By Hector Gardner,2014-08-21 04:14
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    HS 204: INTRODUTION TO LITERATURE Section on DRAMA: Text: Ibsen‟s A Doll’s House

    Instructor: Prof. MILIND MALSHE (Dept of H & SS, IIT-Bombay)


     What is Literature?

     Approaches to literature

     Forms or Genres of literature

     Elements of Drama

     Origins and Development of Drama

     Analysis of A Doll’s House

     Modern Drama: Realism & Ibsen‟s Contribution

     Henrik Ibsen: Life & Works

What is Literature?

     Like human language, literature is „species specific‟ and „species universal‟

     Medium of literature: language : examine how language is used in different types

    of literary texts, e.g. lyrical poems (rhythm, rhyme, etc.), drama (dialogue, etc.),

    narratives (use of past tense, etc.)

     Content of literature:

    (a) “life”, “reality” -> IMITATION

    (b) “experience”, “emotion” -> EXPRESSION

    (c) “thought”, “idea”-> ALIENATION, CONFORMITY or REBELLION

Approaches to literature

     TEXTUAL: internal structure, organization, “language”: FORM

     CONTEXTUAL: society, culture, history, politics: CONTENT

Forms or Genres of literature

    (a) Universal/Foundational level: Non-discursive: Narrative (story telling),

     Lyrical (singing),

     Dramatic (showing)

    Discursive: Essay (arguing, making a point)

    (b) Specific/Local level:

    Culture-specific: Western vs Indian Epic History-specific: Spenser‟s vs Milton‟s Epic


     What is drama? dramatization?

     “play” : performance and text

     “impromptu/extempore/improvised drama”

     Children‟s games involve play-acting



     TELLING: narrator & narratee, voice of the teller, a shared or fictive world


     SHOWING: action and dialogue, voices & their interaction


     Drama: text & performance

     Dialogue & Action (Plot):

    1. conversation vs “dramatic dialogue”: central action which unifies & is


    2. people vs “characters”: “flat” and “round” characters; development

    3. “story” vs “plot”: temporality vs causality

    4. Physical action vs dramatic action: tension & conflict; unifying thread

     Dramatic Irony: a situation in which characters (a) anticipate exactly the

    opposite of what occurs or (b) in which they suggest the outcome but not in the

    sense in which they intend it (Find examples from A Doll’s House.)

Origins and Development of Drama

    Origins: Anthropology (i.e. study of ancient human culture) has shown that primitive societies viewed the natural forces as unpredictable, offering sacrifices in an attempt to influence the unknown and fearful powers. Gradually, these appeals became more formalized in the form of primitive rituals. Drama and the theatrical arts have their roots in these.

    Development: (in the west)

    Greece: development of tragedy and comedy in the festivals of Dionysus, the god of wine & fertility: Tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, and Comedies of ththAristophanes & Menander (5 & 4 century BC)

    Rome: mainly imitation & adaptation of the Greek models: Tragedies of Seneca and ndstComedies of Plautus and Terence (2 & 1 century BC) thBan on drama: After Christianity was recognized as official religion in 4 century AD, ththeatre encountered difficulties and in 5 c AD, drama was banned and remained

    suppressed throughout the Middle Ages. thDrama in the Church: Around 10 c, the Church began to make use of dramatic thinterludes in its services initially indoors (“liturgical” drama), but by 13 c moved

    outdoors. Mystery plays with subjects from the scriptures (“mystere” in French meant trade or craft); drama produced by the trade guilds. Drama developed around various Church festivals. Also Miracle plays based on the lives and works of the saints & martyrs; Morality plays dramatizing spiritual trials of the average human being. Renaissance Drama: Renaissance (revival of classical learning), Humanism and thgrowing secularization and professionalization of theatre in the 15 & 16 centuries all

    over Europe. Flourishing of Elizabethan Drama in England culminated in Shakespeare (1567-1616) who wrote histories, comedies & tragedies. ththNeoclassicism: 17 & 18 centuries saw the emergence of Neoclassicism which looked back at the classical writers and critics like Aristotle for basic principles. Strict rules & unities of time, place & action. thRomanticism: 19 c movement : “Noble Savage”; mistrust of Reason; Creativity in

    Nature; Genius thModern Drama: Latter half of the 19 c, saw the rise of Realism (see below)


Analysis of Ibsen‟s A Doll’s House:

    Act I

    1 (a) all the five main characters are introduced;

     (b) festive setting of Christmas

    2. The past is revealed through retrospect

    3. The present dilemmas and conflicts are established 4. Six episodes: interaction between

     (a) Nora & Torvald: marital relationship

     (b) Nora & Mrs Linde: old friendship and present problems

     (c) Nora & her children: domestic happiness

     (d) Nora & Krogstad: secret loan & blackmail

     (e) Nora & Dr Rank: comments on moral corruption dramatic irony

     (f) Nora & Torvald: moral corruption traced to mothers; hint of Nora‟s self-recognition

    Act II

    1. Barren setting; darkened stage: contrast with festive setting of Act I, symbolic of

    Nora‟s confrontation of truth

    2. Seven episodes:

     Prelude: Nora‟s soliloquy – restlessness & anxiety

     (a) Nora-Nursemaid: motherhood

     (b) Nora-Mrs Linde:

     (c) Nora-Torvald: pleading & illusions; T‟s self-righteousness

     (d) Nora-Dr Rank: flirting & disease

    (e) Nora-Krogstad: blackmail & confidence

    (f) Nora-Mrs Linde: N‟s confidence in T

    (g) Nora-Torvald-Dr Rank: Tarantella dance reflecting Nora‟s inner emotional

     chaos & conflicts

    [Note: Tarantella is a rapid, whirling Italian dance, supposed to be a remedy for tarantism,

    i.e. an uncontrollable impulse to dance popularly attributed to the bite of the tarantula, i.e.

    a large hairy spider]

    Act III

     Major episodes:

    (a) Mrs Linde-Krogstad: love, blame & transformation of character (b) Nora-Torvald: dance-performance successful : art & life (“novel”, “exit”)

    (c) Nora-Mrs Linde:

    (d) Nora-Torvald: sexual attraction & dance

    (e) Nora-Torvald-Dr Rank: imminent death & contemplated suicide (T is an uninformed


     (f) Nora-Torvald: before the letter: suffering, loneliness, silence & death; danger, rescue

    & love; death & decay (Ibsen preparing us for the confrontation & crisis)

     after the letter: crime & punishment; the father; T‟s ego-centrism;

    “preserve appearances”

     after the note: forgiving and irony

     Scene of CLIMAX: the final confrontation: notice she has taken off her fancy





    Expressed through various oppositions/contrasts:

     Love versus thinking how nice to be in love

     Being happy vs being gay, merry

     Play time vs lesson time

     Being a doll vs being an adult human individual

     Honour vs love

     Duty to society, family vs duty to self

     Society, religion, books (received knowledge) vs SELF (self-knowledge) Ibsen‟s use of symbols

     Christmas time & tree: family happiness & domestic security (at the centre and

    decorated in Act I, but in the corner and stripped in Act II)

    Dance: Tarantella dance reflects Nora‟s inner emotional chaos & conflicts

     Dress: use of black, also fancy dress (appearance)


    Ibsen‟s themes

     EMANCIPATION of the INDIVIDUAL SELF: consists of self-knowledge, self-

    realization & self-assertion (oppression by society, law, religion, institutions)

     THE FEMALE SELF: oppression by PATRIARCHY: father & husband


    false ideas/fantasies vs actual behaviour/attitues


     Background to Realism & MODERNITY

    1.18th c Neo-classicism (following classical models) vs 19th c Romanticism (idealized “noble savage” Rousseau)

    2. New philosophy of POSITIVISM (Comte): scientific method applied to social sciences: observation, empirical data, objectivity & causal explanation 3. Positivism further re-enforced by Darwin‟s The Origin of the Species (1859):

    (a) “evolution” i.e. all forms of life have developed gradually from a common

    ancestry, &

    (b) (b) “survival of the fittest” as an explanatory principle

    - Resulted in the complete collapse of the religious or theocentric explanations, i.e.

    in terms of God‟s wish

    - Also emphasized the idea of Progress through Rationality 4. Realism in Theatre: “modern”

    (a) Truthful & objective depiction of the real world (social & cultural)

    (b) Avoidance of purely historical subject-matter & idealization

    (c) New stage-craft of realistic presentation: costumes, scenery, lighting

    (d) New dramatic form, the “well-made play”:

     Clear exposition of situation & characters

     Careful preparation for future events

     Unexpected but logical reversals

     Continuous & mounting suspense

     An obligatory scene

     A logical and convincing solution


    Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906)

     Three phases of his theatrical career: (a) Romantic phase: early plays based on

    stories drawn from Norway‟s legendary and historical past, e.g. Catalina (1850),

    The Vikings of Helgeland (1858); (b) Realist phase (Ibsenism): turned to Realism

    in 1875 with The Pillars of Society, & continued in that vein with A Doll’s House

    (1878), Ghosts (1881), An Enemy of the People (1882); (c) Symbolic phase:

    symbols & mysticism became increasingly pervasive: The Wild Duck (1884),

    Hedda Gabler (1890), The Master Builder (1892).

     Most imp theme of the Realist phase: how false values of society force

    individuals into lives based on lies : Modernism & Ibsenism

     Social problem plays and drama of ideas

     A Doll’s House (1879) is closely connected with Pillars of Society (1877) and

    Ghosts (1881): all the three plays have the theme of self-realization trough

    freedom and responsibility. The obstacles to this process were many, such as

    institutionalized and dead convention, false sense of duty and loyalty, hypocrisy,

    moral corruption of the society.

     Pillars of Society (1877): a play that marks the advent of “modernism” in drama;

    established the pattern for social drama or the “problem play”; the title ironically

    refers to corrupt individuals when actually it must refer to values of truth and


    Plot-outline: The title of the play initially refers to Karsten Bernick, whose good reputation is threatened by the return to town of his brother-in-law, Johan Tonnesen, and of Johan‟s half-sister, Lona Hessel. Bernick had earlier displace the blame for his own misdeeds onto to Johan, and had had rejected Lona‟s love in order to marry her

    rich half sister. To save his own reputation, Bernick concots a scheme to rid himself of Johan, but when this scheme almost leads to the death of his own son, Bernick has a change of heart and publicly renounces his past sins, prompting Lona to remark that truth and freedom are the real pillars of society.

     Ghosts (1881) a severe criticism of the society of his time which is shown to be

    based on falsehood, hypocrisy, pretense and lies; it is a society haunted by ghosts

    of tradition and custom; the play shows ghosts of inherited physical (venereal)

    disease as well as old, worn-out ideas and moral contamination;

    Plot-outline: Mrs. Alving, though an intellectually emancipated woman, has dedicated herself to the suppression of a truth, namely the sexual misconduct of her husband, Captain Alving; but the past cannot be so easily be erased. Her son, Oswald, recently returned from Paris, bears the heritage of syphilis from his father and gives the appearance of being a replica, a ghost, of his father in sexual waywardness. His proposed union with Regina, the maid, would be incestuous, since it is reveled that her father is Captain Alving. The newly built orphanage, erected by Mrs. Alving as her husband‟s memorial, burns to the ground, and this event symbolically coincides with Oswald‟s burning within. When the final curtain falls, Oswald is insane and it is deliberately left uncertain whether his mother would administer morphine to him which would be a case of euthanasia or mercy-killing.




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