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John Gabriel Borkman


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A: Henrik Ibsen Pf: 1897, Helsinki; 1897, Oslo Pb: 1896 Tr: 1907 G: Drama in 4 acts; Norwegian prose S: The Rentheim estate outside Oslo, 1890s C: 3m, 5fAlthough John Gabriel Borkman loved Ella Rentheim, he expediently married her twin sister Gunhild. Imprisoned for fraudulent business dealings, he was released eight years ago. He and his wife came to live with Ella on her estate, where she had been bringing up the Borkmans' son Erhart. Mrs Borkman now dreams that Erhart will live to redeem her husband's name, but Ella wants to control his future. Borkman, confined to an upstairs room, quarrels with Vilhelm Foldal, a worn-looking clerk, whom he normally tolerates because Foldal flatters his illusions of greatness. Ella visits Borkman and tells him that his decision to marry her sister murdered their souls. Since she is soon to die, she wants to adopt Erhart and leave him all her wealth. Mrs Borkman bursts in furious about this proposal, addressing her husband for the first time in eight years. Unrepentant about seeking wealth and power, Borkman asks Erhart's help to begin again, while Ella begs him to stay with her until she dies. Erhart rejects them all and their suffocating lives, preferring to leave with Fanny Wilton, a strong-willed divorcee. For the first time Borkman leaves the house, going out into the snowy night followed by Ella. He speaks of the riches he sought to harvest from the mountain ores. He collapses and dies in the cold, and the sisters are joined in their grief.

A: Henrik Ibsen Pf: 1897, Helsinki; 1897, Oslo Pb: 1896 Tr: 1907 G: Drama in 4 acts; Norwegian prose S: The Rentheim estate outside Oslo, 1890s C: 3m, 5f

In this, his second-last play, Ibsen shows himself a master of his craft. He blends contemporary capitalist endeavour with a primitive relationship with the earth and its treasures. He combines naturalistic dialogue and settings with a deep sense of the unreal. He allows comic moments to stand next to moments of high emotion, and he creates a play depicting the wasted life of the elderly juxtaposed to the hope of a better and freer life for the young.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Henrik Ibsen (1828—1906) Norwegian dramatist


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