Biography of Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906)

Playwright and Norwegian poet, born in Skien Harbour 20 March 1828 and died in Christiania (now Oslo) on May 23, 1906.

Author of an extensive and fruitful theatrical production which, starting from the weak influence of the last romantic vagidos, evolves through the major European literary movements of the second half of the 19th century (realism, naturalism and symbolism), was able to create a universal model of dramatic character ("ibseniano character") which, in line with the concerns and experiences of the man of his timeIt is continuously torn between its own contradictions, immersed in a deep process of psychological introspection. With these figures in constant conflict with their own consciences and criticisms of the contemporary (and society beset by the gravity of certain events from his past) that, to go out on stage, precipitated the outbreak of the dramatic tension, Henrik Ibsen attracted mightily on his theatrical production the attention of critics and audiences around the world, ruled the announced end of the old romantic melodrama, and opened the door of the Western scene to the great dramas of the 20th century, in which the influence of the Norwegian writer often play a decisive role. That is why in almost all the manuals literary European cultures Ibsen appears cited as the first author who, through his realistic pieces based on the social and psychological problems of the characters, resulted in the birth of the modern drama.


Born in the bosom of a wealthy bourgeois family - his father was a prosperous merchant in the port city that came into the world the future writer-, grew, however, surrounded by great economic difficulties, since the flourishing business of his father went bankrupt shortly after being born Henrik. His childhood, therefore, was developed in the middle of a shameful poverty that led them to situations of social marginalization that was little used his family; and so, at the age of sixteen he/she was forced to drop out of school to accept a first job as a lad of pharmacy in the town of Grimstad, nursing who served for five years (1844-1849) hoping to be prepared to deal with medical studies wishing to perform in the capital.

By that time, this medical vocation which encouraged the young Henrik steps was not obstacle to that, simultaneously, was born in him a firm intention to engage in the cultivation of literary creation. Thus the things, at twenty years of age concluded its first theatrical piece, Catilina (1848), a passionate drama of accused romantic cut, heavily influenced by the writing of the German Johann von Schiller, showed their confused youth concerns in large doses of metaphysical parliaments which failed to hide the immorality of the protagonists. In 1850, when this cuando esta opera opera prima of Ibsen went through printing, Skien young dramatist had already faced the drafting of his second play, Kaempehojen (the tomb of the hero, 1850), which soon became his first work, which was carried to scene and, at the same time, in the definitive reason for the total abandonment of those studies of medicine, during a single course, had performed at the University of Christiania. This text - also translated into Spanish under the title of the tomb of the warrior - was premiered by Ibsen under the pseudonym of Bryniolf Byarne, and gave rise to a series of new works by the young playwright focused on the historical and legendary past of the Scandinavian peoples, all of them composed at his new residence in Bergen.

In fact, its strong links to the world of the scene led, in 1851, writer of Skien was appointed Assistant of Ole Bull, stage director of the newly created Norse Theater in Bergen (National Theatre of Bergen), where soon shared duties of Assistant Director with the's 'poet domestic' (i.e., author who wrote texts, arrangements and adaptations for the institution that had hired). There he/she stayed from 1851 until 1857, period of time where he/she acquired a considerable experience in all aspects of the art of Talia, since he/she took part in the arrangement of a few hundred and fifty dramas and wrote an original work each year. In addition, in the execution of their duties entered an obligation to visit the main theatres of some of the neighbouring countries of Norway, in order to know the new trends of literary and dramatic that flourished in Europe; It was as well as Ibsen traveled, travel for work and study, Denmark and Germany, where acquired a wide experience that would then be reflecting not only in their work as a stage director, but also in his own theatrical production.

During his prolonged stay in Bergen, Ibsen met the young Rikke Holst, which sealed a matrimonial commitment by throwing both his rings to the sea, in a romantic episode that would then leave a biographical echo in his work titled the lady from the sea. But the girlfriend's father, learned of the agreement, objected strongly to relations among both young until it got formal rupture of the commitment.

Ibsen passed this theater of Bergen - which ended up being director - was so crucial to their own vital vicissitudes (well, aside from the previous affair, he/she met Susanna Thorensen, the daughter of a clergyman that they married in 1858) as for his early literary career, which took a definitive boost to have at all times to reach an ideal place in order to stage the new creations of the playwright. There premiered, in fact, other four plays later described by critics as "nacional-romanticas", works that, aside from its greater or lesser literary quality, already revealed the domain and the security that Henrik Ibsen - which had not yet fulfilled the thirty - had achieved in the cultivation of the dramatic genre. Among these pieces - today considered "minor" beside their splendid works of maturity - stands out above all the titled Fru Inger til Ostraat (the Lady Inger of Ostraat, 1855), a drama in prose that clearly tributary of artful, reloaded and pseudohistorico style of French Eugène Scribe, leads to tables a dark intrigue complicated with murky amorous passions. The remaining plays Ibsen premiered at Norse Theater of Bergen are the titled a party in Solhang (1956), Olaf Liljekrans (1857) and the Warriors of Helgeland (1858), in which put in scene the legendary character of Ørnulf to retrieve the ancient tradition of the Icelandic sagas.

From 1857, the literary experience and dramaturgical Ibsen had been acquiring in the direction of the Norse Theater led le to the position of director of a small theatre in Christiania (Oslo), where the young author of Skien remained for five years, engaged in a constant creative activity, in line with the new literary trends from the rest of EuropeIt was losing its initial stage romantic ballast to give way to the first hints of psychological depth. This was well patent in the works which concluded at the end of this new period as theatre director, among which it is worth remembering the titled comedy of love (1862) and the pretenders to the throne (1863). It began to take shape, in these parts, the already mentioned "ibseniano character", able to demonstrate along that, in the midst of their violent contradictions and blames representation which drags his past, his worst enemies reside in his own interior. At the same time, these works were on the scene from Ibsen doubts about the authenticity of feeling of love, fueled by the recent failure of his marriage with Susanna Thorensen.

The bankruptcy of Theatre directing in Christiania (which was not but the reissue of ruin that had also finished with the Norse Theater of Berger) plunged to the writer in a severe economic crisis that forced him to survive several months wrapped in harsh material conditions which approached much destitution. Thanks to a spontaneous popular subscription - as Ibsen already enjoyed a warm affection among the theatrical public Norwegian-, got momentarily chase away misery, which escaped permanently when, in 1864, the Government of Norway awarded him a scholarship that enabled him to leave the country and settle in Italian territory. Since 1891, the writer of Skien lived outside their country, he/she only made two brief visits; Despite this, the Storting (Norwegian Parliament) granted him an annual pension that made possible his prolonged estrangement, first in Italy and then in Germany (Rome, Dresden, Munich and again Rome), where he/she composed some of the most brilliant theatrical works of dramatic literature. He/She also met in his voluntary exile to other women who, like Helene Raff and Emilie Bardag, left a clear posed in his life and in his work.

The international prestige achieved after the premieres of their masterpieces led that Henrik Ibsen was already a rich and respected - man honored and awarded in numerous countries - when he/she returned to Norway in 1891, to be established which would be her last home in Chistiania. After writing and brand new still some works that were not, but the testimony of a world collapsing (already expressed in the rigors of his own old age and his death omens, as in the piece entitled John Gabriel Borkmann, 1896; or already reflected in the decline of the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie at the dawn of the new century, as in when we awaken from the dead)(, 1899), the playwright from Skien fell victim to a painful ailment that left him practically invalid, of as a result of which came to incurring a long period of creative inactivity that did reappear in his life during his final years the ghost of economic adversities. After several crises of extreme gravity, it ceased to exist in the Norwegian capital on May 23, 1906. In 2006, the year of the 100th anniversary of his death, various events were organized around the world in his honor, including the holding of an Ibsen Festival at the national theatre of Norway.


First stage: "Conservative poet"

Plunged into a deep state of sadness that is aggravated by the solitude in which was involved in the wake of his marriage break, Ibsen came to Italy in 1864 to inaugurate - still without knowing it - his first great stage of creative splendor. Two years later, after having felt a sudden abduction of inspiration as he/she beheld the basilica of San Pedro in Rome, he/she conceived the Brand (1866), a long dramatic poem drama that, like his immediate work (entitled Peer Gynt, and written the following year), it was not intended initially to be taken to the tables. But, ultimately, strong bonding that already linked Ibsen with scenic language encouraged to submit these pieces as two works dialogue in verse, which became - for the critics of his time - in the great continuation of the legacy of the ancient "dramaturgos-poetas". From this inaccurate - even though, at that time, adjusted to the tenor of the works which was premiering Ibsen - cataloging, Nordic writer was also as the great "conservative poet" box of letters Norwegian mid-19th century, in response to the radical literary trend which was headed by his compatriot, the poet, Narrator and dramatist of Kvikne Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson.

In Brand, Ibsen embodied the tragic type of the protagonist who is constantly looking for the absolute in a priest who, by excess of zeal in their moral convictions, just driving to ruin your whole family (with variants, this paradigm of enlightened one obsessed by the "search of the absolute" would reappear in many other works of the writer from Skien). A year later, the premiere of Peer Gynt came to cause a hard setback in patriotic feelings still intact, because Norwegian viewers were greeted with scorn and bitterness to a lazy and immature character that refused to identify themselves (when Ibsen was expected, instead, get its final recognition as the great national poet of the time of his countrymen(, since had prepared a splendid fantasy about some of the topics and most popular motives of the Nordic legends). In this drama in verse composed of five acts, Henrik Ibsen presents a young braggart and carefree living, always following the maxim of "be yourself", in a strange world in which both he/she and those who surround you end up confusing reality and fantasy. Immersed in a bizarre series of adventures that lead him to live as a troll ('spirit of the forest'), not the man who assumes that it is Peer Gynt visits the most remote countries and accumulates the most varied experiences in Norwegian popular Fables line, until, already old and tired, returns to his homeland to die there sweetlyrocked by the nana sings the woman whose sincere love scorned to freely take their adventures.

Actually, criticism and Norwegian viewers failed to penetrate with lucidity in the somber symbolism of what was nothing more than a fantastic and entertaining satire - it is true that hatched at an allegorical level - than could ever achieve, using her charms, an opportunist as Peer Gynt. In any case, the repudiation that caused this piece in Norway, United Brand was not premiered until 1885 and added this to the relative failure that harvested following dramatic delivery (the Emperor and Galileo, written between 1864 and 1873), plunged Ibsen into a new depressive process that was scuttled to make him abandon his profession of dramatist to relegate him to the profession of photographer. As happened in Brand, Kejser og Galilaeer (the Emperor and Galileo) presented the catastrophic effects that can cause religious severity when it is carried to its most rigorous end, now embodied in a beautiful contrast between paganism and Christianity.

During this initial period of Ibsen as "playwright poet" or "Norwegian national poet" may framed some of his first works cited in previous paragraphs, as Kjaermaendene p·a Helgeland (the Warriors of Helgeland, 1858) - that exhibited for the first time his domain of the so-called"method", consisting of the reconstruction of some facts of the past, real and psychological, in the course of a progressive action that explains them at the same time that conditions them-; Kongsemnerne (the pretenders to the throne, 1863), undoubtedly his best historical drama about the Norwegian past; and his uneven two comedies: Kjærlighetens Komedie (the comedy of love, 1862) - not going be a vulgar love story that could have resulted in the libretto of any opera buffa-, and you you anoint forbund (union of youth, 1869) - an entertaining comedy of intrigue, set in the contemporary political situation, it allowed him to escape from their frustrated religious and metaphysical concerns to focus on the positivist critique of insignificant reality of everyday life.

During this first phase of his literary career, Ibsen also worked in the writing of numerous lyrical compositions that were collected in a volume published in 1871 under the generic title of poems. In general, it's a collection of verses romantic of high quality, comparable - by its tone and content-romantic compositions of the German Heinrich Heine.

Second stage: the "radical playwright'

At the beginning of the 1970s, the great critic and Danish biographer Georg Brandes gave a famous lecture which took as an explicit example Brand, Ibsen drama, to censor the moralizing excesses of the romantic Theatre, that rhetoric but sterile, loaded with a pretentious transcendentalism, against what was intended to achieve, moved away more and more from the immediate reality of the human being. Brandes, who in 1871 speech advocated the need to activate a modern literature can achieve the objectives that had not come already worn romantic aesthetics, provoked a sharp shift towards realism in the dramatic trajectory of Ibsen: from then on, the Norwegian writer would only composing works in prose by men, and women much like those who populated their environment, beings taken from a real world that were affected by the problems and alegrados by the usual satisfactions of everyday life.

Thus, emerged as the starting point of this new realistic stage, the work entitled Samfundets Støtter (pillars of society, 1877), a severe criticism of the hypocrisy that focused on the subject of commercial fraud by a trader without scruples, is also a sincere compliment of individualism. But the big irruption of the Norwegian playwright in the universal theatre scene took place two years later, following the premiere of one of his masterpieces that would soon make him famous around the world. Et Dukkehjem (House of dolls, 1879), this is a huge feminist plea released by Nora, a woman who decides to take their own autonomy when tested, for her husband and for all the bourgeois society that surrounds both, is not more than a decorative doll.

The resounding success of critics and audiences harvested by the premiere of Dollhouse encouraged Ibsen to compose other many parts identical realistic tone, and what was more surprising if you consider his previous production, as progressive and refreshing as which had put on the table the story of Nora. From its ancient prison in the post of national-conservative poet, Ibsen took a radical leap to become a brave iconoclastic playwright who questioned in his work the social conventions and the modal values of the bourgeoisie in its time. Sprouted, because of his pen some titles as relevant as Gengangere (spectra, 1881) - dealing with courage, taking as a pretext the topics of hereditary madness and the generational conflict, the sexual morality of the time - and in Folkefiende (an enemy of the people, 1882) - a beautiful plea in defence of freedom of expression. The master who, at this point in his dramatic career, had acquired Ibsen in the flawless construction of his works became patent in all these pieces, considered technically perfect dramatic structures universal models (aside from its exceptional ideological values). Hence the public who applauded raging all these premieres of Ibsen show your satisfaction not only with the messages derived contents of extraordinary intellectual solidity, but also with the theatrical construction work that, in its great adaptation to the scenic language, they allowed the brilliance of actors, directors, auxiliaries and many people involved in their productions. Moreover, the deep psychological study carried out Ibsen when constructing the characters who star in these works of his second stage allowed the radical proposals of some of them were taken without difficulty by a public rendered with extraordinary consistency with that more progressive approaches set out on stage.

A true turn in her iconoclastic course was cautioned in the premieres of two dramas that followed an enemy of the people, Vildanden (the wild duck, a 1884) and Rosmersholm (the House of Rosmer, 1886). Considered by good part of universal criticism as the two best plays of Ibsen, these new releases were not already part of that appeal to social action captured in spectra and an enemy of the people, they clearly chose to investigate the personal relationship between the protagonists and, above all, to remove your past to reveal the causes of all inhibitions and frustrations that exhibited on the scene. It tended, as Ibsen toward introspection psychological, although the extraordinary complexity of the atmosphere of mystery that created these works was not always of a psychic nature, since the author regained part of its ancient poetic vision and enriched the elaboration of its characters with countless mysterious details that gave rise to a myriad of symbolic interpretations.

From these new approaches, in the wild duck Ibsen raised the need to preserve some illusions whose total loss would lead to man to succumb victim of environmental pressure and social conventions. Two years later, the House of Rosmer led to scene the contradictions and the helplessness of the radical intellectuals who, in their effort to pass through the progressive paths illuminated by its own intellect, faced with obstacles blind instinct, that does not acertaban to be fully released.

In this new line opened by the wild duck and the House of Rosmer occurred many other works of full creative of Ibsen, as the titled Fruen ved Havet (the lady from the sea, 1888), in which Ibsen presented a concept of couple and family opposed all conventions of his time; Hedda Gabler (1890), a grotesque interpretation of Nietzschean Superman idea, embodied here in a "Superwoman" of the high bourgeoisie, where his mental confusion, just tumbling to suicide; Bygmester Solness (the Builder Solness, 1892), where all the naturalistic features have disappeared to make way for the Symbolist Theatre, which assimilates the great contributions of other contemporary masters like ChekhovRussian, the Swede August Strindberg and the Belgian Maurice Maeterlinck; and Lille Eyolf (the little Eyolf, 1894), a strange piece within theatrical production of Ibsen, that tells a simple story set in a nebulous area in which characters seem to move as parts of the vast domain of nature (the viewer attends, moreover, a bewildering transition between a maternal and spousal love story and a desperate humanitarian rescue mission).

Already in his old age, newly established in Norway, Ibsen premiered - as noted above - John Gabriel Borkman (1896), and Naar saw dode vaagner (when you wake up from the dead, 1899), dyed dark premonitions of death and works loaded of clear autobiographical references that had begun to look into some parts immediately prior, as Hedda Gabler (1890) - where the Norwegian author recalled a loving episode of his youth - and Builder Solness (1892). In this last work and when to wake up from the dead, Ibsen drew a bleak picture of those heroes who, destined like himself to be creative artisans, they must pay a high price for devote himself exclusively to the demands of his vocation.

Evaluation, dissemination and influences

Since the last quarter of the 19th century, the theatre of Henrik Ibsen became a classic model accepted with joy by the critics, the public and dramatic authors of Western Europe. Although the premiere of Brand had made him famous in the Scandinavian Nations, was from 1870, with its radical turn toward realistic everyday problems treatment, when his works started to be admired in Germany, where he/she was born a growing prestige of literary around its figure of playwright that soon spread to Britain and from there to the rest of the continent (to the United States his fame came in the following decade).

In Spain, the first English version of a work of Ibsen (an enemy of the people) was premiered in Barcelona Novetats Theatre on April 14, 1893, in a feature that I liked the criticism and the audience, but without reaching awaken the enthusiasm which the Norwegian playwright had generated in other European venues. However, the influence of Ibsen soon was noticed in the works of the major playwrights of Spanish of late 19th century and the beginning of the next century, such as José Echegaray, Jacinto Benavente and Benito Pérez Galdós.

The quoted Georg Brandes, from his enormous prestige as a critic in the whole area of the Nordic letters, he/she defended with enthusiasm the theatrical work of Henrick Ibsen maturity, commitment which coincided with the Irish writer George Bernard Shaw, who spread the work of the Norwegian playwright by the major cultural forums of the United Kingdom. The great Italian author for Luigi Pirandello, Ibsen figure in dramatic literature, immediately behind William Shakespearecimeros posts; and the brilliant August Strinberg, who influenced some of his works in the final stage of the own Ibsen, recognized in its theatrical production there was also a notable influx of Norwegian playwright. Other great dramatic writers who premiered his works already in the 20th century, as the British John Galsworthy, Gerhart Hauptmann German and American Eugene O'Neill forged his early works from the splendid universal legacy Henrik Ibsen left printed.

Principal works

Dollhouse (1879)

Drama in prose, composed of three acts, which presents the marital problems of Nora, a woman who, in the past, forged the signature of his father for a loan from Krogstad, in order to allocate the money to fight the disease of Helmer, her husband. The economic vicissitudes of Nora (who worked in secret for several years, without being able therefore to pay off the debt) seem to be solved when Helmer was promoted to director of the bank where he/she works, in which also serves Krogstad; but, moved by the desire that Nora conducive to their work rise, begins to blackmail the woman with the threat of revealing the secret of the debt to Helmer. The new director, who was determined to say goodbye to Krogstad, finally learns of what has happened in the past in relation to the loan and, instead of attacking the lender, unfairly reacts against his wife, because he/she believes that the secret pact between he/she and Krogstad could lift murmurs about his marriage. Nora, before the pettiness that has done her husband - who, rather than thank him for his efforts, only has been worried about his good name-, just leaving the family home, willing to then become single rudder of his own existence; He/She has found that, until now, had only been a decorative doll.

Spectra (1881)

Drama in prose, composed of three acts, which opens with the opening of an instructed orphanage built by Elena Alving in memory of her late husband. This ceremony take part Oswald, a son of Elena who has just returned from Paris, and pastor Manders, a man in love with Elena, who is shocked by the praise spoken by Oswald to purpose of free and carefree life has met in the French capital. However, the woman not surprising to the discourse of his son, since her husband had led a dissolute life that was the cause of the failure of their marriage for many years. Oswald, who ignores this dissipated behavior of his father, is not unknown instead that he/she has inherited this serious mental illness that threatens him; but he/she believes that the love he/she feels toward Regina can save you from falling into madness. His mother is forced then to inform you that Regina is her own sister, causing the abandonment of the House by the young and the final destruction of the lives of Oswald and Elena: not dare to give the poison that was promised, mother contemplates - controlled perimeters by horror and impotence - the first abduction of madness that begins to suffer from his son.

The wild duck (1884)

Drama in prose, composed of three acts, presenting the Edvige daughter to a poor family in a humble loft, and composed by father Hjalmar Ekdal, the mother Gina, and old Grandpa, father of Hjalmar. To learn by Gregorio Werle, the son of the former lover of Gina's mouth, that his wife had, long ago, an adulterous relationship, Hjalmar is convinced that Edvige is not his daughter, but that is the result of the extramarital affairs of his wife. The girl, in a desperate attempt to regain the love which now denied his father, climbing onto the roof of the House and tries to capture a wild duck, thinking that this show of determination will touch the most sensitive fibers of the heart of Hjalmar. But Edvige falls off the roof and dies, while this dramatic fact suffice it to react to the troubled husband, who seems to prefer to have continued living with lying; It is in the House, the wounded duck, which becomes the symbol of the resentful man who does not support the knowledge of the truth.

The lady from the Sea (1888)

Drama in prose, composed of three acts, which leads to the scenario fears, wishes and concerns of Ellida, a woman who, long ago, surrendered in love with the stranger, who then disappeared without leaving trace. He/She continues waiting without calm returning, while he/she lives now married with Wangel, a physician who has led her to live, in the company of the daughters took in another marriage, to a House by the sea. Ellida Wangel, not loving feel mysteriously attracted to the ocean, perhaps because through its waters he/she hopes the return of the outsider. When, finally, appears willing to take her with him, Wangel - which, as expected, initially opposed to the progress of Ellida - opt for giving his wife the freedom to choose between staying with him or disappear in the company of the outsider. And it is this recognition of their freedom of choice that just blow with the anguish and dissatisfaction of Ellida: to feel able to rule their own destiny, women craved outsider, who returns to move away from his side - this time, forever - rejects, but now underway I get malaise in which the woman lived.