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Ibsen: The Complete Major Prose Plays

5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0452262058
ISBN-10: 0452262054
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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Norwegian (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Henrik Ibsen was born of well-to-do parents at Skien, a small Norwegian coastal town, on March 20, 1828. In 1836 his father went bankrupt, and the family was reduced to near poverty. At the age of fifteen, he was apprenticed to an apothecary in Grimstad. In 1850 Ibsen ventured to Christiania���present-day Oslo���as a student, with the hope of becoming a doctor. On the strength of his first two plays he was appointed ���theater-poet��� to the new Bergen National Theater, where he wrote five conventional romantic and historical dramas and absorbed the elements of his craft. In 1857 he was called to the directorship of the financially unsound Christiania Norwegian Theater, which failed in 1862. In 1864, exhausted and enraged by the frustration of his efforts toward a national drama and theater, he quit Norway for what became twenty-seven years of voluntary exile abroad. In Italy he wrote the volcanic Brand (1866), which made his reputation and secured him a poet���s stipend from the government. Its companion piece, the phantasmagoric Peer Gynt, followed in 1867, then the immense double play, Emperor and Galilean (1873), expressing his philosophy of civilization. Meanwhile, having moved to Germany, Ibsen had been searching for a new style. With The Pillars of Society he found it; this became the first of twelve plays, appearing at two-year intervals, that confirmed his international standing as the foremost dramatist of his age. In 1900 Ibsen suffered the first of several strokes that incapacitated him. He died in Oslo on May 23, 1906.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 1152 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (April 1, 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452262054
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452262058
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 2.1 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #859,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
There will not be a better collected edition of these plays in English translation. For both casual readers and scholars unable to read Ibsen in the original Norwegian, Rolf Fjelde's translation and supplementary materials make this volume unbeatable.
Fjelde presents Ibsen's major prose plays (which leaves out, of course, beauties like "Peer Gynt" but includes "A Doll House," "Ghosts," "An Enemy of the People," and "Hedda Gabler," among others) in fresh new translations, often altering standard misuses. He explains, for example, that traditional renderings of "Et dukkehjem" as "A Doll's House" warp its real meaning, which is simply "A Doll House." Pedantic as it may appear, this care is necessary, and evident throughout.
Even better are the almost 100 pages of extras: detailed introductions to each play, as well as minutely researched production histories. Who knew, for example, that "Ghosts" premiered not in Denmark or Norway but...Chicago, in 1882? The production notes and introduction to the volume tell a story we don't often hear about Ibsen, a tale of difficulties in Scandinavia, followed by years of exile and, ultimately, international acclaim. Reading the plays, which seem to have become more and more specifically Norwegian in setting and theme while Ibsen himself became more and more cosmopolitan, conjures memories of another exile who only ever wrote about home: James Joyce, not coincidentally one of Ibsen's greatest admirers.
For the price, you can't do better for English translations of these pieces--many of which can't be found elsewhere--whether you're a scholar in need of the historical context Fjelde obligingly provides, or simply interested in plowing through some of the foundations of 20th century and contemporary drama.
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Format: Paperback
These twelve plays, written in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Ibsen himself often referred to as a cycle. Each is complete in itself, but regarded together, they form a remarkable artistic achievement.
The earlier works in the cycle achieved notoriety because of their themes, which were considered daring in those days. Nowadays, we can view these works with a greater objectivity. It is clear that Ibsen was still developing what was then a relatively new form - the realistic prose drama; and there are elements - e.g. the attempted blackmail and intercepted letter in "A Doll's House" - where we may still see remnants of the older type of melodrama from which Ibsen was attempting to break out. But they are very fine plays nonetheless, dealing with the individual's relationship with the wider society. Ibsen always remained aware of the extent to which human characters are moulded by the society they inhabit, but from "Rosmersholm" onwards, he focussed more on the characters' inner lives. He also found ways of saying more with less: his later plays are so concentrated, that not a word, not a gesture, is irrelevant.
Instead of re-using old myths, like Wagner or Joyce in their fields, Ibsen creates myths of his own: the white horses of Rosmersholm, for example, or the Master Builder who had defied God, but who dares not climb as high as he builds. A powerful poetic imagination is apparent in these plays, filling them with images of unforgettable intensity. The last play, "When We Dead Awaken", appears in part to forsake the realistic drama that Ibsen had so painstakingly developed, and return to the world of those earlier poetic masterpieces, "Brand" and "Peer Gynt".
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Format: Paperback
This collection of Ibsen's final dozen prose plays is an important book not only for the
Ibsen fan, but for the budding playwright. Starting with PILLARS OF SOCIETY (1877) and
ending with WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN (1899) it's a comprehensive presentation of the mature
Ibsen, and how his art evolved in terms of style, and thematic content in his most productive
period. Starting with societal and general social concerns, and ending with the very personal
concerns of the mature artist, Ibsen touches on issues involving the human psyche, that would
be echoed in the work of Freud and Jung in the coming years, as well as provide the foundation
for much of modern drama.

Rolfe Fjelde stresses the importance of not merely cherry picking the famous plays, but reading
the complete cycle in order to appreciate the evolution of Ibsen's thought processes through his
work. He provides brilliant introductions to each play, and an appendix which details the history of
various productions of each play.
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