|Courtney Maginnis | |8/13/2012 |
Born in 1828, Henrik Ibsen was a 19-century Norwegian playwright and theater director. He is often referred to as “the father” of modern theater. Ibsen’s work was considered scandalous during his era. He asked his audience a new set of moral questions, all set within a severely realistic middle-class background. Some of his most famous plays include Peer Gyant, A Doll’s House, and Hedda Gabler.
As a child, Henrik Ibsen showed little sign of the theatrical genius that he would later become. He grew up in the small Norwegian coastal town of Skien as the oldest of five children born to Knud and Marichen Ibsen. His Father was a successful merchant and his mother painted, played piano and loved to go to the theater. Ibsen himself expressed an interest in becoming an artist as well. The family was thrown into poverty when Ibsen was 8 because of problems with his father’s business. Nearly all traces of their previous affluence had to be sold off to cover debts, and the family moved to a rundown farm near town. It was there that Ibsen spent much of his time reading, painting and performing magic tricks.
At 15, Ibsen stopped going to school and went to work. He landed a position as an apprentice in an apothecary in Grimstad. Ibsen worked there for six years, using his limited free time to write poetry and paint. In 1849, he wrote his first play Catilina, a drama written in verse modeled after one of his great influences, William Shakespeare. Ibsen moved to Christiania (later known as Oslo) in 1850 to prepare for university examinations to study at the University of Christiania. Living in the capital, he made friends with other writers and artistic types. One of these friends, Ole Schulerud, paid for the publication of Ibsen’s first play Catilina, which failed to get much notice.
The following year, Ibsen had a fateful encounter with violinist and theater manager Ole Bull. Bull liked Ibsen and offered him a job as a writer and manager for the Norwegian Theater in Bergen. The position proved to be an intense tutorial in all things theatrical and even included traveling abroad to learn more about his craft. In 1857, Ibsen returned to Christiania to run another theater there. This proved to be a frustrating venture for him, with others claiming that he mismanaged the theater and calling for his ouster. Despite these difficulties, Ibsen found time to write Love’s Comedy, a satirical look at marriage, in 1862. Unlike many other writers and poets of this time, Ibsen had a long and seemingly happy marriage to Suzannah Daae Thoresen. The couple wed in 1858 and welcomed their only child, son Sigurd, the following year. Ibsen also had a son from an earlier relationship. He had fathered a child with a maid in 1846 while working as an apprentice.
Ibsen left Norway in 1862, eventually settling in Italy for some time. There he wrote Brand, a five-act tragedy about a clergyman whose feverish devotion to his faith costs him his family and ultimately his life in 1865. The play made him famous in Scandinavia. Two years later, Ibsen created one of his masterworks, Peer Gyant, a modern take on Greek epics of the past. This verse play follows the title character on a quest.
In 1868, Ibsen moved to Germany....