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poet flew in the face of orthodoxy, and its professors cried, out in bewilderment and
wrath. But it was just at this point that, in practice, the real grip and thrill of the drama
were found to come in. The tarantella scene never, in my experience-and I have seen
five or six great actresses in the part-produced an effect in any degree commensurate
with the effort involved. But when Nora and Helmer faced each other, one on each side
of the table, and set to work to ravel out the skein of their illusions, then one felt oneself
face to face with a new thing in drama-an order of experience, at once intellectual and
emotional, not hitherto attained in the theatre. This every one felt, I think, who was in
any way accessible to that order of experience. For my own part, I shall never forget
how surprised I was on first seeing the play, to find this scene, in its naked simplicity,
far more exciting and moving than all the artfully-arranged situations of the earlier
acts. To the same effect, from another point of view, we have the testimony of Fru
Hennings, the first actress who ever played the part of Nora. In an interview published
soon after Ibsen’s death, she spoke of the delight it was to her, in her youth, to embody
the Nora of the first and second acts, the “lark,” the “squirrel,” the irresponsible,
butterfly Nora. “When I now play the part,” she went on, “the first acts leave me
indifferent. Not until the third act am I really interested-but then, intensely.” To call
the first and second acts positively uninteresting would of course be a gross
exaggeration. What one really means is that their workmanship is still a little derivative
and immature, and that not until the third act does the poet reveal the full originality
and individuality of his genius.
NORA, his wife.
THE HELMERS’ THREE CHILDREN.
ANNA, 6 their nurse.
A MAID-SERVANT (ELLEN).
5 In the original “Fru Linde.”
6 In the original “Anne-Marie.”