Henrik Ibsen

Norwegian playwright and poet Henrik Ibsen (1828 – 1906) created twenty-six plays and a volume of poetry. He is noted for his nationalistic spirit and for exploring Europe’s social problems during the 1800s. Critics both past and present have praised his realistic approach to drama and his well-developed characters. He is best known for creating strong female characters in dramas such as A Doll's House and Hedda Gabler.

Henrik Ibsen was born on March 20th, 1828 in Skein, Norway. His wealthy father, Knud Ibsen, owned several shops including a grocery store. However, after a series of poor financial decisions, the family was severely in debt by the time Henrik was seven.
The family was forced to move to a small farm house, and then shared a residence in the crowded home of a family friend. To make matters worse, Knud’s wife grew distant and dissatisfied with the marriage.
It is therefore no coincidence that the themes of debt, marriage, society, and independence play a prominent role in many of Henrik's plays.

Creative Perseverance:

In 1853, a small Norwegian theater gave a hopeful young playwright (and part-time pharmacy assistant) a wonderful opportunity. The Bergen Theatre produced St. John’s Night, Henrik Ibsen’s first publicly performed play.
It was a whimsical combination of Scandinavian folk tales filled with trolls and fairy creatures. It was also a miserable disappointment that closed after only one performance. Yet, Ibsen never let failure deter him. Despite all of his obstacles in his personal and literary life, he rose to become one of the greatest dramatists of the 19th century.

Early Career:

In 1850, Ibsen failed his entrance exam, dashing hopes of becoming a doctor. His friends admired his sense of humor and encouraged him to pursue writing as a career.
That same year his first play, Catiline, was rejected by editors, but a generous friend printed a few hundred copies. Only 40 were sold; the rest of the copies were used as gift wrapping. Still, he earned the respect of the Bergen Theatre, the company that produced his first works.
Audiences rejected his first three plays, but in 1856 he finally found success with his lyrical saga, The Feast of Solhaug.

Decorated Playwright:

Prompted by his first success, Ibsen wrote constantly. Many of his earlier plays dealt with a pride for his homeland, and a desire to maintain Norway’s virtues. Some failed both critically and financially; others succeeded remarkably.
His artistic endeavors generated several government grants, allowing him enough funds to raise a family and travel abroad.
In 1869, the King of Norway and Sweden knighted Ibsen. From then on, Ibsen’s career soared, and his plays became even more serious. Eventually, his writing shifted from poetic folktales to realistic examinations of controversial social issues.

Ibsen’s Social Commentary:

In 1877, his play, Pillars of Society, extolled the virtues of freedom and truth. Next, his 1879 classic A Doll’s House questioned the suppressed role of women in society. Thirteen years later, feminist issues were again explored in another hard-hitting drama, Hedda Gabler.
Toward the end of his life, his later plays, The Master Builder (1892) and When We Dead Awaken (1899), became more self-reflective. Ibsen began contemplating what it meant to dedicate one's life to art.

Henrik Ibsen’s Death:

From 1900 to 1903 Ibsen suffered several strokes that left him unable to write creatively or speak clearly. Although his final years were quiet and bedridden, the playwright was not lonely. In 1906 his family and friends were at his bedside when he died in his sleep. He was seventy-eight years old. His last written words were, “Thanks.”


Robert Browning (7 May 1812 – 12 December 1889) was an English poet and playwright whose mastery of dramatic verse, especially dramatic monologues, made him one of the foremost Victorian poets.
Browning’s fame today rests mainly on his dramatic monologues, in which the words not only convey setting and action but also reveal the speaker’s character. Unlike a soliloquy, the meaning in a Browning dramatic monologue is not what the speaker directly reveals but what he inadvertently "gives away" about himself in the process of rationalizing past actions, or "special-pleading" his case to a silent auditor in the poem. Rather than thinking out loud, the character composes a self-defense which the reader, as "juror," is challenged to see through. Browning chooses some of the most debased, extreme and even criminally psychotic characters, no doubt for the challenge of building a sympathetic case for a character who doesn't deserve one and to cause the reader to squirm at the temptation to acquit a character who may be a homicidal psychopath. One of his more sensational dramatic monologues is Porphyria's Lover.
Ironically, Browning’s style, which seemed modern and experimental to Victorian readers, owes much to his love of the seventeenth century poems of John Donne with their abrupt openings, colloquial phrasing and irregular rhythms. But he remains too much the prophet-poet and descendant of Percy Shelley to settle for the conceits, puns, and verbal play of the metaphysical poets of the seventeenth century. His is a modern sensibility, all too aware of the arguments against the vulnerable position of one of his simple characters, who recites: "God's in His Heaven; All's right with the world." Browning endorses such a position because he sees an immanent deity that, far from remaining in a transcendent heaven, is indivisible from temporal process, assuring that in the fullness of theological time there is ample cause for celebrating life.