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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Critical and Biographical Introduction by William Henry Carpenter (1853–1936)

By Henrik Ibsen (1828–1906)

HENRIK IBSEN was born March 20th, 1828, at the little village of Skien, in the south of Norway, where his father conducted an extensive business as a general merchant. His ancestors for generations had been shipmasters; and the original Ibsen, the poet’s great-great-grandfather, had come to Norway from Denmark. His great-grandmother was of Scotch, his grandmother and mother of German descent; so that in the veins of the poet there is not a drop of pure Norse blood. When the boy was eight years old, business reverses compelled his father to give up the comfortable condition that had hitherto prevailed, and the family moved to a farm just outside the town, where they lived during the succeeding six years in economy and retirement. When Ibsen was fourteen they moved back into Skien, where the boy in the mean time had attended the scientific school. In his sixteenth year he went as an apothecary’s apprentice to Grimstad, a village even smaller than Skien, on the southeast coast.

The following five years that he spent in Grimstad were important ones, not only as a period of unrest and development, but in that within them are found the first visible beginnings of his literary career. His first printed literary work is the poem ‘Hösten,’ contained in the Christiania Posten in 1849. His first dramatic attempt, the three-act play ‘Catilina,’ was also written in Grimstad. It was published in Christiania in 1850, under the pseudonym of Brynjolf Bjarme. It attracted however but little attention, and only some thirty copies were sold; the rest of the edition being subsequently disposed of by the author to a huckster, who used it as wrapping-paper for his wares. This same year Ibsen left Grimstad for Christiania with the intention of entering the University, which he did in a few months by the way of Heltberg’s school. His university career, however, was but brief. During the Whitsuntide holidays he wrote the one-act drama ‘Kjæmpehöjen’ (The Warrior’s Mound), which was produced at the Christiania Theatre this same year. After the production of his play, Ibsen abandoned all thought of the University. With several associates he began, early in 1851, the publication of a weekly paper called Manden (Man), subsequently renamed Andhrimner, the name of the mythical cook of the gods in Walhalla. It had a precarious existence of only nine months, when it was forced to suspend. Ibsen’s own contributions were, besides poetry and criticism, a three-act political satire called ‘Norma,’ which appeared anonymously. In November of this same year, 1851, after living for a year and a half in Christiania, Ibsen was called as stage manager to the newly opened Norwegian theatre in Bergen. The following year he received a meager traveling stipend and three months’ leave of absence, that he might study stage management abroad. In Germany he wrote his next play, ‘Sankthansnatten’ (St. John’s Night), which was produced at the Bergen Theatre in 1853. It was not a success, and has never been printed.

With his next play, however, Ibsen’s dramatic career may be said to have fairly and successfully begun. This was the first of the national historical dramas, ‘Gildet paa Solhaug’ (The Banquet at Solhaug), 1856; which was produced in Bergen with enthusiastic applause, and was subsequently given in Christiania, Copenhagen, and Stockholm. This same year he also wrote the romantic drama ‘Olaf Liljekrans,’ which was produced at the Bergen Theatre twice during the following year, but has never been printed. The same year, 1857, he left Bergen to accept the directorship of the Norwegian theatre in Christiania; a position he held until the summer of 1862, when the theatre became bankrupt and was forced to close. Several plays belong to this period. The historical drama ‘Fru Inger til Österaat’ (Lady Inger of Österaat), and ‘Hærmaendene paa Helgeland’ (The Vikings at Helgeland), appeared in 1857 and 1858, respectively; and ‘Kjærlighedens Komedie’ (The Comedy of Love), a satirical play in rhymed verse, in 1862. To this same period belong also the longest of his minor poems, ‘Paa Vidderne’ (On the Mountain Plains) and ‘Terje Vigen’; published the one in 1860, the other in 1862. From the beginning of 1863 Ibsen received a small stipend as artistic adviser of the Christiania Theatre. He endeavored presently to obtain the “poet’s salary,” which had been granted to Björnson this year; but the demand was refused, and he was forced to put up with a small traveling stipend, allowed him for the purpose of collecting the popular poetry of Norway. It was afterwards proposed by his friends to procure for him a subordinate position in the custom-house, but this came to naught. When the war broke out between Denmark and Germany, Ibsen beheld with indignation and scorn the attitude of Norway, and he made up his mind to break away from conditions which he felt so belittling. He applied for a traveling stipend, which was ultimately allowed him; and in April 1864, the year of the appearance of ‘Kongs-Emnerne’ (The Pretenders), his masterpiece among the historical dramas, he left Christiania not to return for many years. Abroad, Ibsen lived first in Germany and subsequently in Trieste and Rome. In 1866 he sent back to Norway the great dramatic poem ‘Brand’; and the Storthing, on the strength of it, found but little difficulty in granting him the “poet’s salary” which had before been refused. For twenty-seven years Ibsen lived abroad, with only occasional visits to Norway; although when he left he had intended to return, and his position as artistic adviser at the Christiania Theatre was for some time kept open for him. From Rome, besides ‘Brand,’ he sent home in 1867 the dramatic poem ‘Peer Gynt.’ The next year he removed to Dresden, and the two summers following he made short visits to Stockholm and Copenhagen. His next work, the political comedy ‘De Unges Forbund’ (The League of Youth), appeared in 1869; his longest work, the drama ‘Kejser og Galilær’ (Emperor and Galilean), followed in 1873. The year after, 1874, he returned for a short time to Norway after an absence of ten years, and was everywhere received with ovations. Subsequently to this, until his final return to Norway in 1891,—since which time he has lived in Christiania,—Ibsen spent the greater part of the time in Germany, and principally in Munich. These years in Germany contributed the major part of the fame of the poet outside of Norway; for within them fall all the modern social dramas that are immediately connected with his name, and have even made “Ibsenism” a distinctive characterization in literature. Of these, ‘Samfundets Stötter’ (The Pillars of Society) appeared in 1877; ‘Et Dukkehjem’ (A Doll’s House), in 1879; ‘Gjengangere’ (Ghosts), in 1881; ‘En Folkefiende’ (An Enemy of the People), in 1882; ‘Vildanden’ (The Wild Duck), in 1884; ‘Rosmersholm,’ in 1886; ‘Fruen fra Havet’ (The Lady from the Sea), in 1888; ‘Hedda Gabler,’ in 1890; ‘Bygmester Solness’ (The Master Builder), in 1892; ‘Lille Eyjolf’ (Little Eyjolf), in 1894; ‘John Gabriel Borkman,’ in 1896; ‘When We Dead Awaken,’ in 1899. There appeared in 1871, a volume with the title ‘Digte’ (Poems).

Ibsen’s dramas fall naturally, in the light of both subject and chronology, into several groups, which mark with tolerable exactness the successive phases in the development of his art. After the first tragedy, ‘Catilina,’—which, crude though it is, has in it undoubted elements of strength,—his work at the outset was romantic. This phase culminated in the lyrical drama in verse, the ‘Banquet at Solhaug’; which was at the same time the first of the plays whose subjects were taken from Norwegian history, that now followed in succession until interrupted by the ‘Comedy of Love.’ The materials for the ‘Banquet at Solhaug’ Ibsen found in old Norwegian folk-songs and ballads. ‘Lady Inger of Österaat,’ which later on was almost entirely rewritten, is a tragedy from Norwegian life in the sixteenth century. In the ‘Vikings at Helgeland’ Ibsen turns for his material to the ancient sagas, several of which are drawn upon for the main plot and incidents. This play marks a definite break, once for all, with Ibsen’s youthful romanticism, which afterward may scarcely be said to reappear. It is however in the last of the historical dramas, the ‘Pretenders,’ that he reaches his height in this kind of writing. The action of the play falls within the thirteenth century, the “pretenders” being the two claimants to the throne of Sverre, King of Norway,—Hakon and Skule. Ibsen in this drama exhibits an unmistakable dramatic power, and his treatment of the psychological contrast involved in the self-sufficiency of the King and the vacillation of the Duke is among his surest dramatic effects. Some of his critics have seen in Skule the reflection of many of the poet’s own traits of character. From a dialogue between Skule and Jatgeir the skald, Ibsen himself has been well called “the poet of doubt,”—a characterization that particularly fits him as the writer of the social dramas yet to come.

Ibsen meantime, it will be remembered,—before the appearance of the ‘Pretenders,’ which had been taken up and then temporarily laid aside,—had written his first distinctly satirical play, the ‘Comedy of Love.’ This was in several ways a remarkable change in the direction he had been following; but it marks simply a growing maturity of power in his art, and the consciousness already of what was to be its ultimate mode of expression. It was in reality the first definite formulation of what we now know as Ibsenism. In Norway it was received with a storm of protest, such as the subsequent social dramas have not failed to evoke there and elsewhere. The problem of the ‘Comedy of Love,’ like that of so many others of Ibsen’s dramas, is the marriage relation. Here the theme is the manner in which love must of necessity die out in a union entered into through affection alone. The play is a “defense of the rational marriage as opposed to the marriage of inclination”; and the lovers, Falk and Svanhild, at the end voluntarily renounce each other to escape the common fate.

In Italy, whither Ibsen ultimately went after leaving Norway in 1864, he first took up the studies that were subsequently embodied in ‘Emperor and Galilean.’ His thoughts, however, seem irresistibly to have gone back to the North upon which he had turned his back in indignation; and this work was laid aside for what to most Norsemen are the greatest of his works, the dramatic poems ‘Brand’ and ‘Peer Gynt.’ The two poems, although essentially unlike, mark a distinct phase in the poet’s development, in that they belong to what may be called his polemical period. Both are intensely national, and in both he applies unsparingly the scourge to his country’s foibles. He rises in them to an unexpected height of strength, and in them he has left to Norwegian literature works which for all time to come will be reckoned among its greatest classics. ‘Brand’ is really a protest against the half-heartedness of his countrymen:

  • “That which thou art, be it completely;
  • Not merely piecemeal and discreetly.”
  • The hero, the young clergyman Brand, is himself an embodiment of this protest against the spirit of Compromise. With his motto “Everything or nothing,” he scorns the religion of the day and declares a bitter though futile war against it; until, heavy laden with sorrow and defeat but with unbroken will, he is overwhelmed in the snow of the avalanche. ‘Peer Gynt,’ on the other hand, is the embodiment of the spirit itself against which ‘Brand’ protests. The hero accordingly is to Ibsen’s mind the typical Norseman. It is not a complimentary picture that the poet has so fearlessly painted of the national character, for Peer Gynt is a man of dreams and of idle inaction; he is cynically indifferent, selfish, sordid, superstitious, and withal mendacious. He realizes at the end that he has never been himself; that he is in fact no one, and is only fitted, although his destiny is after all left undecided in the poem, to go into the melting-spoon of the mysterious Button-Molder, who is to melt him over into fresh material from which to stamp new souls. In manner the two poems have but little in common. ‘Brand’ is solemn and monotonous; ‘Peer Gynt’ varied and witty. Although both are as Norwegian as well may be, each one is capable of universal application. ‘Peer Gynt’ has been called the Scandinavian ‘Faust’; for it too, like Goethe’s poem, is the story of the human soul.

    Ibsen’s polemics did not end with these two great poems; but the phase was continued in the prose comedy ‘The League of Youth,’ which was the next to follow. This is a satire on the politics of Norway, its parties and their motives; and is directed particularly against democracy, which to Ibsen has always been in ill favor. ‘Emperor and Galilean,’ which had been begun and laid aside, was next taken up and completed. The whole is made up of two dramas, ‘Cæsar’s Apostasy’ and the ‘Emperor Julian,’ each having five acts. It is written throughout in prose. Although perhaps the most ambitious of all of Ibsen’s works, it is not as a whole an artistic success. It was the last of the historical dramas; and though apparently far removed from the modern social plays that were now to follow, there is nevertheless a link between it and them. In none of them does he so unmistakably formulate the creed that we find embodied in the action of the later plays.

    The dramas of modern life, which outside of Scandinavia are most closely connected with the name of Ibsen, next followed in unbroken succession. Although this is at first sight almost absolutely a new tendency, the poet none the less definitely follows a direction that all through his earlier work is frequently enough indicated. It is found in ‘Catilina,’ the first dramatic work, as well as in ‘Emperor and Galilean,’ the last, and the ‘League of Youth’ prefigures it almost completely. In some ways it is however a new development. Henceforth Ibsen is the pathologist who unerringly, and with cruel directness, makes his diagnosis of the ills of the social body; and although the setting of his plays is Norwegian, their application is as universal as are the conditions of modern society itself. The ‘Pillars of Society,’ the first of the group, attacks the hypocrisy of the principal supporters of a community, here typified in particular by the rich Consul Bernick, the local magnate in a small Norwegian town. Bernick ultimately avows his real character; he shows how he has brought about his own personal aggrandizement at the expense of the community of which he has been a vaunted pillar, and stands at last for the first time on the firm ground of truth. “The spirits of Truth and Freedom,”—it is declared at the end,—“these are the Pillars of Society.”

    ‘A Doll’s House,’ the next play, is concerned with the problem of marriage as a failure. To answer the question, it furnishes an illustration of the customary sacrifice of the individuality of the woman to that of the man to whom she is married. Nora, the doll of this particular doll’s-house, is one of the most distinctive of Ibsen’s creations, as is the drama one of his most pronounced successes. She is an undeveloped child in mind and morals, and eventually, unthinking of consequences, sacrifices honor to love, and forges her father’s name to a document in order to help her husband. At the end her illusions have all vanished. She sees and understands the doll’s-house in which she has lived, and determines for her children’s sake and her own to leave it.

    ‘Ghosts’ is in some respects a complement to ‘A Doll’s House.’ It shows in reality, in its own way and with wholly different setting, what might have happened had Nora Helmer remained with her husband and children. The play is the most thrilling and dreadful of all of Ibsen’s works. Its fundamental idea is the awful consequences of hereditary vices, which are ghosts to revisit the scenes of their past existence. Oswald Alving, the son of a vicious father whose memory has been cloaked by his wife after his death, becomes a mere physical wreck, and begs his mother in the last awful scene to give him the morphia that shall end his torment. It is left uncertain whether this is or is not done, but it scarcely mitigates the horror of the end. ‘Ghosts’ raised a howl of protest, but its drastic strength cannot be questioned.

    ‘An Enemy of the People’ is to a great extent a personal polemic due to the reception accorded ‘Ghosts.’ Its hero, Dr. Stockmann, simply tells the truth in regard to the corruption of the medicinal waters that had brought visitors and prosperity to a little town in Norway. Everyone knows that it is the truth, and he is stoned and driven out for uttering it. The play as a whole is inferior in dramatic intensity, but it contains some passages, such as the following, which are of interest as the expression of Ibsen’s personal opinions:—

  • “The majority never has right on its side. Never I say! That is one of the social lies that a free, thinking man is bound to rebel against. Who make up the majority in any given country? Is it the wise men or the fools? I think we must agree that the fools are in a terrible, overwhelming majority, all the wide, world over. But how in the devil’s name can it ever be right for the fools to rule over the wise men?…
  • “What sort of truths do the majority rally round? Truths so stricken in years that they are sinking into decrepitude. When a truth is so old as that, gentlemen, it’s in a fair way to become a lie….
  • “A normally-constituted truth lives—let us say—as a rule, seventeen or eighteen years; at the outside twenty; very seldom more. And truths so patriarchal as that are always shockingly emaciated; yet it’s not till then that the majority takes them up and recommends them to society as wholesome food. I can assure you there’s not much nutriment in that sort of fare; you may take my word as a doctor for that. All these majority-truths are like last year’s salt pork; they’re like rancid, moldy ham, producing all the moral scurvy that devastates society.”
  • If ‘An Enemy of the People’ is Ibsen’s answer to his critics, ‘The Wild Duck’ is his criticism of himself, of his followers, and above all of the tactless sentimental idealism which aims at righting the world by the application of abstract principles without regard to circumstance, or opportunity. The play has no great acting part and has therefore not held its place on the stage, but it is full of Ibsen’s somewhat sardonic humor and of the poetic suggestiveness which was at this time finding increasing expression in his work in the guise of symbolism.

    ‘Rosmersholm’ continued the same tendency, and has always been found a difficult play to interpret. The president of a Christiania club had the courage to ask Ibsen what it meant, and received the following by way of reply:—

  • “The call to work is certainly distinguishable throughout ‘Rosmersholm.’ But the play also deals with the struggle with himself which every serious-minded man must face in order to bring his life into harmony with his convictions. For the different spiritual functions do not develop evenly and side by side in any given human being. The acquisitive instinct hastens on from conquest to conquest. The moral consciousness, the ‘conscience,’ on the other hand, is very conservative. It has deep roots in tradition and the past generally. Hence arises the conflict in the individual. But first and foremost, of course, the play is a creative work, dealing with human beings and human destinies.”
  • ‘The Lady from the Sea,’ a slighter play of the same general type, is also subject to symbolic interpretation, but with ‘Hedda Gabler’ we are back in stark realism. Hedda Gabler, said Grant Allen, “is the girl we take down to dinner in London nineteen times out of twenty.” This verdict may be unduly hard on the fashionable world, for Hedda is extravagant, supercilious, unsympathetic, deceitful, and cruel—but she has a certain attraction, that of the serpent, perhaps, and the part offers a great opportunity to a talented actress. The play is an admirable example of that intense dramatic concentration of which Ibsen was a master; the scene never changes from Hedda’s drawing room, and the whole action passes within two days, but within that limited scope we learn not merely the whole character of the extraordinary woman who gives the play its name, but the main incidents in her life’s history. The plot is cunningly devised and the dialogue among the most effective that Ibsen ever wrote. ‘Hedda Gabler’ is all the more likely to hold the stage because it points no particular lesson and discusses no doctrine. Ibsen said himself: “It was not my desire to deal in this play with so-called problems. What I principally wanted was to depict human beings, human emotions, and human destinies, upon a groundwork of certain of the social conditions and principles of the present day.”

    ‘The Master Builder’ takes us again into the realm of symbolism. For those who like an atmosphere of weird and somewhat vague suggestiveness, here is ample material for thought and fancy, but none of the many interpretations offered carries conviction far beyond the mind of the interpreter. The story is superficially simple. Halvard Solness, the builder, step by step has fought his way to success; and in his desire to keep what he has gained he is wary and jealous of any possible competitor, and particularly of the coming generation, whom he recognizes as his enemies. His first concession to youth, in the person of Hilda Wangel, brings about his own destruction. Hilda challenges him to perform again the feat of his earlier years. He accordingly climbs to the tower of his new house to place the customary garland upon the top, but grows giddy and falls headlong to the earth.

    There is again a strong symbolic element in ‘Little Eyolf,’ gathered chiefly about the romantic figure of the Rat-Wife. Ibsen’s own account of the origin of this character is of interest; she sprang, he said, from “a little old woman who came to kill rats at the school where he was educated. She carried a little dog in a bag, and it was said that children had been drowned through following her.” In the play she is “a thin little shrunken figure, old and gray-haired, with keen, piercing eyes, dressed in an old-fashioned flowered gown, with a black hood and cloak. She has in her hand a large red umbrella, and carries a black bag by a loop over her arm.” A passage in the scene following may be quoted as an example of Ibsen’s later style:—

  • Eyolf[pointing]—There’s something wriggling in the bag!
  • Rita[at the extreme left, shrieks]—Ugh! Send her away, Alfred.
  • The Rat-Wife[laughing]—Oh, dearest lady, you needn’t be frightened of such a little mannikin.
  • Allmers—But what is the thing?
  • The Rat-Wife—Why, it’s only little Mopsëman.[Loosening the string of the bag.]Come up out of the dark, my own little darling friend.
  • [A little dog with a broad black snout pokes its head out of the bag.]
  • The Rat-Wife[nodding and beckoning to Eyolf]—Come along, don’t be afraid, my little wounded warrior! He won’t bite. Come here! Come here!
  • Eyolf[clinging to Asta]—No, I dare not.
  • The Rat-Wife—Don’t you think he has a gentle, lovable countenance, my young master?
  • Eyolf[astonished, pointing]—That thing there?
  • The Rat-Wife—Yes, this thing here.
  • Eyolf[almost under his breath, staring fixedly at the dog]—I think he has the horriblest—countenance I ever saw.
  • The Rat-Wife—Oh, it will come—it will come, right enough.
  • Eyolf[involuntarily drawing nearer, at last goes right up to her, and strokes the bag]—But he is lovely—lovely all the same.
  • The Rat-Wife[in a tone of caution]—But now he is so tired and weary, poor thing. He’s utterly tired out, he is.[Looks at Allmers.]For it takes the strength out of you, that sort of game, I can tell you, sir.
  • Allmers—What sort of game do you mean?
  • The Rat-Wife—The luring game.
  • Allmers—Do you mean that it is the dog that lures the rats?
  • The Rat-Wife[nodding]—Mopsëman and I—we two do it together. And it goes so smoothly—for all you can see, at any rate. I just slip a string through his collar, and then I lead him three times round the house, and play on my Pan’s-pipes. When they hear that, they have got to come up from the cellars, and down from the garrets, and out of their holes, all the blessed little creatures.
  • Eyolf—And does he bite them to death then?
  • The Rat-Wife—Oh, not at all! No, we go down to the boat, he and I do—and then they follow after us, both the big ones and the little ratikins.
  • Eyolf[eagerly]—And what then—tell me!
  • The Rat-Wife—Then we push out from the land, and I scull with one oar, and lay on my Pan’s-pipes. And Mopsëman, he swims behind.[With glittering eyes.]And all the creepers and crawlers, they follow and follow us out into the deep, deep waters. Ay, for they have to.
  • Eyolf—Why have they to?
  • The Rat-Wife—Just because they want not to—just because they are so deadly afraid of the water. That is why they have got to plunge into it.
  • Eyolf—Are they drowned, then?
  • The Rat-Wife—Every blessed one.[More softly.]And there it is all as still, and soft, and dark as their hearts can desire, the lovely little things. Down there they can sleep a long, sweet sleep, with no one to hate them or persecute them any more.[Rises.]In the old days, I can tell you, I didn’t need any Mopsëman. Then I did the luring myself,—I alone.
  • Eyolf—And what did you lure then?
  • The Rat-Wife—Men. One most of all.
  • Eyolf[with eagerness]—Oh, who was that one? Tell me!
  • The Rat-Wife[laughing]—It was my own sweetheart, it was, little heartbreaker!
  • Of Ibsen’s last two dramas, little need be said here. ‘John Gabriel Borkman’ is of interest to Ibsen students as a re-treatment in a more profound and detached fashion of the theme of ‘Pillars of Society.’ Borkman is a bank official whose great money schemes lead him into dishonesty and disgrace. Estranged from his wife, he regards himself as more sinned against than sinning, and dreams of yet redeeming the past. The wife looks to their son to reinstate their name, but he forsakes her to make a runaway match. Borkman, incensed by both mother and son, wanders out, in a broken state of health, into a snowy winter’s night, in company with his wife’s sister, a former sweetheart whom he threw over for his ambition’s sake;—and he perishes there, the two women confronting each other across his body. The play has poetic suggestion, but is hardly plain in purpose,—one implication being that Borkman’s greatest mistake was in putting ambition before love.

    ‘When We Dead Awaken’ bears the same lesson in its weird symbolic fashion, but dramatically is of much less significance. Borkman is a character study of high interest, but the persons and plot of the later play leave us unmoved by their extraordinary adventures and still more extraordinary conversation. Ibsen’s symbolism had considerable literary influence, but is too vague and difficult for the general reader or the vast majority of theatre-goers. It remains the peculiar province of the Ibsen specialist. His influence on the modern drama is not to be found here, but in the series of plays beginning with ‘A Doll’s House’ and ending with ‘Hedda Gabler.’

    Ibsen’s social dramas have carried his fame throughout the world, and a vast literature of translation and comment has arisen. Many of them, in Norway and out of it, have evoked loud protests of indignation at the drastic presentation of his problems, and he has been assailed as immoral, as a cynic and a pessimist. It is not impossible, however, to absolve him of each and all of these charges. Ibsen’s whole problem, as it has well been stated, is the relation of the individual to his social and personal surroundings; these are studies accordingly in human responsibility, and the characters are intended to be types of the race in modern social conditions. Such conditions, moreover, in salient points Ibsen as diagnostician finds to be inherently bad, and fearlessly he puts his finger upon the sore spots to point out the danger they inevitably involve to the whole social body. Ibsen in this is the poet of protest, and his voice is that of one crying aloud against social hypocrisy and sophistry of whatever sort it may be. He is not immoral, in that no one has ever made vice more repulsive, or by contrast virtue more attractive. When it is urged against him that he destroys but suggests no remedy, his critics have failed to apprehend the positive result of the lessons involved in this very destruction, whose causes he has rendered so apparent. He is not the mere cynic, for there is a whole galaxy of characters to draw upon one’s sympathies. “Truth, freedom, and love,” says his biographer, “are the three corner-stones of the edifice, noble in proportion and serious in purpose, that the poet has erected.”

    Ibsen in the social dramas in many ways has struck the highest note of modern dramatic art. Primarily his manner of construction is analytic. He begins his plays where another dramatist would have ended them. Often the climax has occurred before the opening of the play, and the consequences accordingly form the subject-matter of the action. There is no place in his dramas for the purely conventional, and they bear characteristically the stamp of reality. Ibsen in all this is the creator of a school, whose teachings have left an indelible mark upon the literature of the century.

    The following are the best works on Ibsen for the general reader: ‘Henrik Ibsen’ in ‘Eminent Authors of the Nineteenth Century,’ by Georg Brandes (New York: 1886); ‘Henrik Ibsen: A Critical Biography,’ by Henrik Jaeger (Chicago: 1890); ‘A Commentary on the Writings of Henrik Ibsen,’ by H. H. Boyesen (New York: 1894); ‘Four Lectures on Henrik Ibsen,’ by R. H. Wicksteed (London: 1892). The most accessible edition of Ibsen’s prose dramas is that translated by William Archer, in six volumes (New York: 1890–92).