HENRIK IBSEN Biography - Writers


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Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), Norwegian dramatist, whose well-constructed       
plays dealing realistically with psychological and social problems won him 
recognition as the father of modern drama.                                 
Ibsen was born on March 20, 1828, and schooled in Skien. He briefly         
assisted an apothecary and began medical studies before beginning a         
lifetime association with the theater. He was stage manager-playwright at   
the National Theater at Bergen from 1851 to 1857 and later director of the 
theater at Christiania (now Oslo) from 1857 to 1862. During these years of 
practical theater work he wrote his first plays. From 1863 to 1891 Ibsen   
lived chiefly in Italy and Germany. He subsisted first on a traveling       
scholarship and later on an annual pension, granted by the Storting, the   
Norwegian parliament. In 1891 he returned to Christiania; he died there     
May 23, 1906.                                                               
Ibsen's early work included two verse dramas. The first, Brand (1866;       
first produced in 1885), dramatized the tragedy of blind devotion to a     
false sense of duty; the second, Peer Gynt (1867), related, in allegorical 
terms, the adventures of a charming opportunist. With Pillars of Society   
(1877), the story of an unscrupulous businessman, Ibsen began the series   
of plays that brought him worldwide fame. A Doll's House (1879), Ghosts     
(1881), and Hedda Gabler (1890) have probably been the most frequently     
performed of his plays. The first tells of a loveless marriage and an       
overprotected wife; the second deals with hereditary insanity and the       
conflict of generations; the third portrays the relationships of a         
strong-willed woman with those around her. Among the other plays written   
by Ibsen are An Enemy of the People (1882), The Wild Duck (1884),           
Rosmersholm (1886), The Lady from the Sea (1888), The Master Builder       
(1892), and When We Dead Awaken (1900).                                     
Although Ibsen's plays shocked contemporary audiences, they were           
championed by such serious critics as George Bernard Shaw and William       
Archer in England and Georg Brandes in Denmark. Ibsen's characters, the     
critics pointed out, were recognizable people; their problems were         
familiar to the audience. Ibsen's plays marked the end of the wildly       
romantic and artificial melodramas popular in the 19th century. His         
influence on 20th-century drama is immeasurable.