Building peace in the minds of men and women

Henrik Ibsen: A Doll's House

Registration year: 2001
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A Doll's House has been staged throughout the world, and still is - one and a half century later. Few plays have had a similar impact globally on social norms and conditions. Few play characters world-wide can claim an equivalent importance as role model as Nora Helmer. 

More than anyone, Henrik Ibsen gave theatrical art a new vitality by bringing into European bourgeois drama an ethical gravity, a psychological depth, and a social significance which the theatre had lacked since the days of William Shakespeare. 

It is from this perspective we view his contribution to theatrical history. His realistic contemporary drama was a continuation of the European tradition of tragic plays. In these works he portrays people from the middle class of his day. These are people whose routines are suddenly upset as they are confronted with a deep crisis in their lives. They have been blindly following a way of life leading to the troubles and are themselves responsible for the crisis. Looking back on their lives, they are forced to confront themselves. 

Ever since A Doll's House was first published, it has raised debate and controversy, both because of its splendid dramatic structure and because of its broad ideological impact. 

Henrik Ibsen's works are performed on stages world-wide, read in numerous translations, studied and researched on every continent of the world. The notes, drafts and papers for Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House belong to the most copious and most interesting manuscript material from the hand of this great playwright. 

The first known draft of the play is entitled "Notes on the Tragedy of the Present Age" (Rome, 19 October 1878). When published in 1879, the play revolutionised contemporary Western drama, both formally and thematically. In the twentieth century, the effect of the play spread to include Asia and the Third World, where its form became symbolic of modern Western drama and its content symbolic of values such as human rights and existential freedom. 

In the draft material we are given direct access to the playwright's workshop. Here we can follow the development of Ibsen's artistic imagination and the sharpening of ideological content. In the manuscripts, Ibsen expresses his revolutionary ideas more directly and more easily accessible than in the finished work, which for artistic reasons is rendered more ambiguous. The manuscripts include all material known to exist from the creation and first printing of the play. 

A Doll's House is an exceptional achievement. In spite of Nora's uncertain future prospects - facing the problems a divorced woman without means would face in nineteenth century society - she has served and serves as a symbol throughout the world, for women fighting for liberation and equality.

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