2A Doll’s House Some Facts: Published in 1879Norwegian title: Et dukkehjemTitle can be also read as “a dollhouse”The play was highly controversial when first published, as it is sharply critical of Victorian marriage norms.Written while Ibsen was in Rome and AmalfiAmalfi is a town and commune in the province of Salerno, in the region of Campania, Italy.The play was born in a time of revolution in Europe.
3RevolutionaryCharged with the fever of the 1848 revolution, a new modern perspective was beginning to emerge in the literary and dramatic world, challenging the romantic tradition;Ibsen has been credited for mastering and popularizing the realist drama derived from this new perspective.His plays were both read and performed throughout Europe (in numerous translations) like no other dramatist before. A Doll's House was published and premiered in Copenhagen.
4A Challenge to Technical Tradition of the Well Made Play a genre of theatre from the 19th century, codified by Eugène Scribe ( ) .It has a strong neo-classical flavor, involving a very tight plot and a climax that takes place very close to the end of the story, with most of the story taking place before the action of the play; much of the information regarding such previous action would be revealed through thinly veiled exposition.Following that would be a series of causally related plot complications.
5Attributes of a “Well Made Play” The plot is based upon a withheld secret, known only to some of the characters, usually about the play's hero, the revelation of which provides the turning point of the play.Initial exposition provides information, usually by means of question and answer, about the events that precede the start of the play (antecedent action) and both leads toward the secret and withholds it.Ups and Downs are generally seen in dialogue, exchanges of wit between opponents, in which we move closer to the revelation of the secret.Reversal, followed by a revelatory scene (the French critic Francisque Sarcey called this the scéne à faire) in which we and the characters in the play learn the secret, often for the first time.A plausible dénouement is designed to make everything that has occurred believable.The key to the whole play is that each act or scene repeats this pattern.
6The majority of well-made plays are comedies, often farce The majority of well-made plays are comedies, often farce. In his book The Quintessence of Ibsenism, Bernard Shaw proposed that Ibsen converted this formula for use in "serious" plays by substituting discussion for the plausible dénouement or conclusion.Thus, plays become open ended, as if there were life beyond the last act curtain.Ibsen's play was notable for exchanging the last act's unraveling for a discussion.
7Critics agree that, up until the last moments of the play, A Doll's House could easily be just another modern drama broadcasting another comfortable moral lesson.However, when Nora tells Torvald that they must sit down and "discuss all this that has been happening between us", the play diverges from the traditional form.With this new technical feature, A Doll's House became an international sensation and founded a new school of dramatic art.
8Where is the Wise Old Man? Ibsen's realist drama disregarded the tradition of the older male moral figure.Dr. Rank, the character who should serve this role, is far from a moral force; instead, he is sickly--rotting from a disease picked up from his father's earlier sexual exploits--and lascivious, openly coveting Nora.The choice to portray both Dr. Rank and the potentially matronly Mrs. Linde as imperfect, real people was a novel approach at the time.
10The Feminist MessageThe play rocked the stages of Europe when the play was premiered.Nora's rejection of marriage and motherhood scandalized contemporary audiences.In fact, the first German productions of the play in the 1880s had an altered ending at the request of the producers.Ibsen referred to this version as a "barbaric outrage" to be used only in emergencies.
11Ibsen was reacting to the uncertain tempo of the time; Europe was being reshaped with revolutions. The revolutionary spirit and the emergence of modernism influenced Ibsen's choice to focus on an unlikely hero--a housewife--in his attack on middle-class values.Quickly becoming the talk of parlors across Europe, the play succeeded in its attempt to provoke discussion. In fact, it is the numerous ways that the play can be read (and read it was--the printed version of A Doll's House sold out even before it hit the stage--that make the play so interesting.Each new generation has had a different way of interpreting the book, from feminist critique to Hegelian allegory of the spirit's historical evolution.
12Major Themes Women and Men: This play focuses on the way that women are seen, especially in the context of marriage and motherhood. Torvald, in particular, has a very clear and narrow definition of a woman's role.Torvald believes that it is the sacred duty of a woman to be a good wife and mother. Moreover, he tells Nora that women are responsible for the morality of their children.In essence, he sees women as both child-like, helpless creatures detached from reality and influential moral forces responsible for the purity of the world through their influence in the home.
13Yet precisely what sort of play is it? George Steiner claims that the play is “founded on the belief…that women can and must be raised to the dignity of man,” but Ibsen himself believed it to be more about the importance of self-liberation than the importance of specifically female liberation—Ibsen’s contemporary, Strindberg, certainly disagreed, himself calling the play a “barbaric outrage” because of the feminism he perceived it as promoting.
14Materialism v. People:This is particularly important for Torvald, whose sense of manhood depends on his independence.In fact, he was an unsuccessful barrister because he refused to take "unsavory cases". As a result, he switched to the bank, where he primarily deals with money.In other words, money and materialism can be seen as a way to avoid the complications of personal contact.
15Images of women:Nora, as a symbol of woman, is called a number of names by Torvald throughout the play. These include"little songbird","squirrel", "lark","little featherhead","little skylark","little person", and"little woman".Torvald is extremely consistent about using the modifier "little" before the names he calls Nora.These are all usually followed by the possessive "my", signaling Torvald's belief that Nora is his.Torvald's chosen names for Nora reveal that he does not see her as an equal by any means; rather, Nora is at times predictable and silly doll and at times a captivating and exotic pet or animal, all created for Torvald.
16Light: The Dress: Light is used to illustrate Nora's personal journey. After the turning point of Torvald's claim to want to take everything upon himself and while she is talking to Dr. Rank, the light begins to grow dark, just as Nora sinks to new levels of manipulation.When Dr. Rank reveals his affection, Nora is jolted out of this fantasy world and into reality and insists on bringing a lamp into the room, telling the Doctor that he must feel silly saying such things with the light on.The Dress:Nora's ball dress symbolizes the character she plays in her marriage to Torvald.Take note of when Nora is supposed to be wearing it and for whom.
17The Tarantella:A tarantella is a folk dance from southern Italy that accelerates from its already quick tempo and alternates between major and minor keys.In its constant fluctuation, it is like Nora's character. In this Act, it serves as Nora's last chance to be Torvald's doll, to dance and amuse him.Also, the tarantella is commonly (and falsely) known as a dance that is supposed to rid the dancer of the bite of the tarantula.Applied to the play, its use suggests that Nora is trying to rid herself of the deadly poison of an outside force, however fruitlessly.Rather than alleviating the bite, though, the music and her life only continue to accelerate and spin out of control.
18Sites Cited“A Doll’s House” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. April 2007Gillis, G. J. and Westhagen, Jen. SparkNote on A Doll’s House. 5 Apr"Henrik Ibsen” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 5 April 2007"Well-Made Play" Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 5 April 2007William, Robert. “About A Doll’s House.” Grade Saver.