Friday, February 6, 2009

Quotes on Ibsen's Early Work

The following quotes highlight stages of Henrik Ibsen's early growth as a playwright.

Ibsen's reviews a colleague's work in 1857 and shares his thoughts on tragedy:
"It has become customary to expect from tragic characters a loftiness, a purification, a greatness of thought and expression, will and action, that shall fulfill the function of the Greek cothurn - namely to give us the feeling that we are outside the realm of everyday life. But this achieves the exact opposite of its purpose. The world portrayed by the dramatist is rendered completely foreign to the spectator... so he cannot fully engage our sympathy."

and on symbolism:
"Every notable human being is symbolic, both in his career and in his relationship to history. But bad writers, misconstruing the theory that the significant phenomena of life should be intensified in art, make this symbolism conscious... Instead of it existing hidden in the work, like a vein of silver ore in a mountain, it is continually being dragged into the light of day."

The director Bjoornstjerne Bjornson criticizes Ibsen's epic fantasy play The Vikings at Helgland in 1858:
"I hope someday to get him to be himself and turn away from all this damned pastiche. The day Ibsen admits he is small he'll become a perfectly enchanting poet... The point is, he's a rather small and gnomish little chap, with no chest or rump, so he feels that as he has no other gifts he has to strain most fightfully when he writes. And so he doesn't write what he'd really like to, and could."

Ibsen begins to write "what he'd really like to" with Love's Comedy in 1863 and defends it from the critics:

"The play aroused a storm of hostility... When, in my comedy, as best I could, I cracked the whip over the problem of love and marriage, it was only natural that the majority should rush shrieking to the defense of those institutions. Not many of our critics and readers have acquired the intellectual dicipline and training which enable a man to recognize delusions... The only person who approved of the play was my wife."

Quotes cited from Ibsen by Michael Mayer, Penguin Books 1967

Red Tape Theatre presents our adapation of Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, May 4-30, 2009.

Paul G. Miller
Season Dramaturge

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