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MonkeyNotes-An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen
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ACT SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

Act I

Summary

The play opens in the evening in Dr. Stockmann's sitting room. The doctor is seated at the dining table, and his wife is serving him. Peter Stockmann, the Burgomaster (mayor) and Dr. Stockmann's brother, enters wearing an overcoat and an official gold-laced cap. When Mrs. Stockmann invites him to stay for dinner, he politely declines, saying he prefers economical tea, bread, and butter to roast beef. Mrs. Stockmann responds by saying they are not spendthrifts.

Hovstad, the editor of the local newspaper, enters and greets the Burgomaster. He tells him that he has come to collect an article from Dr. Stockmann for the People's Messenger. The Burgomaster, in an expansive mood, talks with Hovstad about the baths, around which the whole life of the town centers; the mayor feels that the baths have brought about an economic transformation for the citizens. Visitors, especially invalids, come to the baths in large numbers. The Burgomaster declares that with the visitors "money has come into circulation and has brought life and momentum with it."

Hovstad points out that Dr. Stockmann is really the creator of the baths. The Burgomaster, who is the Chairman of the Baths Committee, resents this remark. He wants the editor of the paper to know that he has also played an active role in constructing the baths. Mrs. Stockmann, the diplomat, wisely suggests that Peter and Thomas Stockmann can share the honors, like brothers.

Dr. Stockmann, who has gone out for a walk with his sons, returns; he brings with him another visitor, Captain Horster. The doctor invites his brother Peter to have a drink with them. The Burgomaster says haughtily, "I never join in drinking parties." It is apparent that Peter does not particularly like Dr. Stockmann, especially not his jovial nature. He also resents the doctor's "extravagant" life style. The Stockmann brothers had led a hard life and had lived for a long while on starvation wages. Now Dr. Stockmann wants to live in style, surrounded by "bright, cheerful, freedom-loving, hard-working young fellows like Hovstad, Horster and others."


The Burgomaster asks his brother about the article he has written on the baths for the newspaper, but Dr. Stockmann does not give any details. His refusal to discuss the article upsets the Burgomaster, who insists that in "a well-ordered community the individual must subordinate himself to the society, or, more precisely to the authorities whose business it is to watch over the welfare of the society." With these words, the Burgomaster walks out in an angry mood.

After Peter's departure, the others sit round sipping cocktails and chatting. Captain Horster says that he intends to sail to America soon and will miss the election of the Town Council. Horster candidly admits that he does not care or understand anything about politics; he does, however, take an interest in news that has public interest. Hovstad feels that Dr. Stockmann's article will be of interest to the public and is eager to receive it from the doctor; however, Stockmann asks him to defer the publication of the article, for he is awaiting an important report pertaining to the baths.

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