Little Theatre Blog Theatre How Henrik Ibsen Pioneered Modern Drama

How Henrik Ibsen Pioneered Modern Drama

Henrik Ibsen was a Norwegian playwright who rose to fame for works like A Doll’s House. However, did you know that Ibsen is also considered to be the father of Modern Drama?

The Scandinavian was a part of a new wave of writers who began to experiment with dramatic form in the late 1800s. Besides that, he created fully-formed models of how theatre should evolve, and fulfilled his visions against massive opposition from his conservative peers at the time.

According to one of Ibsen’s scholars Brian Johnston, the standing of theatre in the 1850s was at rock bottom across Europe and the USA. No plays of significance had arrived on the stage in decades, and the Romantic poetry and arts movement had largely taken over with realistic novels. Unfortunately, drama had all but been forgotten amid the rise of the Brontes, Austin, Blake and Shelley.

Ibsen’s Many Challenges

Ibsen had big ideas for a new dramatic movement, but faced numerous obstacles in his path. Firstly, the playwright hailed from Norway – a nation with nearly no dramatic traditions of its own. Today, smartphone casino Malaysia games are widespread around the world, but at the time even basic entertainment was confined to small pockets of society.

That didn’t stop Henrik Ibsen from rising to stardom. He refused to adhere to the rules of classic theatre at the time, instead deciding to forge his own theatre style to meet the rising demand for ‘thinking’ plays. His realist plays, including Ghosts, A Doll’s House and An Enemy of the People, were praised by the upper class shortly after being published.

New theatres quickly popped up in London, Paris and Berlin dedicated to performing Ibsen’s plays, as no mainstream theatres would consider them. Johnston says that within record time, the theatre had used Ibsen’s work to shake off its reputation for insignificance and become an interesting and powerful force in modern culture.

Shirking Traditional Norms

The playwright steered clear of classic theatrical rules in a number of ways. He combined colloquial dialogue, tightness of plot and objectivity, creating characters and settings that his audiences could relate to. This marked a breakthrough in the world of drama, and gave rise to a whole new theatrical genre: Realism.

Realistic plays delved deep into the upper class’s discomfort with the hypocrisy between conventional values and morals and the issues facing an industrial-capitalist society. Ibsen’s biggest breakthrough came in the form of his Doll’s House debut. The play first showed at London’s Novelty Theatre in 1889, and was savagely critiqued by critics. Despite this, the show was so popular that its run was extended multiple times.

A Doll’s House may have been new to the English-speaking public, but when Hedda Gabler opened at theatres 2 years later, theatregoers were surprised at Ibsen’s rapid evolution in style. Plays such as Ghost were banned widely for their sensitive topics – but Ibsen continued to dive deeper into the dark and psychologically complex side of life with The Wild Duck, The Lady From the Sea and Rosmersholm. Nowadays, his work is viewed as nothing short of brilliant.

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