A Doll’s House | Henrik Ibsen, 1879

[Stage Directions: Scene - A room furnished comfortably and tastefully, but not extravagantly.]

Vera Komissarzhevskaya as Nora in Henrik Ibsen s A Doll' s House, 1904

Torvald: “Hasn’t Miss Sweet Tooth been breaking rules in town today? […] 
taken a bite at a macaroon or two?” 
Nora: “No, Torvald.” 

Torvald: “Bought, did you say? All these things? Has my little spendthrift been wasting money again?” 

Torvald: “Is it my little squirrel bustling about?” 

Nora:“Your squirrel would run about and do all her tricks if you would be nice, and do as she wants … Your skylark would chirp about in every room, with her song rising and falling.” 

“‘If your squirrel were to ask you very prettily for something…’ 
'Your squirrel will scamper about and do all her tricks, if you’ll be nice and do what she asks…’ 
'Your skylark’ll sing all over the house - up and down the scale…’ 
'I’ll be a fairy and dance on a moonbeam for you..’”

Vera Komissarzhevskaya as Nora in Henrik Ibsen s A Doll s House, 1904

“An atmosphere of lies like that infects and poisons the whole life of a home. In a house like that, every breath that the children take is filled with the germs of evil.” 

“To be able to be free from care, quite free from care; to be able to play and romp with the children; to be able to keep the house beautifully and have everything just as Torvald likes it!” 

Nora: “How painful and humiliating it would be for Torvald, with his manly independence, to know that he owed me anything! It would upset our mutual relations altogether.” 

“At the next fancy-dress ball I shall be invisible. There is a big black hat - have you never heard of hats that make you invisible? If you put one on, no one can see you.” 

Mabou Mines DollHouse 2003, director Lee Breuer / Adapted from Henrik Ibsen

 “I should just love to say - ‘Well, I’m damned!” 

 “What do I care about tiresome society?” 

 “There are people one loves and others one likes to talk to” 

 “Why shouldn’t I look at my dearest treasure? - at all the beauty that is mine, all my very own?” 

 “A wonderful thing is going to happen!” 

 “Nora, darling, you’re dancing as if your life depended on it!” 

 “From this moment happiness is not the question; all that concerns us is to save the remains, the fragments, the appearance - ”

Mabou Mines DollHouse 2003, director Lee Breuer / Adapted from Henrik Ibsen

“You don’t talk or think like the man I could bind myself to. When your first panic was over - not about what threatened me, but about what might happen to you - and when there was no more danger, then, as far as you were concerned, it was just as if nothing had happened at all. I was simply your little songbird, your doll, and from now on you would handle it more gently than ever because it was so delicate and fragile. At that moment, Torvald, I realized that for eight years I’d been living her with a strange man and that I’d borne him three children. Oh, I can’t bear to think of it - I could tear myself to little pieces!”

“Nora: It’s true Torvald. When I lived at home with Papa, he used to tell me his opinion about everything, and so I had the same opinion. If I thought differently, I had to hide it from him, or he wouldn’t have liked it. He called me his little doll, and he used to play with me just as I played with my dolls. Then I came to live in your house -

Torvald: That’s no way to talk about our marriage!

Nora [undisturbed]: I mean when I passed out of Papa’s hands into yours. You arranged according to your own taste, and so I got the same tastes as you - or I pretended to. I’m not quite sure which- perhaps it was a bit of both – sometimes one and sometimes the other. Now that I come to look at it, I’ve lived here like a pauper – simply from hand to mouth. I’ve lived by performing tricks for you, Torvald. That was how you wanted it. You and Papa have committed a grievous sin against me: it’s your fault that I’ve made nothing of my life.”

“With me you could have been another person.”

“You have never loved me. You have only thought it pleasant to be in love with me.”

“I’ll risk everything together with you.”

“I have existed merely to perform tricks for you, Torvald.”

Mabou Mines DollHouse 2003, director Lee Breuer / Adapted from Henrik Ibsen

“Our home has been nothing but a playroom. I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I was papa’s doll-child; and here the children have been my dolls.” 

“Torvald:—To forsake your home, your husband, and your children! You don’t consider what the world will say. 
Nora:—I can pay no heed to that. I only know what I must do. 
Torvald:—It is exasperating! Can you forsake your holiest duties in this world? 
Nora:—What do you call my holiest duties? 
Torvald:—Do you ask me that? Your duties to your husband and your children. 
Nora:—I have other duties equally sacred. 
Torvald:—Impossible! What duties do you mean? 
Nora:—My duties towards myself. 
Torvald:—Before all else you are a wife and a mother. 
Nora:—That I no longer believe. I think that before all else I am a human being, just as much as you are—or at least I will try to become one.” 

“Nora: I must stand on my own two feet if I’m to get to know myself and the world outside. That’s why I can’t stay here with you any longer.” 

“I must make up my mind which is right – society or I.” 

“Nora: Torvald, don’t look at me like that! 
Torvald: Can’t I look at my richest treasure? At all that beauty that’s mine, mine alone-completely and utterly.” 

“As soon as your fear was over–and it was not fear for what threatened me, but for what might happen to you–when the whole thing was past, as far as you were concerned it was exactly as if nothing at all had happened. Exactly as before, I was your little skylark, your doll, which you would in future treat with doubly gentle care, because it was so brittle and fragile.”

“How can I hold you close enough?”

Mabou Mines DollHouse 2003, director Lee Breuer / Adapted from Henrik Ibsen

Nora: …I was your little skylark, your doll, which you would in future treat with doubly gentle care, because it was so brittle and fragile. (Getting up.) Torvald–it was then it dawned upon me that for eight years I had been living here with a strange man, and had borne him three children. Oh, I can’t bear to think of it! I could tear myself into little bits!
Torvald:(sadly). I see, I see. An abyss has opened between us – there is no denying it. But, Nora, would it not be possible to fill it up?
Nora: As I am now, I am no wife for you.
Torvald: I have it in me to become a different man.
Nora: Perhaps–if your doll is taken away from you.

Torvald: I have power to grow another.

Torvald: Change yourself in such a manner that–
Nora: –that cohabitation between you and me might become a matrimony. Goodbye.

“[From below comes the noise of a door slamming.]”

 Henrik Ibsen, A Doll’s House, 1879

Manuscript cover for Bokmål Et dukkehjem ( A Doll’s House) / Henrik Ibsen, 1861

Henrik Ibsen [1828-1906], considered by many to be the father of modern prose drama, was born in Skien, Norway, on March 20, 1828. He was the second of six children. Ibsen’s father was a prominent merchant, but he went bankrupt when Ibsen was eight years old, so Ibsen spent much of his early life living in poverty. From 1851 to 1864, he worked in theaters in Bergen and in what is now Oslo (then called Christiania). At age twenty-one, Ibsen wrote his first play, a five-act tragedy called Catiline. Like much of his early work, Catiline was written in verse. In 1858, Ibsen married Suzannah Thoreson, and eventually had one son with her. Ibsen felt that, rather than merely live together, husband and wife should live as equals, free to become their own human beings. 

A Doll’s House was based on the life of Laura Kieler (maiden name Laura Smith Petersen), a good friend of Ibsen. Much that happened between Nora and Torvald happened to Laura and her husband, Victor 

A Doll’s House premiered at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 21 December 1879

A Doll’s House 1917 silent film directed by Joe De Grasse and starring Lon Chaney as Torvald   A Doll’s House 1922 lost silent film directed by Charles Bryanta, starring Alla Nazimova as Nora.  

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