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MonkeyNotes-An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen
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BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Author Information

Henrik Johan Ibsen was a well-known Norwegian playwright and poet who became known as the father of modern drama, for he successfully introduced modern social problems into his plays in a realistic way. Ibsen was born in Skein, Norway, on March 20, 1820. Because his father was an unsuccessful businessman, Ibsen had to spend his childhood and youth in abject poverty. At the age of eighteen, Ibsen parented an illegitimate son, but he never married the servant girl. In 1844, he left Skein for Grimstad to become an apothecary's apprentice; he wanted to eventually study medicine. In 1855, Ibsen went to Christiania, hoping to enter the university; however, he failed the entrance examination.

Ibsen began to write at an early age. By nineteen, he was composing poems, and he completed his first play, Catilene, when he was twenty-two years of age. A year later, he joined a theater company, where he wrote and directed several plays; he also designed costumes. Because of his successes, Ibsen was appointed manager of the National Theater at Christiania (now known as Oslo) in 1857. In 1858, Ibsen married Susannah Thoresen; they had one son. In 1862, Ibsen wrote Love's Comedy, a drama in epigrammatic verse. At about the same time, the theater for which Ibsen had been working went bankrupt, and for a period of time, the playwright was unable to stage any of his plays. In 1863, he received a scholarship that allowed him to travel extensively. In the same year, he wrote The Pretenders that was staged successfully in 1864.


When the Prussian - Danish war broke out in 1864, Ibsen left Norway for Italy. Except for short visits to Norway, he lived in Italy and Germany until 1891. In the first years after his emigration to Rome, Ibsen wrote two poetic plays, Brand (1866) and Peer Gynt (1867); the first was about a priest who sacrifices his family for his sense of duty, and the latter is about a young man who lives only for pleasure. These plays established Ibsen's reputation as an international dramatist, and the Norwegian government offered him a poet's pension. Ibsen was bitter because the pension was not offered earlier, when he was in need of money to make ends meet. Ibsen's friends had often extended financial help to enable him to live and work as a playwright.

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