Henrik Ibsen Plot Summaries

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Hedda GablerCharactersJörgen Tesman, the holder of a University Fellowship in cultural historyMrs. Hedda Tesman, his wifeMiss Juliane Tesman, his auntMrs. ElvstedMr. Brack, a judgeEjlert LövborgBerte, the Tesmans' maidSource: The Oxford Ibsen, Volume VII, Oxford University Press 1966SummaryHedda Tesman is the daughter of the late General Gabler, who died without leaving her anything, She is approaching thirty, and after some years of an active social life she has married Jørgen Tesman, who has a fellowship in the history of art. He has been brought up by his two aunts, Julle and Rina, and is now hoping for a chair at the University. At the opening of the play Hedda and Jørgen have just returned from a six-month-long honeymoon. Jørgen has spent his time studying and working on records, while Hedda, as she confides to their friend Judge Brack, has been bored on her honeymoon. Although clearly feeling distaste towards her husband, she has become pregnant, a fact she has so far concealed from her surroundings.

Jørgen is met on arrival by the bad news that he is going to have to compete for the chair with one of Hedda's former admirers, Eilert Løvborg. The latter is known to be a bohemian, gifted but prone to drinking too much. In recent years, however, he has lived quietly and soberly, and written two theses inspired by and in collaboration with Thea Elvsted. At the beginning of the play he has arrived in the city, bringing one of the manuscripts with him. Thea, who is deeply in love with him, has left her husband and followed him. In the course of barely two days Hedda stages a number of happenings with dramatic consequences. She gets Løvborg to go to a "stag party" at Judge Brack's and get drunk. During the festivities he loses the manuscript of his new book. Jørgen Tesman finds it and gives to Hedda to look after, but Hedda does not tell Løvborg this. Instead, she burns the manuscript and gives him one of her father's pistols, telling him to shoot himself "beautifully". Far from this, Løvborg is accidentally shot at a brothel, and Brack, who knows where the pistol came from, uses this knowledge to try to blackmail Hedda into becoming his mistress. Thea and Tesman find close companionship in the work of reconstructing Løvborg's manuscript on the basis of notes Thea has kept. When Hedda realizes that she is in Brack's power and has nothing more to live for, she shoots herself with the second of the General's pistols.

RosmersholmCharactersJohannes Rosmer, of Rosmersholm, a former clergymanRebecca West, resident at RosmersholmKroll, Rosmer's brother-in-law, a headmasterUlrik BrendelPeter MortensgaardMrs. Helseth, housekeeper at RosmersholmSource: The Oxford Ibsen, Volume VI, Oxford University Press 1960Summary of plotJohannes Rosmer, the owner of Rosmersholm, is the last of a long and influential line of clergy, officers and senior civil servants. Formerly a vicar, he has resigned from office. Before the opening of the play, his wife Beate had drowned herself in the mill-race. She was thought to have become mentally ill through sorrow at being childless and unable to ensure the continuance of the Rosmer line.

When young, Rosmer was greatly influenced by his tutor Ulrik Brendel, an atheist and an idealist. A young woman, Rebekka West, has gained admittance to Rosmersholm through Beate's brother, Kroll. She sees Rosmer's potential, and believes she can help him to realize his dream of creating a world of "happy, noble people". Without admitting it to himself, Rosmer has fallen in love with Rebekka. His conversations with her strongly influence his view of life, and for a while he believes himself ready to go out into the world and actively take part in left-wing politics. An open conflict breaks out between him and the conservative headmaster Kroll, who puts every effort into redeeming him from the "lapsed souls".

In the course of the play Rosmer discovers that Rebekka has manipulated Beate and tricked her into believing that she, Rebekka, was pregnant by Rosmer. He realizes now that it was this that caused Beate to take her own life, and he is filled with doubt and self-accusation.

Rebekka, in turn, discovers in a confrontation with Kroll that Doctor West; who she thought was her foster father, was actually her father. After this she confesses that she was indirectly the cause of Beate's suicide, because she wanted to become mistress of Rosmersholm herself. Yet when Rosmer asks her to marry him she refuses, and the two of them throw themselves into the mill-race at the same place as Beate.

The Master BuilderCharactersHalvard Solness, master builderMrs. Aline Solness, his wifeDr. Herdal, the family doctorKnut Brovik, sometime architect, now working for SolnessRagnar Brovik, his son, draughtsmanKaja Fosli, his niece, a book-keeperHilde WangelOther womenPeople in the streetSource: The Oxford Ibsen, Volume VII, Oxford University Press 1966SummaryHalvard Solness is a master builder and self-taught architect who is married to Aline, a woman above his station. Through an ambitious career he has built himself up to be a man of power in his home town, and it is hinted that he founded his success on an incident in which his wife's childhood home burned down to the ground. Aline has never got over the loss of her childhood home and the death of her newborn twins soon after. Latterly she has also been worried about her husband's mental health, as she confides to their family doctor and friend, Dr. Herdal. Solness has three employees: Ragnar Brovik, his father Knut Brovik who as a younger man trained Solness in his work and is now an ailing, bitter old man, and Kaja Fosli, who is engaged to Ragnar but deeply and unhappily in love with Solness. When Solness finds out that Ragnar wants to set up in business on his own, he is unwilling to help Ragnar, whom he tries to get Kaja to marry, in order to keep them both in his own employment. Solness has an unexpected visit by a young woman, Hilde Wangel, whom he met ten years earlier at a ceremony to celebrate the completion of the roofing of a church tower he had built in her home town. She tells him that on that occasion he had kissed her and promised to return in ten years' time to offer her a "kingdom", which she has now come to claim.

Solness has just built a new house, with a high tower, for Aline and himself, and Hilde dares him to climb to the top of the tower, carrying the celebratory wreath, as he had done before, although he is obviously afraid of heights. As he reaches the top she waves a white shawl and calls out in triumph, but the master builder falls to his death.

The Lady from the SeaCharactersDr. Wangel, a country doctorMrs. Ellida Wangel, his second wifeBolette and Hilde, his daughters of his first marriageArnholm, a schoolmasterLyngstrandBallestedA strangerYoung people from the townTouristsSummer visitorsSource: The Oxford Ibsen, Volume VII, Oxford University Press 1966SummaryDoctor Wangel is a doctor in a small town on the west coast of Norway. He has two daughters by his first marriage, Bolette and Hilde. After the death of his first wife, he married Ellida, who is much younger than he is. She is the daughter of a lighthouse-keeper, and has grown up where the fjord meets the open sea. Ellida and Wangel had a son who died as a baby. This put an end to their marital relations, and Doctor Wangel fears for his wife's mental health. He has written to Bolette's former tutor, Arnholm, and invited him to come and visit them, in the hope that this will be beneficial to Ellida. But Arnholm misunderstands, thinking Bolette is waiting for him, and proposes to her. Reluctantly, Bolette agrees to marry her former teacher, seeing it as her only possibility of getting out into the world.

Ten years earlier Ellida had been engaged to a seaman. After murdering a captain he had to escape, but asked her to wait for him to come back and fetch her. She tried in vain to break the engagement. This stranger has great, compelling power over her, and when he returns after all these years to take her away with him, Dr. Wangel realizes that he must give Ellida the freedom to choose between staying with him or going away with the stranger. She chooses to stay with her husband, and the play ends with the stranger leaving, while Ellida and Dr. Wangel take up their life together again.

GhostsMrs. Helene Alving, widow of Captain (and Chamberlain) AlvingOswald Alving, her son, an artistPastor MandersJacob Engstrand, a carpenterRegine Engstrand, in service with Mrs. AlvingSource: The Oxford Ibsen, Volume V, Oxford University Press 1961SummaryMrs. Helene Alving is the widow of Captain Alving, late Court Chamberlain, of Rosenvold – a man of high esteem in the community. The marriage was an unhappy one for Mrs. Alving, but she did everything in her power to conceal the fact that her husband was an alcoholic who lived a depraved life at the manor. Alving had a daughter, Regine, by a servant at the house, and a son, Osvald, by his wife. Regine is now Mrs. Alving's servant, while Osvald was sent abroad as a child to protect him from his home surroundings. Regine thinks she is the daughter of Engstrand, a carpenter who is now finishing work on a children's home to be opened the next day in memory of Captain Alving. After this Engstrand wants to take Regine to the neighbouring town to help him start a public house for sailors. Regine and Mrs. Alving are both opposed to this. Regine imagines being able to go to Paris with Osvald, a painter who has come home from Paris in order to be present at the opening of the children's home.

Manders, a clergyman in charge of the financing of the home, has also come for the opening. When young, Mrs. Alving was in love with Manders and wanted to leave her husband for him, but Manders rejected her and sent her home.

The night before the ceremony the home in memory of Captain Alving burns down. Manders has insisted that the home should not be insured, and now he is afraid for his reputation as a clergyman and financial manager. He comes to a secret agreement with Engstrand, by which the latter takes the blame for the fire and in return funds for running the home are to be invested in Engstrand's projected "sailors' home" in the town.

Osvald tells his mother that he is suffering from syphilis, which he thinks he has contracted as a result of his bohemian life in Paris. He is afraid of becoming a helpless invalid, and hopes that Regine will be willing to help him to take an over-dose of morphine in the last stage of his illness. But when Regine realizes that he is ill, and in fact is her step-brother, she leaves Rosenlund to make her own way in the town. Mrs. Alving tells Osvald of his father's true nature, and that he has inherited the disease from his father. It is now up to her to decide whether she is willing to help her son by giving him the over-dose of morphine. The play ends as the sun rises and Osvald has succumbed to the last stage of his illness.

A Doll's HouseTorvald Helmer, a lawyerNora, his wifeDr. RankMrs. Kristine LindeNils KrogstadAnne Marie, the nursemaidHelene, the maidThe Helmers' three childrenA porterSource: The Oxford Ibsen, Volume V, Oxford University Press 1961Summary of plotNora Helmer is apparently happily married to Torvald, a lawyer who is about to take over the post of director of the Joint Stock Bank. They have three small children. Nora has a secret to keep, however. Early in their marriage Torvald became seriously ill, and the doctors advised a stay in a more southerly climate. Nora had to get hold of the money for the journey in secrecy and so borrowed it from Krogstad, a lawyer who had been a fellow-student of Torvald's. As security for the loan she forged her dying father's signature. Ever since then she has saved some of the housekeeping money in order to pay back the loan with interest, and she has taken on small jobs to earn some money herself. When the play opens, an old friend of Nora's, Mrs. Linde, has arrived in town to look for work, and Nora sees to it that Torvald gives her a post at the bank. But this means that Krogstad is dismissed from his post at the bank, and in desperation he goes to Nora and threatens to tell Torvald about the loan and the forgery unless he is allowed to keep his post. Nora is in despair but at the same time convinced that in his love for her, Torvald will sacrifice himself and take full responsibility for what she has done, if he learns the truth. Nora considers asking Dr. Rank, an old friend of the family, for the money, but when he declares his love for her, she finds it impossible to ask him. Torvald finds out what has happened, and reacts with rage and revulsion, without any sign of being willing to accept responsibility for the forgery. Mrs. Linde, who was in love with Krogstad in the past, gets him to change his mind and withdraw his threats. But Nora has begun to understand that her marriage is not what she thought it was, and in the course of a dramatic conversation with Torvald she decides that her most important and only task is to go out into the world on her own to "bring herself up", and she leaves her husband and children.