Books That Endure: Classic Studies of Human Relationships

Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906)

A Doll's House


  • Born in Skien, Norway, March 20, 1828. 
  • Son of a merchant who lost all his money when Ibsen was still a child; had the briefest of formal educations..
  • Apprenticed to an apothecary in Grimstad in1834; spent seven years there, though he disliked the work.
  • Struck people from childhood as having a highly unsociable temperament but also a dauntless integrity of spirit.
  • Educated himself in preparation for entering the university at Christiania (now Oslo), which he did in 1850; didn't pass his examinations and left.
  • Married Susannah Thoresen in 1858.
  • Disillusioned with the political climate of Norway, left with his family in 1864; traveled through Denmark, Germany and Italy.  Settled in Rome in 1866 at the beginning of his period when he wrote his greatest plays.
  • Left Italy in 1868 for Dresden, where he remained, except for a brief visit to Norway, until 1891.  Settled permanently in Christiania in 1891.
  • Suffered a severe stroke in 1901 and spent the last six years of his life in mental collapse..


  • Began writing verse by the time he was nineteen; wrote his first (not very successful) plays in 1850, soon after he left the university. Made a scanty living through journalism.
  • Became stage manager/playwright for the new National Theater at Bergen, 1851-57. Modest pay, but insured his new plays would be presented, allowed him to study the dramatic technique of the great playwrights of the European theater, and afforded him the opportunity to travel abroad to theaters in Copenhagen and Dresden.
  • Served as director of the theater at Christiania, 1857-62.
  • Arguably the most influential nineteenth-century European dramatist; widely recognized as the father of modern drama.
  • A Doll's House, like most of Ibsen's major plays, shocked contemporary audiences with its frank and realistic portrayal of middle class life and values.

Major Writings

Brand (1866)
Peer Gynt (1867)
The League of Youth (1869)
Pillars of Society (1877)
A Doll's House
Ghosts (1881)
An Enemy of the People (1882)
The Wild Duck (1884)
Rosmersholm (1886)
The Lady From the Sea (1888)
Hedda Gabler (1890)
The Master Builder (1892)

Biographical and Critical Information

  • Selected print resources
    Readings on A Doll's House, ed. Hayley R. Mitchell, 1999.
    Ibsen, Michael Goldman, 1998.
    Approaches to Teaching Ibsen's A Doll House, ed. Yvonne Shafer, 1985.
    Henrik Ibsen: A Comprehensive Research and Study Guide, ed. Harold Bloom.
    Ibsen: A New Biography, Robert Ferguson.

    The Playwright as Thinker
    Eric Bentley, 1946.
    The Making of Modern Drama, Richard Gilman, 1974
    The Theater of Revolt, Robert Brustein, 1962

Retired Discussion Series

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