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A Doll's House and Other Plays [The League of Youth The Lady From the Sea] [Paperback]

Henrik Ibsen , Peter Watts
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

31 July 2003

Delivering three distinct and powerful visions of characters who choose to defy convention in the pursuit of happiness, Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House and Other Plays is translated with an introduction by Peter Watts in Penguin Classics.

The League of Youth was Ibsen's first venture into realistic social drama and marks a turning-point in his style. By 1879 Ibsen was convinced that women suffer an inevitable violation of their personalities within the context of marriage. In A Doll's House, Ibsen caused a sensation with the his portrayal of Nora Helmer, a woman who, gradually arriving at an understanding of her own misery, struggles to break free from the stifling confines of her marriage. Continuing the theme of tensions within the family in The Lady from the Sea, Ibsen put forward the view that freedom with responsibility might at least be a step in the right direction.

Peter Watts's lively modern translation is accompanied by an introduction examining Ibsen's life and times, with individual discussions of each of the three plays.

Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) turned to journalism and playwriting instead of pursuing a university career. Ibsen was one of the earliest writers to dramatise the individual's alienation from society. Although Ibsen was never fully appreciated during his lifetime, he has since come to be recognised as one of the great dramatists of all time and the 'Father of Modern Drama'.

If you enjoyed A Doll's House, you might like Ibsen's The Master Builder and Other Plays, also available in Penguin Classics.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Impression edition (31 July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140441468
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140441468
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 2 x 12.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,778 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Henrik Ibsen was born at Skien in Norway in 1828. He turned to journalism and playwriting instead of pursuing a university career. Ibsen was one of the earliest writers to dramatise the individual's alienation from society. Although Ibsen was never fully appreciated during his lifetime, he has since come to be recognised as one of the great dramatists of all time and the "Father of Modern Drama."

Peter Watts trained as a doctor at Cambridge but then turned to journalism and the theatre.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Good study book 2 Mar 2014
By Matt
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had to buy this for my English Literature course. It is a good read and well worth the money.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Masterpiece 7 Mar 2010
By Bill R. Moore - Published on Amazon.com
A Doll's House is the play that made Henrik Ibsen world famous; though it got substantial acclaim, much initial attention came from controversy - and some from outrage. However, time has sided with it, proving Ibsen's points and burying naysayers under a pile of narrow-minded hypocrisy; the play remains Ibsen's most popular and one of his most acclaimed, taking its high place in the world literary canon.

Often called the first feminist play, A Doll's is a savage critique of Victorian - I use the term loosely, Ibsen being Norwegian - society's treatment of women. It gives a vivid idea of just how repressed they were in everything from speech to employment; their very thoughts were persecuted as far as possible. We also see what form this took in the domestic sphere; patriarchy is lambasted and exposed as hollow, and male-female relations generally are thoroughly critiqued. The marriage institution is not spared Ibsen's unflinching eye, while motherhood and other related issues are also taken into account. Victorian society had very settled ideas about such issues and did not take kindly to Ibsen's rankling, but the play was a much-needed wake-up call, provoking extensive debate and perhaps being one of the liberalizing forces eventually leading to reform. That such a work was written nearly a century and a half ago by a man is truly incredible. It says much that many of those who decried it most loudly were women; a prominent actress even refused to play the lead without an altered ending. Ibsen was clearly one of those rare artists who truly has a finger on the cultural pulse; he knew just what buttons to push and hit with a sledgehammer.

The play would of course be of only historical interest if it merely dealt with long-vanished injustice, but this is far from so. For one thing, sexism is sadly still very prevalent, even in the Western world, despite great advances. Some of the issues are thus still relevant even in this strict sense, showing just how far ahead of his time Ibsen was. More fundamentally, many core concerns - e.g., how to balance self-respect and ambition with marriage and children - are as old as civilization. The play will continue speaking to us profoundly as long as they remain unsolved, which shows no sign of being anytime soon. The best aspect in this regard is that it is not heavy-handed. Ibsen wrote many of what he called "problem plays" dealing with contemporary social problems without the didacticism that so often plagues such works and is nearly always fatal. He raises important questions but knows better than to give answers; that is for us to do. Like all his major work, A Doll's is highly thought-provoking. We may not agree with Nora, but she certainly makes us rethink long-held and oft-unquestioned assumptions - perhaps rethinking but at least surveying critically -, which may be art's true function and is certainly the highest praise sociopolitically aware art can receive.

But the play would be very enjoyable and laudable even if we noticed none of this, and there may indeed be more immediate reasons for its greatness and continuing relevance. The character of Nora is an undeniably big factor. Sympathetic almost immediately, she engages both heart and mind; we have empathy for her thoughts and feelings because of her undeniable humanity. She has much that is admirable, even noble, but also has undeniable weaknesses; perhaps more than the former, the latter make her seem all the more human and relatable. It is a tribute to Ibsen's artistry that he makes even the most conservative onlookers quickly like her, which makes the powerful conclusion all the more forceful. Other characters of course pale beside her not only in importance but in goodness yet are not without relevance. Much of the ending's power indeed comes from the realization that Torvald is not really bad. He is certainly condescending, self-absorbed, sexist, and narrow-minded, but these are faults of the age; he is no worse than the average Victorian man - perhaps even better in that he truly cares for Nora in his patronizing way. What happens to him could have happened to any Victorian husband - which is exactly the point. Krogstad is also important in this way; we are ostensibly supposed to hate him, but his actions are after all understandable and all too human. We may criticize but should not condemn. All this drives in Ibsen's point that the problems were symptoms of a culture, not a few backward individuals.

The tightly plotted and deftly executed story is another strength. The ending is of course deservedly famous, pulled off perhaps more effectively than any other in drama; it is led up to with truly artistic precision, the timing is impeccable, and the final door slam is the most brilliantly perfect yet subtle use of sound ever written into a play. Also, as George Bernard Shaw noted and others have come to appreciate ever more, the ending skillfully inverts the "well-made play" formula then considered obligatory. Ibsen tricked audiences into thinking the climax was the conclusion, which made the ending all the more stunning; we may miss the irony, but the essential effect is hardly dimmed. However, we must not let the ending blind us to overall quality. The play is highly emotional and supremely engrossing throughout despite having very little of what we now call action - an Ibsen trademark and a key ingredient in his greatness. He was a master of irony, foreshadowing, and other dramatic techniques, using them to full effect here; the satire making up much of the play is also immaculately done.

A Doll's is simply incredible in every aspect, essential for anyone even remotely interested in drama, women's issues, the Victorian era - or great literature itself.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a suspenseful realistic play 20 April 2010
By Israel Drazin - Published on Amazon.com
The critic H. L. Mencken described Henrik Ibsen's plays as "obvious thoughts in sound plays." There is "nothing mysterious in them; there is not even anything new in them." Ibsen offered reality. He was not interested in presenting "morals, lesson, symbols and that sort of thing." Yet, "he hit upon an action that was all suspense and all emotion." Mencken quotes Ibsen: "What I wanted to do was to depict human beings, human emotions, and human destinies, upon groundwork of certain of the social conditions and principles of the present day." While many people may agree with Mencken, others will say that Ibsen was trying to show what was the proper behavior that people should follow.

This portrayal of reality and what is proper behavior is seen in A Doll's House. It is realistic and, in addition, it is relevant, but the play also addresses what is proper. Ibsen portrays a husband and a wife. The wife is a "doll," beautiful, unsophisticated, childlike, well-meaning, but ignorant of the adult world and affairs. All of her friends see her as a doll. Her husband treats her as one, calling her childish names. He tries to control all of her behavior, not because he is mean, but because he loves her and he realizes that she is unable to do so. He tells her what to eat so that her teeth will not be spoiled from sugar and how much she should spend because she does not understand much about money.

And it is the latter, the money, that gets her into trouble. Her husband was sick some years back and needed to travel and stay in a warmer climate for some months, but the couple had no money. She, out of childish but ignorant love, borrowed money from an unscrupulous man who insisted that she have her father countersign the loan. Her father was dying, so she forged his signature on the loan document. She was certain that this was not wrong because her intentions were pure, she wanted to save her husband's life. She did not tell her husband about the loan because she childishly wanted to surprise him someday in the future and show him that she acted wisely and that she, who he thought of as childlike, saved his life. She laughed about her cleverness often when she was alone.

Now the unscrupulous lender is demanding something from her, or he will reveal the forgery to her husband and his employer, and this will affect her marriage and her husband will lose his job.

All of this probably would not have occured if the people would have treated women properly, as human beings, not dolls.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dolls House 5 April 2009
By Amanda M. Coder - Published on Amazon.com
Classic tale of women's liberation. This book is a fabulous read and short enough for a young teen to grasp the concept. I would recommend this to any student.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars D O L L 3 Oct 2013
By BbP - Published on Amazon.com
1828 to 1906--78


a critical attitude
TOWARDS marriage

It is 1879
Feels like Henri has NEVER seen
her as anything but a DOLL.

same as MANY LADIES feel TODAY!

1 of the top 100 books.

bp okc 64
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Independence vs. Security 5 Jun 2011
By J. Smallridge - Published on Amazon.com
Few plays say as much about the classic dilemma of seeking independence or security than this one. It is a brilliant piece of writing.
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