Henrik Ibsen was born at Skien in Norway on March 20, 1828. When he was eight,his father went bankrupt. This event made a deep impression upon him.
After theywent bankrupt, his family moved to a small farm north of the town where theylived in poverty. Henrik was forced to attend a small local school. He receiveda substandard education. In 1843, the family returned to town. Unfortunatelythey were still poor.
Ibsen came from a very dysfunctional family. Hisdomineering father was an alcoholic who found solace in alcohol. His quietmother found comfort in religion. He used them as a model for his plays.
Theblend of an overbearing husband and a submissive wife made appearances in hisplays Brand, A Doll’s House, and Ghosts. The bitter character of Hjalmar Ekdalin The Wild Duck was based on Ibsen’s father. When he was sixteen, he moved toGrimstad to work for a druggist. He had wanted to become a doctor, but game upon the idea after he failed Greek and Math on his University entrance exams.
Medicine was not his only ambition. He also wanted to be a painter. In 1850,Ibsen entered the first of his three writing periods. His romantic period wentfrom 1850 to 1873. The greatest works from this period are the Brandand PeerGynt Most of the plays that he wrote during these years are romantic historicaldramas. Lady Inger of Ostraat was a romantic drama with intrigue.
The Vikings ofHelgeland was a simple and sad tragedy. The last play of the Romantic period wasEmperor and Galilean. It is similar to Ibsen’s other play Catiline because itshowed his impatience with traditional attitudes and values. In both plays heshowed sympathy for historical characters who were famous for being rebellious. Ibsen became the stage manager and playwright of the National Stage in Bergen in1851.
He worked there for six years. In 1857, he moved to Christiania (Oslo),where he became director of the Norwegian Theatre. He neglected both writing andthe theatre. He plunged into social life with his literary friends and drankheavily. In 1858, Ibsen married Suzannah Thoresen, with whom he had one child,Sigurd Ibsen. This was a marriage that was often as misunderstood as themarriages of Ibsen’s dramas.
At the age of thirty, Ibsen saw his firstperformances of Shakespeare in Copenhagen and Dresden. Shakespeare’s workconvinced Ibsen that serious drama must strive toward a psychological truth andform its basis on the characters and conflicts of mankind. Ibsen and his friendBjørnstjerne Bjørnson founded “The Norwegian Company” in1859. After the Norwegian Theatre went bankrupt in 1862, Ibsen was depressed andbroke.
As a result, he was sometimes seen drunk on the streets of Christiania. His success with The Pretenders in 1863 inspired him to write several poems. Ibsen became bitterly disappointed with current political events, especiallyNorway’s failure to help the Danes in their war against Prussia. In 1864 he leftNorway.
After he left, he spent most of his time in Rome, Dresden and Munich. Hewas supported by a pension from the Norwegian state and income from his books. In 1866, he had a significant breakthrough with his play Brand. In his speech toChristiania students in 1874, Ibsen said, “All I have written, I havementally lived through.
Partly I have written on that which only by glimpses,and at my best moments, I have felt stirring vividly within me as somethinggreat and beautiful. I have written on that which, so to speak, has stood higherthan my daily self. But I have also written on the opposite, on that which tointrospective contemplation appears as the dregs and sediments of one’s ownnature. Yes, gentlemen, nobody can poetically present that to which he has notto a certain degree and at least at times the model within himself.
” In1877, Ibsen entered his second period of writing with his play Pillars ofSociety. Ibsen wrote a series of plays dealing with social problems, such as ADoll’s House and Ghosts. He also wrote a series of plays dealing withpsychological problems, such as The Lady from the Seas and Hedda Gabler. Hewrote eight plays during of this period and both originated and perfected theproblem play. The term “problem play” refers specifically to the typeof drama which Ibsen wrote beginning with Pillars of Society in 1877. In theseplays, the emphasis is on the presentation of a social or