A: Henrik Ibsen Pf: 1882, Chicago; 1883, Helsingborg Pb: 1881 Tr: 1888 G: Trag. in 3 acts; Norwegian prose S: Mrs Alving's estate, western Norway, 1880s C: 3m, 2fMrs Alving has built an orphanage in honour of her husband, who died 10 years previously. She reveals to her old friend Pastor Manders the truth about her marriage: Captain Alving was a dissolute reprobate who made her life a misery. She reproaches Manders for insisting that she return to her husband, when she had come to the Pastor seeking help. Now her artist son Osvald has returned home from Paris and begins to flirt with the maid Regina, the daughter of Alving and a former maidservant. To Mrs Alving it is as though the ghosts of the past have returned. She tells Osvald and Regina that they are related, and Regina goes off to work as a hostess in a disreputable seamen's home which her husband is opening. The uninsured orphanage burns to the ground, and Osvald, already unwell, now begins to suffer from brain disease caused by syphilis inherited from his father.
A: Henrik Ibsen Pf: 1882, Chicago; 1883, Helsingborg Pb: 1881 Tr: 1888 G: Trag. in 3 acts; Norwegian prose S: Mrs Alving's estate, western Norway, 1880s C: 3m, 2f
This is the darkest of Ibsen's plays and was widely attacked for its frank treatment of a taboo subject. The underlying irony of the play is that the colour and gaiety of Osvald's life as an artist in Paris, his attraction to Regina, even his father's supposedly dissolute life, appear so much more congenial than the grey starkness of Norway and the unyielding moral rectitude of Manders. That this life should be so horribly punished with a creeping brain disease is the tragedy of the play and may be once again well understood by a generation witnessing the transference of the HIV virus to children.