Knud's loss of wealth and social status made him a bitter man, and he soon turned to alcohol to feed his demons. His mother Marichen, was a quiet woman with a wonderful disposition. Henrik and Hedvig adored her for her gentleness, and the fact that she was the glue that held the family together.
Henrik dropped out of school at fifteen and became a Pharmacist's apprentice. It was at this time that Henrik began to write his plays, and some poetry. At just eighteen years old he had an affair with a servant which produced a son. Though he never saw the boy he had to pay for his upbringing.
Henrik Ibsen, for some reason, wrote his first play under the pseudonym Brynjolf Bjarme, at the age of 20. His first play to reach a theater and be produced was, " The Burial Mound", but was not well received. Soon after, he acted as the producer and director at the Norwegian theater, in Bergen for several years before returning to Christiana ( Now Oslo )in 1858. It was there that he married Suzannah Thoreson, and about a year later had a child, Sigurd. He worked at the Christiana Theater for a few years but became disillusioned with his poor life style and in 1864 moved to Sorrento, Italy.
It was here in Italy that he found his first success both critically, and financially. In 1865 he produced the play, " Brand ", and two years later his first masterpiece, Peer Gynt. Peer Gynt was first performed 1n 1876 in Christiana, with music composed by the great Edvard Grieg, which we are all still familiar with to this day. A strange point to make however, is that 1250 copies of his play were sold very quickly, but it took 7 years to sell the second printing of 2000 copies.
Peer Gynt is based on the collected Norwegian folk tales, by Peter Christen Asbjornsen, and Jorgen Moe. This book is still in print and I recommend it to anyone and everyone. Bjornstjerne Bjornson loved the play and called it ," magnificent ". However,
other famous literary people of the day such as Hans Christian Anderson, and Clemens Petersen criticized it. The play is done as a dramatic poem , and possibly because of the criticism he received it is the only one he ever did.
In 1868, after moving to Dresden, in Germany, he wrote his favorite play, ( but not well received ), The Emperor and Galilean. A Dolls house, Ghosts, An Enemy of the People, The Wild Duck, and Hedda Gabler soon followed in succession. His plays were his forums to display his criticism and dissatisfaction with, and of, society. He also tackled taboo subjects of his times. In Ghosts, he follows the exploits of a cheating husband who contracts syphillis, and then passes it to his wife and to his son at birth. The fact that Henrik Ibsen would have one of his main characters, who was a person of standing, get such a disease and pass it on, caused quite a bit of controversy at the time. In todays world you see things like this on T. V. all the time, but in the 1880's this was frowned upon. Henrik saw people for all their flaws and was not afraid to add these flaws to his characters.
In, An Enemy of the People, his main character is a doctor who while on vacation exposes a public bath that is being contaminated by a tannery. His seemingly good deed, instead of being hailed, leads to the towns people turning against him. He is soon ostracized by the towns people because, as it turns out, the public baths are a big tourist attraction that they had put a lot of their time and money into, and the well meaning doctor of course ruins it. This premise reminds me a little of the movie, "Silkwood", where Meryl Streeps character warns everyone about the safety violations and dangers at a plant that makes nuclear fuel cells. She is also ostracized, but in that movie she is killed.
The last play that I will mention a little about is, The Wild Duck. It is in my opinion one of his best plays ! The play swirls around Gregers Werle who comes back to his home town, after a self imposed exile. He knows a dirty little secret that he feels needs to be revealed. As the story evolves he learns that this nice little town is not so nice at all, and that everyone seems to have a dirty little secret. As it turns out revealing the secret does not have the effect he thought it would, and it ends with a twist. This play reminds me a little of the book / movie, Peyton Place. The wild duck in the story to me is not only the thing that seems to hold the characters together but is somehow a metaphor for the town.
Ibsen finally returned to Norway in 1891. In 1900 Henrik had several strokes which left him bedridden. He died on May 23, 1906, and was buried in Central Oslo.
Henrik Ibsen is considered to be one of the greatest playwrights since Shakespeare himself, and his body of work seems to bolster this bold statement. ( Trust me my very short descriptions of his plays do not even begin to do them the justice they deserve ) Henrik also wrote several poems, one of which I will print tommorrow. Henrik Ibsen was a man who's plays reflected a truthful look at society in all its complexities. He was not afraid to show realism in his plays, and was not afraid to show the darker side of mankind. A lot like Shakespeare ! He was a man ahead of his time, who like most geniuses, is appreciated for his skills now more than in his own time. He was / is a talented man who is a valued member of our Scandinavian / Germanic heritage.
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love, and Thor's protection !