Henrik Ibsen

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Henrik Ibsen (Norwegian pronunciation: [ˈhɛnɾɪk ˈɪpsən]; 20 March 1828 – 23 May 1906) was a major 19th-century Norwegian playwright, theatre director, and poet. He is often referred to as "the father" of modern theater and is one of the founders of Modernism in the theatre.[1] His plays were considered scandalous to many of his era, when European theater was required to model strict mores of family life and propriety. Ibsen's work examined the realities that lay behind many façades, revealing much that was disquieting to many contemporaries. It utilized a critical eye and free inquiry into the conditions of life and issues of morality. Ibsen is often ranked as one of the truly great playwrights in the European tradition. Many consider him the greatest playwright since Shakespeare.[2]

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Family and youth

Ibsen was born to Knud Ibsen and Marichen Altenburg, a relatively well-to-do merchant family, in the small port town of Skien, Norway, which was primarily noted for shipping timber. He was a descendant of some of the oldest and most distinguished families of Norway, including the Paus family. Ibsen later pointed out his distinguished ancestors and relatives in a letter to critic and scholar Georg Brandes. Shortly after his birth, his family's fortunes took a significant turn for the worse. His mother turned to religion for solace, and his father began to suffer from severe depression. The characters in his plays often mirror his parents, and his themes often deal with issues of financial difficulty as well as moral conflicts stemming from dark secrets hidden from society.[citation needed]

At fifteen, Ibsen was forced to leave school. He moved to the small town of Grimstad to become an apprentice pharmacist and began writing plays. In 1846, when Ibsen was age 18, a liaison with a servant produced an illegitimate child, whose upbringing Ibsen had to pay for until the boy was in his teens, though Ibsen never saw the boy. Ibsen went to Christiania (later renamed Oslo) intending to matriculate at the university. He soon rejected the idea (his earlier attempts at entering university were blocked as he did not pass all his entrance exams), preferring to commit himself to writing. His first play, the tragedy Catiline (1850), was published under the pseudonym "Brynjolf Bjarme", when he was only 20, but it was not performed. His first play to be staged, The Burial Mound (1850), received little attention. Still, Ibsen was determined to be a playwright, although the numerous plays he wrote in the following years remained unsuccessful.[citation needed] Ibsen's main inspiration in the early period, right up to Peer Gynt, was apparently Norwegian author Henrik Wergeland and the Norwegian folk tales as collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe. In Ibsen's youth, Wergeland was the most acclaimed, and by far the most read, Norwegian poet and playwright.

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