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A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen

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Trish Everett

on 21 January 2015

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Transcript of A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen

A Doll 's House by Henrik Ibsen
1) During which holiday does the play take place?

2) What does Nora treat herself to, knowing full well that Helmer disapproves?

3) Why did Nora take out a loan and from whom?

4) How does Nora know Christine Linde?

5) How did Krogstad garner a bad reputation at the bank and why is this particularly significant?

6) What dance does Nora do and why?

7) What is the last thing the audience hears at the end of the play?
1) Christmas

2) Macaroons

3) for Torvald's health, from Krogstad

4) they are childhood friends

5) forgery, because Nora forged her fathers' signature

6) tarantella to distract Torvald- also a metaphor of their relationship

7) door slam "heard round the world"

Plot Summary

Christmas Eve, Torvald has been promoted to manager of the bank, --> more money and power
Nora thinks that she will finally be able to pay off her secret loan
An angry Krogstad approaches her and tries to get her to persuade Torvald to keep him on at the bank, threatens blackmail re: the loan..
Nora tries to convince Torvald with all of her feminine tricks (which he encourages), but she is unsuccessful.
The next day, Nora is afraid that Krogstad will appear at any minute and is preoccupied with the prep for a costume party the next night in a neighbor’s apartment.
When Torvald returns from the bank, she tries to persuade him again.
Torvald refuses and sends off the notice of termination for Krogstad, reassuring Nora that he will take responsibility for any negative reactions
Nora is moved and begins to consider the possibility of this episode transforming their marriage for the better—as well as the possibility of suicide to save face.


Nora Helmer – wife of Torvald, mother of three, living out the ideal of the 19th century wife, but leaves her family at the end of the play.
Torvald Helmer – Nora's husband, a newly promoted bank manager, suffocates but professes to be enamoured of his wife.
Dr. Rank – Rich family friend, who is secretly in love with Nora. He is terminally ill, and it is implied that his "tuberculosis of the spine" originates from a venereal disease contracted by his father.
Kristine Linde – Nora's old school friend, widowed, seeking employment (named Kristine in the original Norwegian text).
Nils Krogstad – Employee at Torvald's bank, single father, pushed to desperation. A supposed scoundrel, he is revealed to be a long-lost lover of Kristine.
The Children – Ivar, Bobby and Emmy
Anne Marie – Nora's former nanny, now cares for the children.
Helene – The Helmers' maid
The Porter – Delivers a Christmas Tree to the Helmer household at the beginning of the play.

Meanwhile, she flirts with Dr. Rank. Learning that he's dying, she has an intimate conversation with him professing his love for her just before she is able to ask him for financial help. His words stop her, and she gives up that plan.
Krogstad tells her that he has had a change of heart and that, though he will keep the bond, he will not reveal her to the public. Instead, he wants to give Torvald a note explaining the matter so that Torvald will be pressed to help Krogstad rehabilitate himself and keep his position at the bank.
Nora protests against Torvald’s involvement, but Krogstad drops the letter in Torvald’s letterbox anyway
Nora tries to use her charms to prevent Torvald from reading the letter, luring him away from business by begging him to help her with the tarantella for the next night’s party. He agrees and the letter remains in the letterbox.
The next night, before Torvald and Nora return from the ball, Mrs. Linde and Krogstad, who are old lovers, reunite in the Helmers’ living room. Mrs. Linde asks to take care of Krogstad and his children and to help him become the better man that he knows he is capable of becoming.
The Helmers return from the ball as Mrs. Linde is leaving (Krogstad has already left).
Alone, Torvald tells Nora how much he desires her but is interrupted by Dr. Rank.
The doctor, unbeknownst to Torvald, has come by to say his final farewells, as he covertly explains to Nora. After he leaves, Nora is able to deter Torvald from pursuing her any more by reminding him of the ugliness of death, having revealed Dr. Rank’s secret.
Seeing that Torvald finally has collected his letters, she resigns herself to committing suicide.
As she is leaving, Torvald stops her. He has just read Krogstad’s letter and accuses Nora of ruining his life, tells her that he plans on forsaking her, contrary to his earlier claim that he would take on everything himself.
He is interrupted by the maid with another note from Krogstad addressed to Nora. Torvald reads it and is overjoyed. Krogstad has had a change of heart and has sent back the bond. Torvald quickly tells Nora that it is all over after all: he has forgiven her, and her pathetic attempt to help him has only made her more endearing than ever.
Nora, seeing Torvald’s true character for the first time, sits her husband down to tell him that she is leaving him. She explains that he does not love her—and, after tonight, she does not love him. She says that, given the suffocating life she has led until now, she owes it to herself to become fully independent and to explore her own character and the world for herself.
As she leaves, she reveals to Torvald that she hopes that a “miracle” might occur: that one day, they might be able to unite in real wedlock. The play ends with the door slamming on her way out.

Nora: I know nothing but what the clergyman said, when I went to be confirmed. He told us that religion was this, and that, and the other. When I am away from all this, and am alone, I will look into that matter too. I will see if what the clergyman said is true, or at all events if it is true for me.
Rank: Oh, it's a mere laughing matter, the whole thing. My poor innocent spine has to suffer for my father's youthful amusements.

Nora:...I must tell you that he suffers from a very dangerous disease. He has consumption of the spine, poor creature. His father was a horrible man who committed all sorts of excesses; and that is why his son was sickly from childhood, do you understand?

Helmer: Because such an atmosphere of lies infects and poisons the whole life of a home. Each breath the children take in such a house is full of the germs of evil... My dear, I have often seen it in the course of my life as a lawyer. Almost everyone who has gone to the bad early in life has had a deceitful mother. It seems most commonly to be the mother's influence, though naturally a bad father's would have the same result…

Nora: "Many a time I was desperately tired; but all the same it was a tremendous pleasure to sit there working and earning money. It was like being a man.”

Realism and Naturalism
Trends of the modern era
Growth of Middle Class
Darwinism, Freud, Scientific Method
Anti religious sentiment
Shift in power away from hereditary and divine rule
Political and social radicalism
Freedom for women, voting rights, jobs, economic independence, freedom to marry for love
Mechanization and speed, development of mass markets

Theatre and art respond to changing world
take up real life problems and debate them,
scenic unity and thorough verisimilitude
presenting the events (facts) without moral judgment or commentary,
allowing the material to speak for itself,
attempts to create a perfect illusion of reality
rejection of melodrama, farce, music hall, Shakespare, "classics", in favour of something NEW
seek greater fidelity of real life in text and performance
use everyday dialogue, not prose
characters are common people, not bourgeoisie
About the facts of life in a social context, usually within the family home
Attempts to create a perfect illusion of reality
Dialogue instead of monologue/verse
Ibsen was a moralist trying to disclose people with double standards or not living up to their own moral ideals
(Ibsen) Outward gaze and imagined reality of others
(Strindberg) work is in many ways a long auto biography, the self is a continuous source of inspiration
Conflict usually arises from binary power differential: male/female, aristocrat/servant, aggressive/passive
Emphasized man's accidental psychological nature rather than his moral, rational qualities

Characters are seen as helpless products of heredity and environment with little will or responsibility for their fates

Dramatic concentration, no division into acts to keep control over viewer
realistic treatment of sex onstage
Sense or mood of melancholy/nostalgia
Influence of environment and history on characters
reflects materialism of middle class
Resist contrivances and commercialism of melodrama and spectacle
Man is motivated by reason and morality
Characters have free will and are capable of change
Painting by Ibsen
Painting by Strindberg
explore characters' psychology
more traditional dramatic text structure
Scientific/clinical attitude to character in an environment
Concerned with inner psychological truths
ensemble acting more than vehicle for one star
subtle subtexts and unspoken motives
challenge conventional morality
New sets each show to create specific environment
Challenges/ abandons stock characters and types
Where does this "realism" come from?
Do we agree that A Doll's House reflects a new truly realistic approach to presenting life on stage or do we see trappings of the past reappearing?

How has Ibsen's work and the work of other early Realists shaped current theatre scripts and productions?
Traits of the "Well Made Play"

Origins in Victorian England
Neo Classical flavour
Tight plot- Intro, Exposition, Complications, Climax, Resolution
Use of letters to reveal game changing information (a la Aristotle's Poetics) or other contrived plot devices
Someone is usually concealing the truth behind their real identity
Ends with a speedy and tidy resolution, usually a "happily ever after" or "everyone's dead, but we all learned something valuable", but ultimately everything returns to normal or is at least resolved.
Full transcript