Once again, from The Writers Almanac. Thanks, Garrison Keillor.
It's the birthday of playwright Henrik Ibsen, born in Skien, Norway (1828). He was an assistant stage manager for a new theater, where it was his job to produce a new drama each year based on Norway's glorious past. He produced a number of plays, but none got any attention. Overworked and on the edge of poverty, he applied to the government for a stipend to travel abroad, and got it. He spent the next 27 years living in Italy and Germany.
He found that by leaving his homeland, he could finally see Norway clearly, and he began to work on creating a true Norwegian drama. At a time when most people were writing plays full of sword fights and murders, Ibsen started to write plays about relationships between ordinary people. He used dialogue rather than monologues to reveal his characters' emotions, and he stopped writing in verse. He said, "We are no longer living in the age of Shakespeare. ... What I desire to depict [are] human beings, and therefore I [will] not let them talk the language of the gods."
One of Ibsen's first important plays was A Doll's House (1879), about a woman named Nora who refuses to obey her husband and eventually leaves him, walking out of the house and slamming the door in the final scene. When it was first produced, European audiences were shocked, and it sparked debate about women's rights and divorce across the continent. It also changed the style of acting. At the time, most actors were praised for their ability to deliver long poetic speeches, but Ibsen emphasized small gestures, the inflection of certain words, and pauses, and he inspired a new generation of actors to begin embodying the characters they played.
A Doll's House made Ibsen a celebrity across Europe. His play Ghosts (1881) came out two years later.
Henrik Ibsen said, "You should never have your best trousers on when you go out to fight for freedom and truth."
I personally preferred Hedda Gabler over A Doll's House, even though Hedda is a manipulative witch who, quite frankly, deserved her untimely end. But that's just me.