Peer Gynt Analysis

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Sharlyn Ramirez 4/10/11
EL-123-03 Play Analysis Paper

Analysis of Henrik Ibsen’s Play
“Peer Gynt”

“Peer Gynt” (1867) was the first of Henrik Ibsen’s successful plays in the nineteenth – century. Most commonly known as the “father of modern theater”, Ibsen devoted his entire career to the reconstruction of theater from a large, exaggerated spectacle, to more psychological and condensed productions. He was able to accomplish this through the use of several literary techniques such as the centralization of theme, detailed imagery, and allusions to some of the works of a writer who greatly influenced his writing; P.C. Asbjӧrnsen (Archer). As a modern playwright, Ibsen helped to shape the new movement in theater towards the manipulation of the audience’s feelings and thoughts to maintain interest and investment in the characters rather than simply impressing the audience with expensive props, lavish backdrops and large-scale fight or chase scenes. Henrik Ibsen accomplished all of these changes in his first vastly recognized play “Peer Gynt”. In his play “Peer Gynt”, Ibsen based his main character on a children’s folk story by P.C. Asbjӧrnsen in a collection of Norwegian fairytales. Ibsen initially intended for this work to be read as a poetic fantasy, not to be performed on stage, but he later adapted the work with stage directions and acts once he realized the success of this story as a theater performance (Peer). This is evident in the organization of the text into stanzas in the actual print. Though there is no more specific organization such as meter, there are a few patterns scattered throughout as well as a few rhymes, so this play is very obviously a poem, but a free form one at that. The emphasis lies in the poetic language used within the dialogue between characters. An example of such organization is

The tongues of the lances
all flickering and flashing –
see, see!
Already my head seems
to roll on the sand – plain!
Woe, woe!
THE THEIF (folds his arms over his breast)
My father he thieved;
so his son must be thieving.
My father received;
so his son keeps receiving.

This excerpt shows how poetic techniques were used to Ibsen’s advantage to give “Peer Gynt” a sense of mystification. The repetition of words such as “see, see!”, “May father”, and “so his son” draw emphasis to the ironic meeting between both the receiver and the thief. The end rhymes of the stanzas such as “thieved/ thieving” and “received/ receiving” are prime examples of how Ibsen incorporated his poetic experience to the writing of theatrics leading to a feeling of fantasy for the play audience. Other than a poetic organization, Henrik Ibsen also made his play “Peer Gynt” memorable through the use of a central theme; the downfall of his main character via procrastination and laziness (Archer).

As the play opens, Peer and his mother, Ǻse, behave not like an elderly parent speaking with her middle aged son, but as a young woman scolding her little boy. Despite the fact that Peer is actually in his twenties, his laziness and negligence leads to his treatment as a child. His clothes are tattered and he lifts his mother playfully onto the roof of the mill and into the water. Ǻse is very unhappy with his actions and scolds him. The theme of this immaturity for Peer continues throughout the play in several other instances. For his procrastination, Peer is without someone to court and he misses his chance to be with Ingrid, the farmer Hegstad’s daughter and because of his immaturity, Peer is ridiculed at Ingrid’s wedding party for his drunkenness, many women refuse to dance with him, and he decides to deal with his loss of Ingrid by stealing her and running off into the mountains (Ibsen). All of these examples are not only humorous and memorable for the audience, but they are relatable. Everyone has dealt with humiliation,...
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