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Master Builder


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A: Henrik Ibsen Pf: 1893, Trondheim Pb: 1892 Tr: 1893 G: Trag. in 3 acts; Norwegian prose S: Solness's home, Norway, late 19th c. C: 4m, 3f, extrasFrom humble beginnings, Halvard Solness has worked his way up to become a master builder, now even giving employment to his former boss, the architect Brøvik, whose son Ragnar and niece Kaja also work for Solness. His material success is undermined, however, by personal tragedy: his two young children died in a fire, and his wife now mourns them lifelessly. The unexpected arrival of the 22-year-old Hilde Wangel changes everything. Ten years previously she had ecstatically witnessed Solness climbing to the top of a church tower he had just built, and has come now to demand fulfilment of the promise he made to her then: to take her off as a princess to his troll kingdom. She encourages him to approve the young Ragnar's drawings and inspires him to dream of fantastic castles in the air. Finally, she urges him to climb and place a wreath on the top of the tower he has recently built. Suffering from vertigo, he falls to his death. Hilde is nevertheless ecstatic once more: her Master Builder reached the top before he fell.

A: Henrik Ibsen Pf: 1893, Trondheim Pb: 1892 Tr: 1893 G: Trag. in 3 acts; Norwegian prose S: Solness's home, Norway, late 19th c. C: 4m, 3f, extras

At the age of 61 Ibsen began a relationship with a young woman from Vienna Emilie Burdach, and there is some truth in Maeterlinck's description of The Master Builder as ‘an allegorical autobiography’. However, its themes go far beyond a depiction of Ibsen's own life. The confrontation of the typically desiccated existence of provincial Norway with the life and energy of the youthful Hilde Wangel reflects concerns that preoccupied Ibsen in many of his plays. Hilde is a more benevolent Hedda Gabler, pushing people to – and beyond – their limits.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Henrik Ibsen (1828—1906) Norwegian dramatist


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