The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Doll's House, A

Edition of 1920. See also A Doll's House on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

DOLL'S HOUSE, A. The theme out of which ‘A Doll's House’ was constructed was not of sudden choice. In his notes for this modern tragedy, Ibsen jotted down, under date of 19 Oct 1878, the following statement:

“A woman cannot be herself in the society of the present day which is an exclusively masculine society with laws framed by men and with the judicial system that judges feminine conduct from a masculine point of view.”

Those who take ‘A Doll's House’ as indication that Ibsen was a champion of the woman question are wrong in their conclusions; for he was interested much more in the larger spiritual question of the equality of the sexes. If he stressed the feminine in his plays, to the detriment of the masculine, it was simply because he felt that the weaker side of the argument needed the stronger support, in order to reach an equal balance of fairness and justice. ‘A Doll's House’ was completed while Ibsen was spending the summer of 1879 in Amalfi; and it was almost immediately published. It raised a storm of protest everywhere, and for many years was regarded solely as an attack upon marriage. Ibsen was called every preposterous name imaginable. The only way in which the play was allowed to be given in London was in an adapted form made by Henry Arthur Jones and called ‘Breaking a Butterfly’; it was produced at the Princess Theatre, 3 March, 1884.

Nora's slamming of the door in her husband's face, as she leaves the house, resounded throughout the world. Debates were held everywhere as to whether Nora was justified in leaving her home, whether it was the true act of a mother and a wife, and whether Nora, in the end, would return to Torvald, her husband

As an acting drama, ‘A Doll's House’ has held the stage and has been as much a goal for the young actress as ‘Camille.’ Apart from its philosophic preachment, it is a portrait of a most interesting woman, — not as subtle a portrait as Hedda Gabler, or as Rebecca West in ‘Rosmersholm,’ but affording, in deep psychology, as well as in such outward scenes as the Christmas Tree, the Tarantella dance, and the denunciation scene, ample opportunity for histrionic ability. Eleanor Duse, Madame Réjane, Agnes Sorma, Mrs. Fiske, Madame Nazimova and Ethel Barrymore, are among the many who have attempted the role. The play was first seen is America when, during 1883, in Louisville, Ky., Madame Modjeska acted Nora. It was first played in London, in its regular form, by Janet Achurch and Charles Carrington, at the Novelty Theatre, 7 June 1889.