Henrik Ibsen

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Henrik Ibsen Henrik Ibsen's signature.png

Henrik Johan Ibsen (born March 20, 1828 in Skien , † May 23, 1906 in Christiania ) was a Norwegian playwright and poet .

life and work

Childhood and Adolescence (1828–1850)

Henrik Ibsen came from some of the most distinguished and oldest Norwegian families, including the Paus family. His father Knud Ibsen was a wealthy businessman in Skien ( Telemark ). Henrik grew up as the oldest child with three younger brothers and a sister.

When Henrik was eight years old, his father's business went bankrupt . The family had to sell their house and moved to the rural Venstøp estate outside the city. Torn from his original environment, Henrik became introverted and depressed . His father became addicted to alcohol .

As a 16-year-old Henrik 1844 began an apprenticeship with the pharmacist Reimann in Grimstad for future medical study. In Grimstad he had the opportunity to borrow books that he could not afford himself, and read William Shakespeare and Ludvig Holberg , among others . He also wrote his first own works there, love poems for a girl named Clara, some of which have survived. Ibsen also had a relationship with a maid ten years older than him, who gave birth to his illegitimate son, Hans Jacob Henriksen, in 1846. Financial difficulties arose from the maintenance obligations . Ibsen did not have any closer contact with his son.

Just before he left Grimstad, Ibsen's first play Catiline was published. It was about Lucius Sergius Catilina , whom he had become aware of while preparing for his Abitur . The work was probably written between 1848 and 1849 and was published in 1850 under the pseudonym Brynjolf Bjarne .

Oslo and Bergen (1850–1864)

In 1850 Henrik Ibsen lived in Christiania, today's Oslo , where he visited the Heltberg school graduation factory and made contact with the Norwegian labor movement of the utopian socialist Marcus Thrane . He became a member of the intellectual circle around Paul Botten-Hansen Det lærde Holland . He was friends with Botten-Hansen. At the age of 20 he became friends with Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson . In Oslo, together with Botten-Hansen and Aasmund Olavsson Vinje, he published the weekly Andhrimner , and during this time he was intensively involved with Old Norse history and folklore .

In November 1851 Ole Bull appointed him as house poet and artistic director at the Norske Theater in Bergen , where some people tried to set up a Norwegian national theater . Ibsen should contribute a piece to the repertoire of the theater every year. It was against this background that the national romantic dramas emerged, including Die Johannisnacht (world premiere [ premier ] 1853), Frau Inger auf Östrot (premiered 1855) and Das Fest auf Solhaug (premiered 1856), in which criticism of conservative national ideas was already evident. Ibsen was artistic director until around 1857. In 1852 he went on study trips to Copenhagen and Dresden to study the theater there. In the Danish capital he was received by the artistic director and playwright Johan Ludvig Heiberg and saw plays by Ludvig Holberg and Adam Oehlenschläger , among others . In Dresden, the famous Norwegian painter Johan Christian Clausen accompanied Dahl Ibsen to the court theater, where the actors Emil Devrient and (as a guest) Bogumil Dawison shone.

In 1857 Ibsen took over the management of the Kristiania Norske Theater in Christiania (Oslo). During this time his pieces were published in Botten-Hansen's Nyhetsblad . On July 18, 1858, he married Suzannah Thoresen ; The marriage resulted in the son Sigurd Ibsen , who later married Bjørnson's daughter Bergliot. From 1903 to 1905, Sigurd Ibsen was Prime Minister's representative of the Norwegian government at the royal court in Stockholm. The bankruptcy of the Kristiania Norske Theater in 1862 weighed heavily on him. Although his play Die Kronprätendenten, premiered in 1864, brought him his first major success and Ibsen was rooted in Norway, he left his home that same year. He felt misunderstood and hostile to his compatriots. He also disliked the fact that Norway did not give Denmark, which was at war with the German Confederation , the promised support. Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson organized him a scholarship for a study trip. Ibsen was to spend a total of 27 years in “voluntary exile”, first in Italy ( Rome ) and later in Germany (Dresden and Munich ). At first he lived on donations from home. This was the beginning of a Norwegian patronage .

"Voluntary exile" in Italy and Germany (1864–1891)

Henrik Ibsen (around 1870)

Ibsen's most important stage works were created during his voluntary exile . First he wrote Brand in 1866 (premiered in 1885). For his dramatic poem Peer Gynt , published in 1867 , he worked on a stage version from 1874, for which he commissioned Edvard Grieg to compose the incidental music Peer Gynt (joint premier of both works in 1876). He described the protagonists of these pieces in psychological detail. Ibsen drew views and people partly from Botten-Hansen's Huldrebryllup and partly from his friends Det lærde Holland . In 1868/69 he wrote the comedy Der Bund der Jugend . In the figure of Steensgaard his contemporaries saw an image of Bjørnson. This led to a temporary cooling of their friendship. Ibsen regarded the ten-act double drama Kaiser und Galiläer (premiered 1896) from 1873 as his main work. The translation, published in 1888, established the more frequent use of the term “ Third Reich ” in Germany . Ibsen used the term in the play to denote the synthesis between paganism and Christianity.

Supporting society from 1877, from today's perspective, marks the birth of a new dramatic genre, the naturalistic social drama as a modern drama. This was followed in 1879 by Nora or A Doll's House , in 1881 by Ghosts and in 1882 by Ein Volksfeind . In Die Wildente (UA 1884) Ibsen placed the human individual more in focus. With further dramas Ibsen came to finer and finer psychological interpretations of his main characters. The pieces are also conceived for the moment that reveals the fateful mistakes of an individual in the past. This procedure is often compared with the retrospective technique of the ancient drama ( Sophocles , Euripides ). In contrast to the Greek classics, however, Ibsen emphasizes the individual responsibility of the person and not the irreversible fate.

Ibsen’s dramas, especially those that contain naturalistic traits, are ascribed to the analytic dramas , also called discovery or revelation dramas , since in them, after the introduction of the characters in the first act, their relationships to one another are gradually revealed, various truths Light come, of which the viewer cannot suspect at first. In spite of the revelations, analytic dramas themselves have an action in the play; that is, it is not just "discovered" or "revealed".

The social dramas often provoked scandals. For example, the ghosts (with the themes of adultery and syphilitic paralysis) were long banned in many theaters in Europe and therefore premiered in Chicago .

Return to Norway (1891–1906)

Statue in front of the Oslo National Theater by Stephan Sinding (1898)

Henrik Ibsen returned to Norway in 1891. On his 70th birthday in 1898, he received numerous honors, and the first editions of his works appeared in Norway and Germany. Two years later Ibsen had a first stroke ; from 1901 he was paralyzed on one side after another. He died on May 23, 1906 in his apartment in Kristiania. “On the contrary” (“Tvertimod!”) Are said to have been his last words.


Henrik Ibsen was the playwright who campaigned against the morality and the “lie of life” of his time and, in contrast to August Strindberg, took the position of women in the “battle of the sexes” . His bourgeois dramas show ethical seriousness and great psychological empathy. His feeling for language and his knowledge of the old Norse legends gave his dramatic language a powerful tone, which made a harsh impression compared to the only Danish school of poetry at the time. In addition to naturalism , Ibsen’s dramas also have a mystical trait , which extends to symbolism in the old works and which sometimes stands in direct opposition to the description of reality.

Ibsen received numerous medals during his lifetime. The memory of him is kept particularly lively in his hometown of Skien: Here there are some places of Ibsen worship and the annual Ibsen Culture Festival . In front of the Nationaltheatret in Oslo there is a statue of Ibsen (and Bjørnson) created by Stephan Sinding , which was unveiled in 1899. There is another Ibsen monument in front of the National Theater in Bergen . The international Ibsen Stage Festival takes place at the Nationaltheatret every two years and invites Ibsen productions from many countries to the Norwegian capital. The highly endowed International Ibsen Prize has also been awarded there since 2008 . S. Fischer Verlag , founded in Berlin in 1886, opened its literary publishing program in 1887 with Ibsen's play Rosmersholm . Almost all of Ibsen's dramas have been translated into German several times. In his old age Ibsen was called "Magus of the North" by critics and writers - like Johann Georg Hamann before .

In Germany and Austria, too, famous directors took on Ibsen's work, including Theodor Lobe (1833–1905), Paul Barnay (1884–1960), Max Burckhard (1854–1912), Otto Brahm (1856–1912), Carl Heine (1861–1927), Paul Albert Glaeser-Wilken (1874–1942), Victor Barnowsky (1875–1952), Eugen Robert (1877–1944), Leopold Jessner (1878–1945), Ludwig Barnay (1884–1960), Alfred Rotter (1886–1933), Fritz Rotter (1888–1939), Paul Rose (1900–1973) and Peter Zadek (1926–2009).

In 1976, an impact crater on the southern hemisphere of the planet Mercury was named after Henrik Ibsen: Mercury crater Ibsen ; 1995 an asteroid : (5696) Ibsen .

The director Roger Vontobel premiered a stage version of Brand (in the new translation by Hinrich Schmidt-Henkel ) at the Schauspiel Frankfurt on October 12, 2019 . The three-hour production examines the phenomenology of the “religious zealots” .


  • Et vers

At leve er - krig med trolde
i hjertets og hjernens hvælv.
At digte, - det he at holde
dommedag over sig selv.

A verse (poems 1871)

To live is - war with trolls
in the vault of heart and brain.
To write poetry - that is to
judge oneself.

(Translation: Christian Morgenstern )

Life means - dark forces
fight ghost within themselves.
Poetry - holding judgment day
about your own self.

  • Rome, December 12th, 1882: “In our time, every poetry has the task of moving border posts.”: Ibsen's entry in Sacher-Masoch's album.
  • Before tids store opgave he at sprænge det bestaaende i air - at ødelægge. "The great task of our time is to blow up what already exists - to destroy it."
From the letter of the archaeologist Dr. Ingvald Undset (father of Sigrid Undset ) on January 4, 1883, in which he reported to "an official living in Kristiania" from Rome about a restaurant visit with Ibsen and his omissions "about the sixth glass".
The Berlin Secession stage opened in 1900 with the comedy of love . Poster by Edmund Edel


  • 1850: Catiline. (Catiline)
  • 1850: The megalithic tomb (Kjæmpehøjen)
  • 1851: Norma or a politician's love. (Norma eller en politician Kjærlighed)
  • 1852: The Midsummer Night (Sancthansnatten)
  • 1855: The festival on Solhaug. (Gilden paa Solhoug)
  • 1857: Mrs. Inger on Östrot. (Fru Inger til Østeraad)
  • 1857: Olaf Liljekrans. (Olaf Liljekrans)
  • 1858: The heroes of Helgeland (Hærmændene paa Helgeland)
  • 1861: Terje Vigen. (Poem)
  • 1862: Comedy of Love. (Kjærlighedens Comedy)
  • 1864: The crown pretenders. (Kongs-Emnerne)
  • 1866 fire (fire)
  • 1867: Peer Gynt (Peer Gynt)
  • 1869: The Bund der Jugend (De ung Forbund)

Film adaptations


  • Vladimir Admoni: Henrik Ibsen. The paradox of a poet's life. CH Beck, Munich 1991. (= Beck'sche Reihe; 619; authors' books) ISBN 3-406-33166-1 .
  • Lou Andreas-Salomé : Henrik Ibsen’s female characters based on his six family dramas . Bloch, Berlin 1892. (Reissued with comments and afterword by Cornelia Pechota. Taching am See 2012, ISBN 978-3-937211-32-9 )
  • Rüdiger Bernhardt : Henrik Ibsen and the Germans. Henschelverlag art. u. Society, 1989, ISBN 3-362-00298-6 .
  • Ludwig Binswanger : Henrik Ibsen and the problem of self-realization in art . Heidelberg 1949.
  • Ludovic de Colleville , Fritz de Zepelin: Le Maître Du Drame Moderne: Ibsen; L'Homme Et L'Oeuvre. approx. 1890. (new edition 2010)
  • Maria Deppermann u. a. (Ed.): Ibsen in the European field of tension between naturalism and symbolism. Congress files of the 8th International Ibsen Conference, Gossensaß, 23. – 28. June 1997. Lang, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 1998, ISBN 3-631-33048-0 .
  • Uwe Ebel, Christine Magerski: Henrik Ibsen - an author of European modernism. (Scientific series, 12). dev, Metelen 2007, ISBN 978-3-927397-71-2 .
  • Egon Ecker: “Supporting Society” and “An Enemy of the People”. King's Notes and Materials , 101/102. C. Bange Verlag , Hollfeld 1997, ISBN 3-8044-0300-X .
    • following edition: Rüdiger Bernhardt: Interpretation of Ibsen "Ein Volksfeind" . Row no. 411, ibid. 2009 and ö. ISBN 3-8044-1752-3 .
  • Rolf Engert : Henrik Ibsen as herald of the 3rd Reich. 1921. (Newly published and provided with an extensive documentation appendix and register of persons: Max Stirner Archive, Leipzig 2011, ISBN 978-3-933287-91-5 )
  • Uwe Englert: Magus and mathematician. Henrik Ibsen's work on the stages of the Third Reich. Francke, Tübingen u. a. 2001, ISBN 3-7720-3093-9 . (= Contributions to Nordic philology; 30)
  • Uwe Englert (Ed.): Ibsen's dramas . Reclam, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-15-017530-5 . (= Reclams Universal Library, 17530: Interpretations)
  • Robert Ferguson: Henrik Ibsen. A biography. Kindler, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-463-40309-9 .
  • Ivo de Figueiredo: Henrik Ibsen. Mennesket. Aschehoug, Oslo 2006, ISBN 82-03-22892-5 .
  • Ivo de Figueiredo: Henrik Ibsen. Masks. Aschehoug, Oslo 2007, ISBN 978-82-03-23384-5 .
  • Ivo de Figueiredo: Henrik Ibsen: the man and the mask / Ivo de Figueiredo; translated by Robert Ferguson, New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2019, ISBN 978-0-300-20881-8
  • Michaela Giesing: Ibsen's Nora and the true emancipation of women. On the image of women in the Wilhelmine theater. Lang, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 1984. (= studies on theater, film and television; 4) ISBN 3-8204-5160-9 .
  • Käte Hamburger: Ibsen's drama in its time. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1989, ISBN 3-608-95665-4 .
  • Hans H. Hiebel: Henrik Ibsen's psycho-analytical dramas. The return of the past. Fink, Munich 1990, ISBN 3-7705-2621-X .
  • Susanne Kramarz: Eyolf. Children and children's fates in Henrik Ibsen's work. Lang, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 1990, ISBN 3-631-43069-8 . (= Texts and studies on German and Scandinavian studies; 24)
  • Lena Kühne: Ibsen in the mirror cabinet. Alienation of Henrik Ibsen's social drama in parodies and related forms of reception in the German and Scandinavian-speaking regions. Edition Praesens , Vienna 2004, ISBN 3-7069-0226-5 . (= Viennese studies in Scandinavian studies; 10)
  • Hans Landsberg (1875-1920): Ibsen . Gose & Tetzlaff, Berlin 1904 online in the Gutenberg-DE project
  • Leo Löwenthal 1936: The individual in the individualistic society. Remarks on Ibsen. In: Max Horkheimer (Ed.), Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung, Volume 5: 1936, Munich 1980, pp. 321–365.
  • Hans Georg Meyer: Henrik Ibsen. Erg. and revised Edition. Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich 1977, ISBN 3-423-06846-9 . (= dtv; 6846; playwright of world theater)
  • Ingunn Moe: German Naturalism and Foreign Literature. For the reception of the works of Zola, Ibsen a. Dostoevsky through the German naturalistic movement (1880–1895). Lang, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 1983, ISBN 3-8204-5262-1 . (= European university publications; series 1; German language and literature; 729)
  • Toril Moi: Henrik Ibsen and the birth of modernism: art, theater, philosophy. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford et al. 2006, ISBN 0-19-929587-5 .
  • Herlinde Nitsch Ayers: Self-realization - self-negation. Conflicts of roles in the Hebbel, Ibsen and Strindberg plant. Lang, New York et al. a. 1995, ISBN 0-8204-2668-7 . (= Studies on themes and motifs in literature; 15)
  • Ording: Henrik Ibsens vennekreds Det lærde Holland. Et chapter av norsk cultural life. Oslo 1927.
  • Fritz Paul (Ed.): Henrik Ibsen. Knowledge Buchges., Darmstadt 1977, ISBN 3-534-07071-2 . (= Ways of research ; 487)
  • Anita von Raffay: The power of love - the love of power. Psychoanalytic studies on love / power relationships in Wagner and Ibsen dramas. Lang, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 1995, ISBN 3-631-48159-4 .
  • Emil Reich : Henrik Ibsen’s dramas, twenty lectures given at the University of Vienna. S. Fischer Verlag, Berlin, 1902.
  • Gerd Enno Rieger: Henrik Ibsen. With testimonials and photo documents. 4th edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 1993, ISBN 3-499-50295-X . (= Rowohlt's monographs; 295)
  • Eberhard Rohse : Raabe and Ibsen. In: Yearbook of the Raabe Society. 2008, ISBN 978-3-484-33908-8 , pp. 78-113.
  • Steven F. Sage: Ibsen and Hitler: The Playwright, the Plagiarist, and the Plot for the Third Reich. New York 2006, ISBN 0-7867-1713-0 .
  • Matthias Sträßner : Flute and Pistol. Notes on the relationship between Nietzsche and Ibsen. With an appendix. Königshausen u. Neumann, Würzburg 2003, ISBN 3-8260-2539-3 .
  • Heidi et al. Christoph Wetzel : Henrik Ibsen. Andreas, Salzburg 1984, ISBN 3-85012-135-6 . (= The great classics; 31)

See also

Web links

Wikisource: Henrik Ibsen  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Henrik Ibsen  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. a b c Astrid Sæther: Henrik Ibsen. In: Dictionary of Literary Biography: Norwegian Writers, 1500–1900 . Gale, Farmington Hills 2009. pp. 136ff.
  2. a b c Henrik Ibsen. In: Store Norske Leksikon.
  3. a b Henrik Ibsen. In: Norsk Biografisk Leksikon.
  4. Ibsen, Henrik Johan. In: Jan Sjåvik: Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater . Scarecrow Press, Lanham 2006, pp. 120ff.
  5. Ording, p. 216.
  6. Ording, p. 222.
  7. Ording, p. 231 f.
  8. Also: Rolf Engert : Henrik Ibsen as Herald of the Third Reich. 1921.
  9. Michael Meyer: Ibsen. A biography. Doubleday 1971, p. 807.
  10. Shirin Sojitrawalla: Brand - Schauspiel Frankfurt - Roger Vontobel shows Henrik Ibsen's religious zealots in a massive horror story , review on nachtkritik.de of October 12, 2019, accessed October 13, 2019
  11. Samlede verker XV, 371, here based on poets about their poems, Volume 10 / II. Heimeran undated p. 250 books.google
  12. First published as Et brev fra dr. Undset om Henrik Ibsen. Meddelt af skolebestyrer Fr [edrik] Ording in: Samtiden 1910, pp. 129-131 (130). Excerpts from Gerhard Gran: Henrik Ibsen. Liv og verker . Andet bind. H. Aschehoug & Co., Christiania 1918, pp 143-145 (144) nb.no . German edition: Henrik Ibsen. The man and his work . Translated from Norwegian by Gustav Morgenstern . Leipzig F. A. Brockhaus 1928. p. 286 books.google .