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A Doll


A Doll s House By Henrik Ibsen A Doll s House Some Facts: Published in 1879 Norwegian title: Et dukkehjem Title can be also read as a dollhouse The play was ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: A Doll

A Dolls House
  • By Henrik Ibsen

A Dolls HouseSome Facts
  • Published in 1879
  • Norwegian title Et dukkehjem
  • Title 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 Amalfi
  • Amalfi 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

  • Charged 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.

A Challenge to Technical Tradition of the Well
Made Play
  • The Well Made Play
  • a genre of theatre from the 19th century,
    codified by Eugène Scribe (1791-1861) .
  • 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.

Attributes 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
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Critics 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.

Tragedy or Comedy--Tragicomedy
  • Comes form Latin tragicomoedia
  • Drama that mixes elements and styles of tragedy
    and comedy
  • Main concern is to explore the relationships
    between man and supernatural agencies (God, fate,
  • Mixes farce and humor with moments of sadness
  • Often related with social and political

Tragicomedy (cont)
  • Tragicomedies are not merely plays that combine
    the comic and tragic they are plays in which the
    tragic and comic are formally and emotionally
    dependent on one another, each modifying and
    determining the nature of the other so as to
    produce a mixed, tragicomic response from the
    audience (Munro 230).
  • Tragicomedies generally end in moral and
    aesthetic discomfort, leaving the audience to
    wonder on the true objective of the play (Munro

  • There is no true definition of tragedy
  • Tragedy is an imitation of a noble and complete
  • Fearful incidents
  • Royalty in mind not ordinary citizens
  • Dramatic not narrative format
  • Terror and pity aroused

Tragedy in Literature
  • Concerned with the fortunes and misfortunes, and
    disasters that befall people of power or position
  • For a tragic figure to be effective they have to
    have qualities of excellence that lift them above
    normal people, but in the end are not enough to
    save them from the self-destruction, or general
    destruction, that is brought upon them.
  • Lack of hope is a crucial, and often
    overwhelming, element in most tragedies

Tragedy in Literature
  • Tragedy in literature is a protest against the
    petty pace of life, against God, chance, fate or
    circumstance, against bad things happening to
    good people (Anouilh).

Where 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.

(No Transcript)
The Feminist Message
  • The 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.

  • Ibsen 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

  • Yet precisely what sort of play is it?
  • George Steiner claims that the play is founded
    on the beliefthat 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
  • Ibsens contemporary, Strindberg, certainly
    disagreed, himself calling the play a barbaric
    outrage because of the feminism he perceived it
    as promoting.

Major 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.

  • Materialism 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

  • Images of women
  • Nora, as a symbol of woman, is called a number of
    names by Torvald throughout the play. These
  • "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
  • 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.

  • Light
  • Light is used to illustrate Nora's personal
  • 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
  • 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.

  • The 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
  • 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.

Sites Cited
  • A Dolls House Wikipedia, the Free
    Encyclopedia. http//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henrik_
    Ibsen5 April 2007
  • Gillis, G. J. and Westhagen, Jen. SparkNote on A
    Dolls House. 5 Apr. 2007 http//www.sparknotes.co
  • "Henrik Ibsen Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
    5 April 2007 http//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henrik_I
  • "Well-Made Play" Wikipedia, the Free
    Encyclopedia. 5 April 2007 http//en.wikipedia.org
  • William, Robert. About A Dolls House. Grade
    Saver. http//www.gradesaver.com/a-dolls-house/stu
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