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Free Barron's Booknotes-A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen-Free Book Notes
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REFERENCE

THE CRITICS - LITERARY CRITICISM AND OPINION

IBSEN'S CONTRIBUTION

Shakespear had put ourselves on the stage but not our situations.... Ibsen supplies the want left by Shakespear. He gives us not only ourselves but our situations. The things that
happen to his stage figures are things that happen to us. One consequence is that his plays are much more important to us than Shakespear's. Another is that they are capable both of hurting us cruelly and of filling us with excited hopes of escape from idealistic tyrannies and with visions of intenser life in the future.

George Bernard Shaw, The Quintessence of Ibsenism, 1913

A DOLL'S HOUSE-ITS PLACE IN HISTORY

A Doll's House almost irresistibly invites sweeping generalizations. It is the first Modern Tragedy, as Ibsen originally named it. The strong divorce play and the social drama are alike descended from it. A Doll's House stands in relation to modern drama as Queen Victoria to the royal families of Europe. It is not Ibsen's greatest play, but it is probably his most striking achievement, in the sense that it changed most decisively the course of literature. Its significance for contemporaries is quite distinct from its permanent significance or, again, from its place in the personal development of Ibsen as an artist.


M. C. Bradbrook, Ibsen the Norwegian, 1948

NORA AS A TRAGIC HEROINE

'The modern tragedy' does not end in ruin, as Ibsen originally had intended, but in a new start. However, values are destroyed as the whole of Nora's world collapses. This happens precisely because she is true to the best in herself. She grows in stature,
and is purged by suffering. In defeat she is victorious. In the majority of theories about 'the tragic' these are significant factors. When everything lies in ruins round her, Nora emerges strong and independent as never before, and takes the consequences of her newly gained understanding; she is in the process of becoming 'herself'; at the same time she points to a freer and more honest humanity in a healthier society. It is in this sense that she is a modern, tragic heroine, and the play precisely what it claims to be, a 'modern tragedy'.

Edward Beyer, Ibsen: The Man and His Work, 1980

HEDDA'S POWER TO DOMINATE

Hedda would have made a marvelous queen. She would have been able to take her place by the side of any king, and she would have enjoyed shaping the destinies of a community, even a nation.... Hedda knew just what she could do with another person. She understood what might bring any man or woman in line with her desires. She could estimate over a considerable time where the people of her social group would be, given certain influences. It is probably safe to conclude that her perversion was due to failure in the realm of her native abilities. The power to rule, to dominate, and to shape destinies
was never adequately utilized. Her creative meaning would have been found in a great social contribution rendered from the viewpoint of an upper class; her tragedy is the tragedy of a functionless aristocracy.

Theodore Jorgenson, Henrik Ibsen, His Life and Drama, 1963

HEDDA'S DEATH

As soon as she hears the ugly details of Lovborg's accident, Hedda knows she must die. There can be no evasion now. She must die, not to escape the consequences of her involvement with Lovborg-she vehemently rejects Brack's ingratiating offer to hush things up-nor merely to snuff out an existence of insufferable ennui. She must die to redeem the world of spiritual possibility from Lovborg's failure, to restore honour to the Gabler pistol, and to assert herself in an act of exemplary beauty. Dying is an art for Hedda.

Errol Durbach, Ibsen the Romantic, 1982

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