• Born to a middle-class family whose economic
stability was threatened during his childhood,
• Ibsen used A Doll’s House as one vehicle for
questioning the importance—and the tyranny—of
wealth. This play comes from Ibsen’s middle
period, when his most radical ideas were
• Published in 1879
• Written originally in Norwegian (Et dukkehjem)
• The play was highly controversial when first
published since it is sharply critical of Victorian
Some things to look for
in the play’s structure
• The events are almost never told in the order in which
• The ordering of the telling of the incidents can be as
important as the incidents themselves.
• Events are often told from several perspectives so that
some characters know certain facts before others do.
• Ibsen’s surface events are straightforward and
• He uses his characters to reveal important info about
• These revelations build tension in the play because some
characters obtain info that others do not have, and that
info changes the dynamics of the play.
The importance of
• This is background information that is revealed through
the course of the play.
• Exposition affects character development, relationships,
or the progress of the plot.
• In classical drama, a chorus or character gives an initial
speech to orient the audience.
• Ibsen was one of first playwrights to weave exposition
into the play itself.
• Effect is a gradual rise of tension in the conflict
• Protagonist—main character
• Antagonist—opposes the main character
• •Round characters—fully formed characters with an
• Flat characters--limited personalities and offer the
audience little real interest. The role of a flat character is
to participate in incidents that move the action forward or
to behave in a predictable way that moves another
character to change (Anna-Maria). Most flat characters
are also static characters; they don’t change or grow over
the course of the play.
• Dynamic character—the character grows or changes
(often also a round character).
• Stock characters--a stereotype, manifesting universal
characteristics. A stock, flat, or static character is used as
a foil for a more highly developed character.
Structure of A Doll’s House
The “Well Made Play”
• Tight plot: revolves around a missing
element—letters, a lost or stolen document,
or an absent person
• Subplots related to the missing element adds
tension. They often supply exposition.
Conflict in A Doll’s House
• A Doll’s House combines a dominant external conflict
with the internal conflict of one or more characters.
• A climax or scene of revelation is when the
missing element is revealed. Often saves
the hero from ruin or embarrassment.
• A denouement, or closing scene, is where
all earlier questions are explained. This
follows very soon after the climax
Ibsen’s twist on the
“Well Made Play”
• Ibsen’s play was notable for exchanging the last
act’s unraveling for a discussion.
• Critics agree that, up until the last moments of
the play, A Doll’s House could easily be just
another modern drama broadcasting another
• However, when Nora tells Torvald that they must
sit down and “discuss all this that has been
between us”, the play diverges from the traditional
• With this new technical feature, A Doll’s House
became an international sensation and founded a
new school of dramatic art—modern drama.
• Roles and Relationships between Women
• Appearance vs. reality
• The Individual vs. society
List of characters
• Nora Helmer – wife of Torvald, mother of three, living out the ideal
of the 19th century wife, but leaves her family at the end of the play.
• Torvald Helmer – Nora's husband, a newly promoted bank manager,
suffocates but professes to be enamoured of his wife.
• Dr. Rank – Rich family friend, who is secretly in love with Nora. He
is terminally ill, and it is implied that his "tuberculosis of the spine"
originates from a venereal disease contracted by his father.
• Christine Linde – Nora's old school friend, widowed, seeking
employment (named Kristine in the original Norwegian text). She
was in a relationship with Krogstad prior to the play's setting.
• Nils Krogstad – Employee at Torvald's bank, single father, pushed to
desperation. A supposed scoundrel, he is revealed to be a long-lost
lover of Kristine.
• The Children – Nora and Torvald's children: Ivar, Bobby and Emmy.
• Anne Marie – Nora's former nanny, now cares for the children.
• Helene – The Helmers' maid.
• The Porter – Delivers a Christmas Tree to the Helmer household at
the beginning of the play.
Other things to notice
• Not a lot of figurative language and imagery
• Lots of visual symbolism
• Use of monologues to reveal character’s world views
• Situational Irony
Where is the “Wise Old
• Ibsen’s realist drama disregarded the tradition of the older
male moral figure.
• Dr. Rank, the character who should serve this role, is far
from a moral force; instead, he is sickly—rotting from a
disease picked up from his father’s earlier sexual
exploits—and his lasciviousness by openly coveting of
• The choice to portray both Dr. Rank and the potentially
matronly Mrs. Lindeas imperfect real people was a novel
approach at the time.
The Feminist Message
• The play rocked the stages of Europe when
the play was premiered.
• Nora’s rejection of marriage and
motherhood scandalized contemporary
• In fact, the first German productions of the
play in the 1880s had an altered ending at
the request of the producers.
• Ibsen referred to this version as a “barbaric
outrage” to be used only in emergencies.
• •Ibsen was reacting to the uncertain tempo
of the time; Europe was being reshaped
• The revolutionary spirit and the emergence
of modernism influenced Ibsen's choice to
focus on an unlikely hero—a housewife—
in his attack on middle-class values.
• Quickly becoming the talk of parlors
across Europe, the play succeeded in its
attempt to provoke discussion. In fact, it is
the numerous ways that the play can be
read (and read it was—the printed version
of A Doll’s House sold out even before it
hit the stage) that make the play so