The play, originally published on December 4, 1879, Henrick Ibsen’s A Doll’s House was first performed seventeen days later on December 21 in Copenhagen. Ibsen’s work was well regarded, and the play sold out of all 8,000 of it’s first run prints in record time.
A Doll’s House spurned so much controversy that the playwright was forced to pen an alternate ending, which he referred to as a “barbaric outrage”, that would be utilized only when absolutely necessary. The source of the controversy focused entirely on Nora’s very troubling decision to abandon her children. In the alternate ending, Nora comes to the realization that her children need her more than she needs to be free.
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Ibsen felt very strongly that women were engrained to become wives and mothers. Yet, at the same time, he had an awareness of social injustice, something he attempted to speak to through Helmer’s continued mistreatment of Nora. Despite being embraced by feminists later in life, Ibsen could not be considered a champion of women’s rights. In fact, he only touched on the issue of women’s rights on the surface of his play in an effort to increase realism.
He was never intent upon solving the issues faced by women, but rather to highlight them. Despite his representation of Nora realistically illuminating some of the issues faced by women, his decision to have her leave her marriage and abandon her children was castigated y the critics of the time who labelled the act as unrealistic and outlandish. According to them, no ‘real’ woman would ever do such a thing. Ibsen offered no practical solution to the dilemma faced by Nora, which would leave critics and the audience left to debate the ending at great length.
A Doll’s House would go on to birth a new genre of modern drama; before it’s creation, plays were typically romances or comedic in nature. Ibsen is often touted as being the ‘father of modern drama’ in part to his role of taking the theatre to a new level by using it as a medium to expose social issues. Ibsen successfully broke away from the typical romance plays by creating realistic depictions of his characters and focusing on intense psychological problems that affect the ‘real world’, namely the role of women in society.