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An Enemy of the People


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AT: A Public Enemy A: Henrik Ibsen Pf: 1883, Christiania Pb: 1882 Tr: 1888 G: Drama in 5 acts; Norwegian prose S: Norwegian spa town, 1880s C: 9m, 2f, extrasDr Thomas Stockmann has helped to transform his home town into a successful spa, made prosperous by an annual influx of visitors. However, he discovers that the spa waters are contaminated and insists that the baths will have to be closed while the problem is solved. His brother Peter Stockmann, the mayor, points out the cost to the town, and the citizens turn against the doctor. His brother intervenes to prevent an exposure appearing in the press, and Stockmann finds it impossible to hire a hall for a public meeting. At a meeting in the home of Captain Horster, one of his few supporters, Stockmann denounces the authorities not just for the cover-up of the contamination but for their general corruption and complacency. The enraged populace attack his house. His daughter Petra loses her job as teacher, he is no longer the spa doctor. When it is learned that his father-in-law has bought shares in the spa very cheaply, Stockmann is suspected of having manipulated everything for financial gain. Unrepentant, he continues his campaign for the truth, declaring that ‘the strongest man is he who stands alone’.

AT: A Public Enemy A: Henrik Ibsen Pf: 1883, Christiania Pb: 1882 Tr: 1888 G: Drama in 5 acts; Norwegian prose S: Norwegian spa town, 1880s C: 9m, 2f, extras

This is one of the most overtly political of Ibsen's plays and, no doubt inflamed by the controversy surrounding Ghosts, reflects his cynicism about democratic processes in which the blinkered majority act only out of self-interest. However, he is also harsh in his depiction of Stockmann, a dangerous idealist who destroys his home and family rather than seek any form of compromise.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Henrik Ibsen (1828—1906) Norwegian dramatist


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