IBSEN, Henrik

(1828 - 1906)
"To write is to sit in judgement on oneself.” 

Norwegian playwright, poet and theatre director, known as the “Father of Realism”, Henrik Johan Ibsen was one of the most influential dramatists of his time.  He gave to the European stage a new sense of moral analysis set against a rigorously realistic middle-class background. 

While still a young man he became the director of a new theatre in Bergen, where he learnt the craft of playwriting, continuing his theatrical education in Christiana (now Oslo) when he took over the directorship of the theatre there. He left Norway in 1862, remaining in self-imposed exile for the next 27 years, settling for a while in Italy where he wrote Brand, published in 1865.  The play made him famous throughout Scandinavia, and two years later he created one of his masterpieces, Peer Gynt, a five-act allegorical drama written in verse, published in a print run of only 1250 copes.  Initially Ibsen was unsure that the dramatic poem was suitable for the stage, but it was eventually performed in Christiana in 1876, with the incidental music composed by his friend and compatriot Edvard Grieg. A literary classic, it was published with illustrations by another master of his craft, Arthur Rackham, in 1936.

He returned to his native Norway in 1891 as a literary hero and internationally renowned playwright and when he died in 1906, he was honoured by the Norwegian government with a state funeral. 

Ibsen’s works are often scathing commentaries on the morality of the society in which he lived, exploring the human condition in a manner unlike any before, frequently causing furious controversy.  James Joyce once wrote that Ibsen “has provoked more discussion and criticism than of any other living man”.  After Shakespeare’s, Henrik Ibsen’s plays are the most-performed dramas ever written, and continue to be performed around the world today, with the characters Nora (A Doll’s House) and Hedda (Hedda Gabler) considered to be two of the most demanding theatrical roles ever.

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 Henrik IBSEN

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