A Doll’s House*
By Henrik Ibsen
*also translated as A Doll House
The first “Modern Tragedy”
A Doll’s House was written in prose. It is widely
considered a landmark in the development of what
soon became a highly popular genre of theater—
realism, which strives to portray life accurately
and shuns idealized visions of it.
• Realism in the arts: the accurate, detailed depiction of nature
or of contemporary life. Realism rejects imaginative
idealization in favor of a close observation of outward
• Realists rejected the artificial nature of both Classicism and
Romanticism and saw the necessity for reflecting this change
in attitude in an effective work of art.
• They attempted to portray the lives, appearances, problems,
customs, and mores (values) of the middle and lower classes,
of the unexceptional, the ordinary, the humble, and the
Realism in Drama
• Attempts to create the appearance of life as it is
• Ennui- dissatisfaction resulting from lack of
“The things that happen to his stage figures are things that
happen to us. One consequence is that his plays are much
more important to us than Shakespeare's. Another is that
they are capable both of hurting us cruelly and of filling
us with excited hopes of escape from idealistic tyrannies
and with visions of more intense life in the future.”
George Bernard Shaw, The Quintessence of Ibsenism, 1913
The Problem Play
• A drama that represents a social issue in order to
awaken the audience to it.
• Henrik Ibsen wanted his play not to be a romantic
plot, but to actually address a current issue he felt
his audience must acknowledge.
Victorian Era- Gender Roles
• Men were primarily bread winners.
• Women who did not work were considered to be
of a higher social class.
• Middle class women cared for their children,
planned and oversaw the preparation of meals,
supervised servants, and attended to social
• Men were legally equal, but women were
subordinate to their husband’s will.
• A woman could inherit property, but this right
was taken over by her husband’s right to manage
what the family owned, including the dowry given
• A married woman could not freely spend the
money she earned.
• Doll-wife- As you read, examine Nora’s role in
• Examine how each character outside her marriage
helps her to understand Nora’s position in her
marriage and her ability to act.
• Nora “painfully” acquires human attributes by the
end of play. What are they?