Henrik Ibsen is a 19th Century Norwegian playwright. He has been referred to many as the “Father of Modern Drama”. This is mostly because his dramatic plays comprised of several religious, historical and political messages which have had some application or another for an extended period of time. There is an apparent trend by Ibsen to include prose writing into most of his plays while keeping to the main focus of his story. This is the same with Shakespeare. Ibsen incorporates psychological as well as social issues into his works by centering his plays on realistic contemporary problems, themes and settings. This tendency may have been informed by his turbulent youth which was marred by loneliness, self-loathing and poverty. This essay examines the reasons why Henrik Ibsen is referred to as the “Father of Modern Drama”.
First, Ibsen’s plays were the first to depict realistic contemporary dialogue and characters who depicted a great psychological depth on the stage. These kind of works resulted in the modern movement in the area of drama. The kind of social dilemmas depicted in his plays are still relevant today. For example, in his play Love’s Comedy, Ibsen explores the subjugation of women and how traditions and conventions stifle people. Svanhild and Falk are the main characters who are in love with each other (Ibsen 50). Falk is a poet who is viewed as a rebel while Svanhild is trapped by the conventions of society. The dialogues relayed by these characters are still prevalent in some parts of the world where women are expected to be subservient and artistic expression is viewed as rebellion.
Secondly, Ibsen was the first playwright to depict contemporary settings that fit accurately to modern times. For example, in A Doll’s House, Ibsen portrays the modern theme of financial strain through the story of a family facing money issues. Norah Helmer is a wife who borrows some amount of money secretly to take her husband to an area with better climate for the sake of his failing health. She keeps her expenses low and strives to save as much money as possible to enable her repay the loan (Ibsen 1-96). This setting is very applicable today where the problem of finances is an ever present issue.
Thirdly, the views that Ibsen portrays in his plays are legitimate because they are backed by the experiences he underwent in his youthful life, travels and jobs. For example, his experiences working as an apprentice to a pharmacist are echoed clearly in his play The Pillars of Society in which he depicts some of the people around him at the time as hypocritical, corrupt and small-minded. His works are also authoritative because they are backed by the principles he obtained from the works of Shakespeare, Voltaire and Charles Dickens, all literary luminaries in their own right.
Henrik Ibsen is rightfully referred to as the “Father of Modern Drama” because of a number of reasons. First, his plays were the first to depict realistic contemporary dialogue and characters who depicted a great psychological depth on the stage. For example, in the play Love’s Comedy, he shows the struggle to break the restrictive conventions of society regarding women and expression. Secondly, Ibsen was the first playwright to depict modern settings with accuracy. This is evidenced by A Doll’s House, in which the story of the financial struggle of a family is applicable today. Thirdly, his plays have some authority because they are backed by his real life experiences. These three factors underline why Henrik Ibsen is a pioneer in contemporary plays.
Ibsen, Henrik. Love's comedy. Chicago: Sergel, 1900. Print.
Ibsen, Henrik A Doll’s House. Dover Publications, 2000. Print.