get the light on it altogether. I really think it
looks very nice, doesn't it?

Peter Stockmann. Oh, if you can afford luxuries of this kind -

Dr. Stockmann. Yes, I can afford it now. Katherine tells me I earn
almost as much as we spend.

Peter Stockmann. Almost - yes!

Dr. Stockmann. But a scientific man must live in a little bit of style.
I am quite sure an ordinary civil servant spends more in a year than I

Peter Stockmann. I daresay. A civil servant - a man in a well-paid

Dr. Stockmann. Well, any ordinary merchant, then! A man in that
position spends two or three times as much as -

Peter Stockmann. It just depends on circumstances.

Dr. Stockmann. At all events I assure you I don't waste money
unprofitably. But I can't find it in my heart to deny myself the
pleasure of entertaining my friends. I need that sort of thing, you
know. I have lived for so long shut out of it all, that it is a
necessity of life to me to mix with young, eager, ambitious men, men of
liberal and active minds; and that describes every one of those fellows
who are enjoying their supper in there. I wish you knew more of Hovstad.

Peter Stockmann. By the way, Hovstad was telling me he was going to
print another article of yours.

Dr. Stockmann. An article of mine?

Peter Stockmann. Yes, about the Baths. An article you wrote in the

Dr. Stockmann. Oh, that one! No, I don't intend that to appear just for
the present.

Peter Stockmann. Why not? It seems to me that this would be the most
opportune moment.

Dr. Stockmann. Yes, very likely - under normal conditions. (Crosses the

Peter Stockmann (following him with his eyes). Is there anything
abnormal about the present conditions?

Dr. Stockmann (standing still). To tell you the truth, Peter, I can't
say just at this moment - at all events not tonight. There may be much
that is very abnormal about the present conditions - and it is possible
there may be nothing abnormal about them at all. It is quite possible
it may be merely my imagination.

Peter Stockmann. I must say it all sounds most mysterious. Is there
something going on that I am to be kept in ignorance of? I should have
imagined that I, as Chairman of the governing body of the Baths -

Dr. Stockmann. And I should have imagined that I - . Oh, come, don't let
us fly out at one another, Peter.

Peter Stockmann. Heaven forbid! I am not in the habit of flying out at
people, as you call it. But I am entitled to request most emphatically
that all arrangements shall be made in a businesslike manner, through
the proper channels, and shall be dealt with by the legally constituted
authorities. I can allow no going behind our backs by any roundabout

Dr. Stockmann. Have I ever at any time tried to go behind your backs?

Peter Stockmann. You have an ingrained tendency to take your own way,
at all events; and, that is almost equally inadmissible in a well
ordered community, The individual ought undoubtedly to acquiesce in
subordinating himself to the community - or, to speak more accurately,
to the authorities who have the care of the community's welfare.

Dr. Stockmann. Very likely. But what the deuce has all this got to do
with me?

Peter Stockmann. That is exactly what you never appear to be willing to
learn, my dear Thomas. But, mark my words, some day you will have to
suffer for it - sooner or later. Now I have told you. Good-bye.

Dr. Stockmann. Have you taken leave of your senses? You are on the
wrong scent altogether.

Peter Stockmann. I am not usually that. You must excuse me now if I -
(calls into the dining-room). Good night, Katherine. Good night,
gentlemen. (Goes out.)

Mrs. Stockmann (coming from the dining-room). Has he gone?

Dr. Stockmann. Yes, and in such a bad temper.

Mrs. Stockmann. But, dear Thomas, what have you been doing to him again?

Dr. Stockmann. Nothing at all. And, anyhow, he can't oblige me to make
my report before the proper time.

Mrs. Stockmann. What have you got to make a report to him about?

Dr. Stockmann. Hm! Leave that to me, Katherine. It is an extraordinary
thing that the postman doesn't come.

(HOVSTAD, BILLING and HORSTER have got up from the table and come into
the sitting-room. EJLIF and MORTEN come in after them.)

Billing (stretching himself). Ah! - one feels a new man after a meal
like that.

Hovstad. The mayor wasn't in a very sweet temper tonight, then.

Dr. Stockmann. It is his stomach; he has wretched digestion.

Hovstad. I rather think it was us two of the "People's Messenger" that
he couldn't digest.

Mrs. Stockmann. I thought you came out of it pretty well with him.

Hovstad. Oh yes; but it isn't anything more than a sort of truce.

Billing. That is just what it is! That word sums up the situation.

Dr. Stockmann. We must remember that Peter is a lonely man, poor chap.
He has no home comforts of any kind; nothing but everlasting business.
And all that infernal weak tea wash that he pours into himself! Now
then, my boys, bring chairs up to the table. Aren't we going to have
that toddy, Katherine?

Mrs. Stockmann (going into the dining-room). I am just getting it.

Dr. Stockmann. Sit down here on the couch beside me, Captain Horster.
We so seldom see you. Please sit down, my friends. (They sit down at
the table. MRS. STOCKMANN brings a tray, with a spirit-lamp, glasses,
bottles, etc., upon it.)

Mrs. Stockmann. There you are! This is arrack, and this is rum, and
this one is the brandy. Now every one must help themselves.

Dr. Stockmann (taking a glass). We will. (They all mix themselves some
toddy.) And let us have the cigars. Ejlif, you know where the box is.
And you, Morten, can fetch my pipe. (The two boys go into the room on
the right.) I have a suspicion that Ejlif pockets a cigar now and
then! - but I take no notice of it. (Calls out.) And my smoking-cap too,
Morten. Katherine, you can tell him where I left it. Ah, he has got it.
(The boys bring the various things.) Now, my friends. I stick to my
pipe, you know. This one has seen plenty of bad weather with me up
north. (Touches glasses with them.) Your good health! Ah, it is good to
be sitting snug and warm here.

Mrs. Stockmann (who sits knitting). Do you sail soon, Captain Horster?

Horster. I expect to be ready to sail next week.

Mrs. Stockmann. I suppose you are going to America?

Horster. Yes, that is the plan.

Mrs. Stockmann. Then you won't be able to take part in the coming

Horster. Is there going to be an election?

Billing. Didn't you know?

Horster. No, I don't mix myself up with those things.

Billing. But do you not take an interest in public affairs?

Horster. No, I don't know anything about politics.

Billing. All the same, one ought to vote, at any rate.

Horster. Even if one doesn't know anything about what is going on?

Billing. Doesn't know! What do you mean by that? A community is like a
ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.

Horster. Maybe that is all very well on shore; but on board ship it
wouldn't work.

Hovstad. It is astonishing how little most sailors care about what goes
on on shore.

Billing. Very extraordinary.

Dr. Stockmann. Sailors are like birds of passage; they feel equally at
home in any latitude. And that is only an additional reason for our
being all the more keen, Hovstad. Is there to be anything of public
interest in tomorrow's "Messenger"?

Hovstad. Nothing about municipal affairs. But the day after tomorrow I
was thinking of printing your article -

Dr. Stockmann. Ah, devil take it - my article! Look here, that must wait
a bit.

Hovstad. Really? We had just got convenient space for it, and I thought
it was just the opportune moment -

Dr. Stockmann. Yes, yes, very likely you are right; but it must wait
all the same. I will explain to you later. (PETRA comes in from the
hall, in hat and cloak and with a bundle of exercise books under her

Petra. Good evening.

Dr. Stockmann. Good evening, Petra; come along.

(Mutual greetings; PETRA takes off her things and puts them down on a
chair by the door.)

Petra. And you have all been sitting here enjoying yourselves, while I
have been out slaving!

Dr. Stockmann. Well, come and enjoy yourself too!

Billing. May I mix a glass for you?

Petra (coming to the table). Thanks, I would rather do it; you always
mix it too strong. But I forgot, father - I have a letter for you. (Goes
to the chair where she has laid her things.)

Dr. Stockmann. A letter? From whom?

Petra (looking in her coat pocket). The postman gave it to me just as I
was going out.

Dr. Stockmann (getting up and going to her). And you only give to me

Petra. I really had not time to run up again. There it is!

Dr. Stockmann (seizing the letter). Let's see, let's see, child! (Looks
at the address.) Yes, that's all right!

Mrs. Stockmann. Is it the one you have been expecting go anxiously,

Dr. Stockmann. Yes, it is. I must go to my room now and - Where shall I
get a light, Katherine? Is there no lamp in my room again?

Mrs. Stockmann. Yes, your lamp is already lit on your desk.

Dr. Stockmann. Good, good. Excuse me for a moment - , (Goes into his

Petra. What do you suppose it is, mother?

Mrs. Stockmann. I don't know; for the last day or two he has always
been asking if the postman has not been.

Billing. Probably some country patient.

Petra. Poor old dad! - he will overwork himself soon. (Mixes a glass for
herself.) There, that will taste good!

Hovstad. Have you been teaching in the evening school again today?

Petra (sipping from her glass). Two hours.

Billing. And four hours of school in the morning?

Petra. Five hours.

Mrs. Stockmann. And you have still got exercises to correct, I see.

Petra. A whole heap, yes.

Horster. You are pretty full up with work too, it seems to me.

Petra. Yes - but that is good. One is so delightfully tired after it.

Billing. Do you like that?

Petra. Yes, because one sleeps so well then.

Morten. You must be dreadfully wicked, Petra.

Petra. Wicked?

Morten. Yes, because you work so much. Mr. Rorlund says work is a
punishment for our sins.

Ejlif. Pooh, what a duffer, you are, to believe a thing like that!

Mrs. Stockmann. Come, come, Ejlif!

Billing (laughing). That's capital!

Hovstad. Don't you want to work as hard as that, Morten?

Morten. No, indeed I don't.

Hovstad. What do you want to be, then?

Morten. I should like best to be a Viking,

Ejlif. You would have to be a pagan then.

Morten. Well, I could become a pagan, couldn't I?

Billing. I agree with you, Morten! My sentiments, exactly.

Mrs. Stockmann (signalling to him). I am sure that is not true, Mr.

Billing. Yes, I swear it is! I am a pagan, and I am proud of it.
Believe me, before long we shall all be pagans.

Morten. And then shall be allowed to do anything we like?

Billing. Well, you'll see, Morten.

Mrs. Stockmann. You must go to your room now, boys; I am sure you have
some lessons to learn for tomorrow.

Ejlif. I should like so much to stay a little longer -

Mrs. Stockmann. No, no; away you go, both of you, (The boys say good
night and go into the room on the left.)

Hovstad. Do you really think it can do the boys any harm to hear such

Mrs. Stockmann. I don't know; but I don't like it.

Petra. But you know, mother, I think you really are wrong about it.

Mrs. Stockmann. Maybe, but I don't like it - not in our own home.

Petra. There is so much falsehood both at home and at school. At home
one must not speak, and at school we have to stand and tell lies to the

Horster. Tell lies?

Petra. Yes, don't you suppose we have to teach them all sorts of things
that we don't believe?

Billing. That is perfectly true.

Petra. If only I had the means, I would start a school of my own; and
it would be conducted on very different lines.

Billing. Oh, bother the means - !

Horster. Well if you are thinking of that, Miss Stockmann, I shall be
delighted to provide you with a schoolroom. The great big old house my
father left me is standing almost empty; there is an immense
dining-room downstairs -

Petra (laughing). Thank you very much; but I am afraid nothing will

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