Written by Stanley Greenberg Friday, 12 October 2012 08:39
In the last two months I have become involved with the great Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen. In my class at SUNY Old Westbury, I have had the pleasure of studying A Doll’s House with Professor Narayan Hedge of the English Department. Dr. Hedge is very meticulous and he studies the text line by line. Many subtleties of the text are brought forth and the ideas open up to the average reader.
In addition to A Doll’s House, Lorraine and I purchased tickets to the Manhattan Theater Club’s version of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater.
Ibsen’s plays deal with moral, social and psychological themes. He challenges the middle class to think about the problems of society.
In A Doll’s House, he deals with Nora. She is the mother of three children and married to Torvald Helmer, a highly principled, condescending character. He treats Nora as if she were a child and she plays that role to make a happy home. She hides her intelligence and ability to uplift Torvald’s ideal. It is a tight drama of female emancipation from the lows and mores of that time period.
Ibsen wrote, “There are two kinds of conscience, one for men and one quite different for women. They don’t understand each other, but the woman is judged by masculine law, as though she was not a woman but a man. A woman cannot be herself in modern society.”
Intellectual freedom and female emancipation were his two major goals. In An Enemy of the People, the hero, Dr. Thomas Stockmann (played magnificently by Boyd Gaines) tells a newspaper that the water supply is laden with bacteria and new pipes must be installed. His brother, the mayor (played by Richard Thomas of The Waltons fame) tries to hush up the problem. Great confrontations by the brothers make for drama, as well as great acting. Once again, Ibsen has portrayed in his play social problems that ring true today.
Individual responsibility in a corrupt world is searching for a just and human society. I was happy and enlightened to be reacquainted with Henrik Ibsen.