Who Is Henrik Ibsen and What Is He Known For?
The Father of Realism in the spoken arts is Henrik Ibsen who was a monumental playwright and revolutionary for the world of theatre. Through his works, he made a significant contribution to sparking the women’s rights movement, and changing previously accepted roles imposed by society as a whole.
Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), was a Norwegian playwright and the dominant figure in European drama during the second half of his life. In 1862, he was exiled to Italy then in 1868 he moved to Germany. He wrote many verse plays (notably Brand and Peer Gynt), but his greatest impact was as a realist, exposing the hypocrisy and injustice of 19th century society.
A Doll’s House (1879) was particularly important in showing how women were denied opportunities to develop their own personalities and opinions. Later still, Ibsen turned to psychological and mysterious, poetic subjects. Among his many famous plays are Brand, Peer Gynt, An Enemy of the People, Emperor and Galilean, A Doll’s House, Hedda Gabler, Ghosts, The Wild Duck, and Rosmersholm.
By 1891, Ibsen had returned to Norway a literary hero. Henrik Ibsen published his last drama, “When We Dead Awaken”, in 1899, and he called it a dramatic epilogue. It was also destined to be the epilogue of his life’s work, because illness prevented him from writing more. For half of a century he had devoted his life and his energies to the art of drama, and he had won international acclaim as the greatest and most influential dramatist of his time. He knew that he had gone further than anyone in putting Norway on the map.
More than anyone, he gave theatrical art a new vitality by bringing into European bourgeois drama an ethical gravity, a psychological depth, and a social significance which the theater had lacked since the days of Shakespeare. In this manner, Ibsen strongly contributed to giving European drama a vitality and artistic quality comparable to the ancient Greek tragedies.
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. However, Ibsen created another type of drama as well. In fact, he had been writing for 25 years before he, in 1877, created his first contemporary drama, “Pillars of Society”. He died on May 23, 1906, in Oslo, Norway.