Henrik Ibsen

Early Life

Henrik Ibsen was born on the 20th of March in 1828, in Skien, Telemark, Norway. He was an intelligent son of Knud Ibsen, a successful merchant, while his mother, Marichen Altenburg also belonged to an affluent merchant family. The first seven years of Ibsen’s life were filled with delight and luxuries. However, in 1836, the family’s fortune took a tragic turn for the worse; his father went bankrupt and the family had to sell major properties and settled permanently outside the town. This tragic shift left a permanent mark on his innocent mind that his later writings show this side of the story.


Henrik Ibsen’s had less formal education. However, his writing skills left even masters speechless. He was forced to leave school at the age of fifteen. Upon leaving school, he went to Grimstad and became an apprentice pharmacist. However, his love for literature did not fade away; he educated himself in leisure time and started writing plays, too. Surprisingly, a man with less formal education became a published writer at the age of twenty-two when his first play, Tragedy Catilina, made a notable appearance.

Some Important Facts of His Life

  1. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his death in 2006, the Norwegian government announced IbsenYear.
  2. Every year, since 2008, the Dramatic Art and Design Academy celebrates the “Delhi Ibsen Festival.”
  3. The Ibsen Society of America (ISA) was founded in 1978.
  4. Following a series of serious strokes, he breathed his last on 23rd of May in 1906 and was buried in Vår Frelsers Gravlund, Oslo.
  5. After Shakespeare, he is considered as the second most popular poet and writer of the 19th

His Career

Henrik Ibsen, one of the most insightful writers of the nineteenth century, started writing at a young age and enjoyed unprecedented fame during his lifetime.  He began his career as a stage writer from the Norwegian Theatre in Christiania.  He wrote several screenplays including Kjaerlighedens komedie and Kongsemnerne. Although his initial works failed to win praise, yet his constant efforts enabled him to achieve the desired success. His semi-dramatic poem, “Brand” earned a lot of praise for him. Later, his drama, Peer Gynt presented an antithetical view of human nature. His next two works, Emperor and Galilean and De Unges Forbund talk about the social life of the townspeople. His most famous play, A Doll’s House, appeared in 1879 followed by another successful attempt, Ghosts.  His other works include The Feast at Solhaug, The League of Youth, The Vikings at Helgeland, and The Lady from the Sea.

His Style

After establishing his career as a writer, Henrik Ibsen added enough to the world of literature which has made his name popular. The reason for his immense popularity rests on thoughtful ideas and unconventional style. In most of his writings, he focused on the central character such as his four major plays, Ghosts, Hedda Gabler, The Master Builder, and A Doll’s House, unfold with a narrative, focusing on a single character. Besides, he successfully discussed the role of the women in the society of his time.  He tried to exhibit an organic means of expression for each piece of writing, while the majority of his plays revolve around social issues and psychological problems. His writings also discussed the horrors of poverty and the hardships of life prevalent in society during his time. His distinct literary style, with a blend of satire, irony, and realism separates him from other writers. The recurring thematic strands in most of the writings are poverty, hardships of life, feminism, religious intolerance, self-realization, and the clash between the individual and societal pressures. Regarding literary devices, he often turns to metaphors, imagery, symbolism, satire, allusion, and similes to create a unique style.

Some Important works of Henrik Ibsen

  • Best Plays: He was an outstanding writer, some of his best plays include A Doll’s House, The Burial Mound, St. John’s Eve, The Vikings at Helgeland, The League of Youth, An Enemy of the People, The Master Builder, and When We Dead Awaken.
  • Best Poems: Besides writing plays, he tried his hands on poetry as well. Some of his notable poems include “Thanks”, “Mountain Life”, “In the Picture Gallery” and “Wildflowers and Hot-House Plants.”

Henrik Ibsen’s Impacts on Future Literature

Henrik Ibsen’s unique writing style and literary qualities of his masterpieces brought praiseworthy changes into the world of literature. Also, he had a significant influence on a diverse range of writers and critics. He expressed his thoughts and ideas in his literary pieces so well that even today writers tend to imitate his style, considering him a role model for producing fiction and non-fiction.

Famous Quotes

  1. “The majority is never right. Never, I tell you! That’s one of these lies in society that no free and intelligent man can help rebelling against. Who are the people that make up the biggest proportion of the population — the intelligent ones or the fools?” (An Enemy of the People)
  2. “I believe that before anything else I’m a human being — just as much as you are… or at any rate I shall try to become one. I know quite well that most people would agree with you, Torvald, and that you have warrant for it in books; but I can’t be satisfied any longer with what most people say, and with what’s in books. I must think things out for myself and try to understand them.” (A Doll’s House)
  3. “HELMER: But this is disgraceful. Is this the way you neglect your most sacred duties?
    NORA: What do you consider is my most sacred duty?
    HELMER: Do I have to tell you that? Isn’t it your duty to your husband and children?
    NORA: I have another duty, just as sacred.
    HELMER: You can’t have. What duty do you mean?
    NORA: My duty to myself.”  (A Doll’s House)


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