Support the Monkey! Tell All your Friends and Teachers
ON June 27, 1879, Ibsen wrote from Rome to Marcus Gronvold: “It is now rather hot in
Rome, so in about a week we are going to Amalfi, which, being close to the sea, is
cooler, and offers opportunity for bathing. I intend to complete there a new dramatic
work on which I am now engaged.” From Amalfi, on September 20, he wrote to John
Paulsen: “A new dramatic work, which I have just completed, has occupied so much of
my time during these last months that I have had absolutely none to spare for
answering letters.” This “new dramatic work” was Et Dukkehjem, which was
published in Copenhagen, December 4, 1879. Dr. George Brandes has given some
account of the episode in real life which suggested to Ibsen the plot of this play; but the
real Nora, it appears, committed forgery, not to save her husband’s life, but to
redecorate her house. The impulse received from this incident must have been trifling.
It is much more to the purpose to remember that the character and situation of Nora
had been clearly foreshadowed, ten years earlier, in the figure of Selma in The League
Of A Doll’s House we find in the Literary Remains a first brief memorandum, a fairly
detailed scenario, a complete draft, in quite actable form, and a few detached fragments
of dialogue. These documents put out of court a theory of my own 1 that Ibsen
originally intended to give the play a “happy ending,” and that the relation between
Krogstad and Mrs. Linden was devised for that purpose. Here is the first memorandum
NOTES FOR THE 2TRAGEDY OF TO-DAY ROME, 19/10/78.
There are two kinds of spiritual laws, two kinds of conscience, one in men and a quite
different one in women. They do not understand each other; but the woman is judged
in practical life according to the man’s law, as if she were not a woman but a man.
The wife in the play finds herself at last entirely at sea as to what is right and what
wrong; natural feeling on the one side, and belief in authority on the other, leave her in
A woman cannot be herself in the society of to-day, which is exclusively a masculine
society, with laws written by men, and with accusers and judges who judge feminine
conduct from the masculine standpoint.
1 Stated in the Fortnightly Review, July 1906, and repeated in the first edition of this
2 The definite article does not, I think, imply that Ibsen ever intended this to be the title
of the play, but merely that the notes refer to “the” tragedy of contemporary life which
he has had for sometime in his mind.
She has committed forgery, and it is her pride; for she did it for love of her husband,
and to save his life. But this husband, full of everyday rectitude, stands on the basis of
the law and regards the matter with a masculine eye.
Soul-struggles. Oppressed and bewildered by belief in authority, she loses her faith in
her own moral right and ability to bring up her children. Bitterness. A mother in the
society of to-day, like certain insects, (ought to) go away and die when she has done her
duty towards the continuance of the species. Love of life, of home, of husband and