By Henrik Ibsen, Errol Durbach
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Extra resources for Ibsen and the Theatre: Essays in Celebration of the 150th Anniversary of Henrik Ibsen’s Birth
E. to feelings about him which go far deeper than any of the shifting attitudes to whatever version of lbsenism happens to be current): his concern with total personal commitment. Brand may be his most explicit onslaught on 'the spirit of compromise'; but in one way or another IBSEN ON THE ENGLISH STAGE 29 all his plays, from Catilina to When We Dead Awaken, explore the central characters' vision oftheir own selves and test the strength of their 'calling'. With (I hope) every awareness of the dangers of generalising, and as a naturalised outsider too, I feel that the great tradition of English literature would favour a Dorothea Brooke's learning to appreciate 'an equivalent centre of self' 6 in others, over and against a Brand's pursuit of true selfhood at the expense of others.
It was not as well received as the 'sociological' plays (apart of course from Ghosts) had been. Rosmersholm, which followed in I886, was even worse received, both on publication and in performance. In this play and its successor, The Lady from the Sea, Ibsen was investigating those dark forces that control our lives and impel our actions, exploring, as Strindberg was then (Miss Julie appeared in the same year as The Lady from the Sea), that same forest that the young Sigmund Freud was exploring, and arriving by the parallel path of intuition at the same goal which Freud was to reach by analysis.
After completing When We Dead Awaken, or perhaps while still working on it, Ibsen had the first of several strokes which were shortly to incapacitate him, and he spent the last five years of his life virtually paralysed and unable to write. He died in 1906 at the age of seventy-eight. When When We Dead Awaken appeared, it greatly excited an eighteen-year-old Dublin student who begged the editor of the Fortnightly Review to be allowed to review it. His request was granted, and the result, a penetrating panegyric, caught Ibsen's notice in Norway.