“It may be questioned whether any man has held so firm an empire over the thinking world in modern times.” – James Joyce
1828 Ibsen is born in Skien, in southern Norway, to Knut and Marichen Ibsen. His father is a successful merchant; his mother is an avid painter who loves the theatre. Ibsen is the eldest of five children (four boys and a girl).
1836 The Ibsen family business fails; many of their family friends turn their backs on the family. The scars of this betrayal stay with Ibsen for the rest of his life. By some accounts, his mother turns to religion for comfort, and his father sinks into a great depression
1843 Ibsen’s father send him to Grimstad to study as an apothecary’s apprentice. These were lonely years for Ibsen; he spent much of his spare time reading. He did father an illegitimate child in 1846, the mother was a serving-girl.
1850 Catiline, his verse drama, is published. It only sells a few copies. Ibsen moves to Oslo. The Warrior’s Barrow is performed (only three performances). Ibsen is appointed theatre poet and stage manager at Ole Bull’s Norse Theatre in Bergen. During his time there, he stages more than 150 plays.
1853 – St. John’s Night 1855 – Lady Inger of Ostraat This is his first critical success as a playwright. 1856 – The Feast at Solhaug This is also the year he gets engaged to Susannah Thoresen. 1857 – Olaf Liljekraus
1858 Ibsen and Susannah get married. Ibsen gets a job directing a rival company to the conservative national theatre in Oslo. His company performs his play The Vikings of Helgeland.
1858 This began a depressing period in his life when he was so busy with the business of the theatre that he did not write any new plays. To add to his misery, the theatre company does not do well and is beaten soundly by the conservative national theatre company. It eventually goes bankrupt.
1862 – Love’s Comedy 1864 – The Pretenders This play was a great success. It earned him a traveling scholarship (or, to put it another way, 27 years of voluntary exile). He only returned to Norway for brief visits. 1866 – Brand This play was also a great success.
Peer Gynt -- 1867 This play leads to him being decorated by the king for his work
1869 – The League of Youth 1873 – Emperor and Galilean Ibsen considers this one of his most important plays. In 1874, he returns to Oslo for a visit. 1877 – Pillars of Society
A Doll’s House -- 1879 This is the first of Ibsen’s plays to deal with a contemporary social theme. It is the story of a young mother who comes to question the roles that society has established for her. It ends with her leaving her husband and children to go off and find her own identity. That ending shocks audiences of the day.
Ghosts -- 1881 This play is about a young woman who marries a player in the belief that her love can reform him and keep him away from his vices. Instead, through her, he infects their son with syphilis, which, at the time, was basically an extended death sentence (after a period of madness).
Ghosts -- 1881 Needless to say, sexually transmitted diseases were not a typical play topic. Especially galling to many conservative critics was the fact that the young woman did exactly what society demanded: love her man despite his philandering ways. The London Daily Telegraph panned the play as "an open drain; a loathsome sore unbandaged; a dirty act done publicly; a lazar [leper] house with all its doors and windows open."
Enemy of the People -- 1882 This play is the story of a doctor who discovers that the mineral springs which are a major tourist attraction in town have been contaminated. He spreads the word, thinking that he will be praised for helping, but is instead cursed by the townspeople and branded as “an enemy of the people.”
Enemy of the People -- 1882 In this play, Ibsen calls into question the popular notion of the day that small communities of people (and small towns) were naturally good. Several critics has remarked that the power of this play may stem from Ibsen’s sense of betrayal by his treatment of his family in their hometown.
1884 – The Wild Duck 1886 – Rosmersholm 1888 – The Lady From the Sea
Hedda Gabler -- 1890 Synopsis from Wikipedia “The action takes place in a villa in Kristiania. Hedda Gabler, daughter of an impoverished General, has just returned from her honeymoon with Jørgen Tesman, an aspiring young academic — reliable but uninteresting. It becomes clear in the course of the play that she has never loved him, that she married him for economic security, and she fears she may be pregnant. The reappearance of her former lover, Ejlert Løvborg, throws their lives into disarray.”
Hedda Gabler -- 1890 Synopsis from Wikipedia “Løvborg, a writer, is also an alcoholic who has wasted his talent until now. Thanks to a relationship with Hedda's old schoolmate, Thea Elvsted (who has left her husband for him), he shows signs of rehabilitation, and has just completed what he considers to be his masterpiece. This means he now poses a threat to Tesman, as a competitor for the university professorship which Tesman had believed would be his. It became clear earlier that the couple are financially overstretched and Tesman now tells Hedda that he will not be able to afford to have her do a great deal of entertaining or to support her in a lavish lifestyle.”
Hedda Gabler -- 1890 Synopsis from Wikipedia “Hedda, apparently jealous of Mrs. Elvsted's influence over Ejlert, hopes to come between them. Tesman, returning home from a party, finds the manuscript of Ejlert Løvborg's great work, which the latter has lost while drunk. When Hedda next sees Løvborg, he confesses to her, despairingly, that he has lost the manuscript. Instead of telling him that the manuscript has been found, Hedda encourages him to commit suicide, giving him a pistol. She then burns the manuscript. She tells her husband she has destroyed it to secure their future, so that he, not Løvborg, will become a professor.”
Hedda Gabler -- 1890 Synopsis from Wikipedia “When the news comes that Løvborg has indeed killed himself, Tesman and Mrs. Elvsted are determined to try to reconstruct his book from what they already know. Hedda is shocked to discover, from the sinister Judge Brack, that Ejlert's death, in a brothel, was messy and probably accidental. Worse, Brack knows where the pistol came from. This means that he has power over her, which he will use to insinuate himself into the household [and force Hedda to become his mistress]. Leaving the others, she goes into another room and shoots herself.”
Hedda Gabler -- 1890 Although it touches on themes from his earlier plays, especially A Doll’s House, Hedda Gabler provides a title character of such psychological complexity that the role is still regarded as being one of the most desirable stage roles for an actress.
1892 – The Master Builder 1894 – Little Eyolf 1896 – John Gabriel Borkman 1900 – When We Dead Awaken