Image of Henrik Ibsen


Lifetime: 1828 - 1906 Passed: ≈ 118 years ago


Writer, Playwright



Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Johan Ibsen was a Norwegian playwright and theatre director. As one of the founders of modernism in theatre, Ibsen is often referred to as "the father of realism" and one of the most influential playwrights of his time. His major works include Brand, Peer Gynt, An Enemy of the People, Emperor and Galilean, A Doll's House, Hedda Gabler, Ghosts, The Wild Duck, When We Dead Awaken, Rosmersholm, and The Master Builder. Ibsen is the most frequently performed dramatist in the world after Shakespeare, and A Doll's House was the world's most performed play in 2006.

Ibsen's early poetic and cinematic play Peer Gynt has strong surreal elements. After Peer Gynt Ibsen abandoned verse and wrote in realistic prose. Several of his later dramas were considered scandalous to many of his era, when European theatre was expected to model strict morals of family life and propriety. Ibsen's later work examined the realities that lay behind the facades, revealing much that was disquieting to a number of his contemporaries. He had a critical eye and conducted a free inquiry into the conditions of life and issues of morality. In many critics' estimates The Wild Duck and Rosmersholm are "vying with each other as rivals for the top place among Ibsen's works"; Ibsen himself regarded Emperor and Galilean as his masterpiece.

Ibsen is often ranked as one of the most distinguished playwrights in the European tradition, and is widely regarded as the foremost playwright of the nineteenth century. He influenced other playwrights and novelists such as George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Arthur Miller, James Joyce, Eugene O'Neill, and Miroslav Krleža. Ibsen was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1902, 1903, and 1904.

Ibsen wrote his plays in Danish (the common written language of Denmark and Norway during his lifetime) and they were published by the Danish publisher Gyldendal. Although most of his plays are set in Norway—often in places reminiscent of Skien, the port town where he grew up—Ibsen lived for 27 years in Italy and Germany, and rarely visited Norway during his most productive years. Ibsen's dramas were informed by his own background in the merchant elite of Skien, and he often modelled or named characters after family members. He was the father of Prime Minister Sigurd Ibsen. Ibsen's dramas had a strong influence upon contemporary culture.

Books by Henrik Ibsen

A Doll's House Cover image

A Doll's House

Drama Tragedy
Naturalistic Modernist Problem Play

A Doll's House is a three-act play written by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. It premiered at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 21 December 1879, having been published earlier that month. The play is set in a Norwegian town circa 1879....

An Enemy of the People Cover image

An Enemy of the People


An Enemy of the People, an 1882 play by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, followed his previous play, Ghosts, which criticized the hypocrisy of his society's moral code. Ibsen, Ellen Mortensen (Ibsen Studies v.7, 169) argues, wrote An Enemy of the P...

Hedda Gabler Cover image

Hedda Gabler

Fiction Drama
Marriage Love Power Jealousy

Hedda Gabler is a play written by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. The world premiere was staged on 31 January 1891 at the Residenztheater in Munich. Ibsen himself was in attendance, although he remained backstage. The play has been canonized as a...

The Wild Duck Cover image

The Wild Duck

Drama Tragedy
Play Deceit

The Wild Duck is an 1884 play by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. It is considered the first modern masterpiece in the genre of tragicomedy. The Wild Duck and Rosmersholm are "often to be observed in the critics' estimates vying with each other...

The Lady From the Sea Cover image

The Lady From the Sea

Fiction Drama
Play Relationships

The Lady from the Sea is a play written in 1888 by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen inspired by the ballad Agnete og Havmanden. The drama is notable in the Ibsen corpus for introducing the portrayal of Hilde Wangel who is again portrayed in Ibsen's...

Little Eyolf  Cover image

Little Eyolf

Family Play Happiness Life Pursuit Mountains

Little Eyolf tells the story of the Allmers family. At the outset of the play, the father, Alfred, has just returned from a trip to the mountains. While there, he resolved to focus foremost on raising his son Eyolf, rather than continue work on his b...

The Master Builder  Cover image

The Master Builder

Drama Tragedy
Play Young Advice Success Life Ambition

Henrik Ibsen's The Master Builder, first published in 1892, is about architect Halvard Solness, who despite personal tragedy (including the death of his two sons) has risen to the top of his profession. He has succeeded partly through ruthless compet...

When We Dead Awaken  Cover image

When We Dead Awaken

Marriage hunt Play Drama Symbolism Mountains

The first act takes place outside a spa overlooking a fjord. Sculptor Arnold Rubek and his wife Maia have just enjoyed breakfast and are reading newspapers and drinking champagne. They marvel at how quiet the spa is. Their conversation is lighthearte...

Peer Gynt  Cover image

Peer Gynt

Romance Drama
Romantic Play Epic Realism Poems Act Life Criticism

Peer Gynt is the most well known Norwegian play throughout history and is based loosely on the folklore about Per Gynt. It is a dramatic poem in five acts, and has been aptly described as the story of a life based on procrastination and avoidance. Th...

Rosmersholm  Cover image


Play Social Death Tragedy Christianity political Religious Beliefs Ethics

Rosmersholm is a play written by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen in Danish—the common written language of Denmark and Norway at the time—and originally published in 1886 in Copenhagen by the Danish publisher Gyldendal. Rosmersholm has been describe...

Ghosts  Cover image


Drama Tragedy
Play Faith Ghost Story Moral Discovery Relationships Suffering Communism Orphans

Ghosts is a play by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. It was written in 1881 and first staged in 1882 in Chicago, Illinois, in a production by a Danish company on tour. Like many of Ibsen's plays, Ghosts is a scathing commentary on 19th-century...

Un enemigo del pueblo Cover image

Un enemigo del pueblo

Family Play Drama Morality Truth Social Class Deception Environment Political Intrigue

"Un enemigo del pueblo" de Henrik Ibsen es un drama cautivante que explora los oscuros matices de la verdad y la integridad en una sociedad que prefiere la comodidad a la revelación. En un pequeño pueblo, un hombre valiente y comprometido, el Doctor...

Brand Cover image


Family Idealism Tradition Faith Struggle Convicts Danger Holiness

In the heart of a remote Norwegian fjord, a fervent and uncompromising pastor named Brand stands as a beacon of unwavering faith and unwavering dedication to his calling. Consumed by an insatiable desire to save the souls of his parishioners, Brand d...

John Gabriel Borkman Cover image

John Gabriel Borkman

John Gabriel Borkman is the penultimate play of the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, written in 1896. The Borkman family fortunes have been brought low by the imprisonment of John Gabriel who used his position as a bank manager to illegally specula...

Pillars of Society Cover image

Pillars of Society

Pillars of Society was Ibsen's first successful realist drama, first performed in 1877. Karsten Bernick is the dominant businessman in a small coastal town in Norway, with interests in shipping and shipbuilding in a long-established family firm. Now...

Little Eyolf (Mencken Translation) Cover image

Little Eyolf (Mencken Translation)

One of the four profound plays of Ibsen’s late period (along with “The Master Builder,” “John Gabriel Borkman,” and “When We Dead Awaken”), “Little Eyolf” tells the story of Albert Allmers, a writer who has yearned to leave behind a literary or philo...

Master Builder (Gosse & Archer Translation) Cover image

Master Builder (Gosse & Archer Translation)

Halvard Solness is a master architect who has ruthlessly forged a preëminent career without regard for the feelings of those around him. In spite of this unscrupulous path of life, his conscience is still painfully alive, burdening him with guilt for...

Espectros (Gengangere) Cover image

Espectros (Gengangere)

Drama familiar en tres actos. Obra escandalosa en su estreno, incluso fue prohibida su representación en varios países, por cuestionar los pilares de la familia y sociedad tradicional.Sigue siendo una de las obras más representadas en la actualidad,...