Henrik Ibsen is a Norwegian playwright and theatre director born on March 20 1828 to an affluent merchant family. He grew up in the Norwegian coastal town of Skien as the oldest child of five children. Though growing up initially wealthy, his family was soon thrown into poverty due to problems his father’s family had, resulting in him pulling out of school at the age of 15 to find work. He landed a job as a apprentice pharmacist in the small town of Grimstad; at this time he started writing plays, creating his first play the tragedy Catalina in 1850.
Henrik Ibsen’s plays can be split into three separate periods. The first period ended in 1877 with the appearance of The Pillars of Society. The second period covers the time where he wrote dramas in protest against social conditions such as Ghosts. The last period is marked by symbolic plays such as The Master Builder and When We Dead Awaken.
Henrik Ibsen was said to be a pioneer of modern drama because he deviated from the theatrical norm at the time by combining three key innovations of “colloquial dialogue, objectivity, and tightness of plot”. According to Writers Theatre: “his creation of settings, characters and narratives that were recognizable and relatable to his audiences was a monumental breakthrough. The plays, categorized as “Realism,” tapped into the intelligentsia’s discomfort with the hypocrisy between conventional moral values and the foundations and consequences of a post-Darwin, industrial-capitalist society.”
Some literary elements that Ibsen excelled at utilizing were symbolism and dramatic irony and a common theme used in his plays was Man vs. Society.
Norway is located in the northern part of the European continent. The southern and western parts of Norway have more precipitation and milder winters compared to the northern and eastern parts of Norway. Norway’s current government is a unitary constitutional monarchy with a prime minister and king. Norway has one of the most developed economies in Europe, having the second-highest GDP per capita in Europe and the sixth highest in the world. Traditional Folklore in the region has a huge influence on Norse literature.
The Victorian Era
The Victorian era lasted from 1837 – 1901. It was a strictly patriarchal society where men had more economic and social control over women. Men were expected to go out into society and obtain a job to provide for the family while the women stayed at home to tend the household. An “ideal woman” at the time was one that was obedient to the head man of the family and would commit herself to the household chores and maintaining the family. Victorian society was divided into separate classes. Upper-class people were generally landowners who had to do little to no manual labor. The middle class was mostly composed of workers with skilled jobs and were able to support themselves and their families such as merchants and shopkeepers. The working class were unskilled workers who worked through harsh and unsanitary conditions. They often lacked basic necessities and many resorted to certain methods of escape such as alcohol and opium. The 19th-century feminism movement differed from modern feminism in that they fought primarily for women’s right to vote and were known as suffragettes.
Marriage in the Victorian Era
Marriage in the Victorian Era was an economic institution. Marriage was encouraged within one’s class and especially for the upper-class. By forming a relationship between two families, they will help each other politically, economically, and socially. Women and men had different expectations as men showed their ambitions in the public while women were limited within the house – only allowed to enjoy private life and take care of the children in the house. The book written by Mrs. Beeton directly shows the expectations of women at the time. The fact that women of all social classes had to stay and work within the households remains a similarity. However, lower-class women had worse conditions to work, which was a significant difference making the work harder for the lower-class women.
Theatrical realism describes a movement in theatre that began in the late nineteenth century, which aimed to bring greater faithfulness to real life to theatre. One of the influences which led to the development of theatrical realism may have been Charles Darwin, which must have questioned the traditional moral values of society. Some of the theatrical elements used in theatrical realism are diegetic sound and music, realistic characters and dialogue, realistic setting (no supernatural elements). Some realist works include Maxim Gorky’s The Lower Depths, and Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull.