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- Early Plays - 1/50 -


This series of SCANDINAVIAN CLASSICS was published by the American-Scandinavian Foundation in the belief that greater familiarity with the chief literary monuments of the North will help Americans to a better understanding of Scandinavians, and thus serve to stimulate their sympathetic co-operation to good ends.

* * * * *

SCANDINAVIAN CLASSICS

VOLUME XVII

EARLY PLAYS

by

HENRIK IBSEN

* * * * *

EARLY PLAYS

CATILINE, THE WARRIOR'S BARROW, OLAF LILJEKRANS

by

HENRIK IBSEN

TRANSLATED FROM THE NORWEGIAN BY ANDERS ORBECK, A. M.

_Assistant Professor of English in the University of Montana_

* * * * *

_To

O. W. Firkins

Teacher and Friend and Inspirer of these Translations._

* * * * *

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

CATILINE

THE WARRIOR'S BARROW

OLAF LILJEKRANS

LIST OF FOUNDATION PUBLICATIONS

* * * * *

INTRODUCTION

One of the most remarkable facts about Ibsen is the orderly development of his genius. He himself repeatedly maintained that his dramas were not mere isolated accidents. In the foreword to the readers in the popular edition of 1898 he urges the public to read his dramas in the same order in which he had written them, deplores the fact that his earlier works are less known and less understood than his later works, and insists that his writings taken as a whole constitute an organic unity. The three of his plays offered here for the first time in English translation will afford those not familiar with the original Norwegian some light on the early stages of his development.

_Catiline_, the earliest of Ibsen's plays, was written in 1849, while Ibsen was an apothecary's apprentice in Grimstad. It appeared in Christiania in the following spring under the pseudonym Brynjolf Bjarme. The revolutionary atmosphere of 1848-49, the reading of the story of Catiline in Sallust and Cicero in preparation for the university examinations, the hostility which existed between the apprentice and his immediate social environment, the fate which the play met at the hands of the theatrical management and the publishers, his own struggles at the time,--are all set forth clearly enough in the preface to the second edition. The play was written in the blank verse of Oehlenschlaeger's romantic dramas. Ibsen's portrayal of the Roman politician is not in accord with tradition; Catiline is not an out-and-out reprobate, but an unfortunate and highly sensitive individual in whom idealism and licentiousness struggle for mastery. Vasenius, in his study of the poet (_Ibsens Dramatiska Diktning in dess Första Skede_, Helsingfors, 1879), insists that Ibsen thus intuitively hit upon the real Catiline revealed by later nineteenth century research. The poet seems not to have heard of Duma's _Catiline_, which appeared about the same time, nor of earlier plays on the subject by Ben Jonson and others. The struggle in Ibsen's play is centered in the soul of Catiline; not once do his political opponents appear on the scene. Only one critic raised his voice in behalf of the play at the time of its appearance, and only a few copies of the original edition survive. Ibsen issued in 1875 a revised edition in celebration of his twenty-fifth anniversary as an author. Since then a third edition has been issued in 1891, and a fourth in 1913.

_The Warrior's Barrow_, Ibsen's second play, was finished in 1850 shortly after the publication of _Catiline_. Ibsen entered upon his literary career with a gusto he seems soon to have lost; he wrote to his friend Ole Schulerud in January, 1850, that he was working on a play about Olaf Trygvesson, an historical novel, and a longer poem. He had begun _The Warrior's Barrow_ while he was still at Grimstad, but this early version, called _The Normans_, he revised on reaching Christiania. In style and manner and even in subject-matter the play echoes Oehlenschlaeger. Ibsen's vikings are, however, of a fiercer type than Oehlenschlaeger's, and this treatment of viking character was one of the things the critics, bred to Oehlenschlaeger's romantic conception of more civilized vikings, found fault with in Ibsen's play. The sketch fared better than _Catiline_: it was thrice presented on the stage in Christiania and was on the whole favorably reviewed. When Ibsen became associated with the Bergen theater he undertook another revision of the play, and in this version the play was presented on the stage in 1854 and 1856. The final version was published in the _Bergenske Blad_ in 1854, but no copy of this issue has survived; the play remained inaccessible to the public until 1902, when it was included in a supplementary volume (Volume X) to Ibsen's collected works. The earlier version remained in manuscript form until it was printed in 1917 in _Scandinavian Studies and Notes_ (Vol. IV, pp. 309-337).

_Olaf Liljekrans_, which was presented on the Bergen stage in 1857, marks the end of Ibsen's early romantic interest. The original idea for this play, which he had begun in 1850, he found in the folk-tale "The Grouse in Justedal," about a girl who alone had survived the Black Death in an isolated village. Ibsen had with many others become interested in popular folk-tales and ballads. It was from Faye's _Norwegian Folk-Tales_ (1844) that he took the story of "The Grouse in Justedal." His interest was so great that he even turned collector. Twice during this period he petitioned for and received small university grants to enable him to travel and "collect songs and legends still current among the people." Of the seventy or eighty "hitherto unpublished legends" which he collected on the first of these trips only a few have ever appeared in print; the results of his second trip are unknown. Ibsen had great faith in the availability of this medieval material for dramatic purposes; he even wrote an essay, "The Heroic Ballad and Its Significance for Artistic Poetry," urging its superior claims in contrast to that of the saga material, to which he was himself shortly to turn. The original play based on "The Grouse in Justedal" was left unfinished. After the completion of _Lady Inger of Östråt_ and _The Feast at Solhoug_ he came back to it, and taking a suggestion from the ballad in Landstad's collection (1852-3) he recast the whole play, substituted the ballad meter for the iambic pentameters, and called the new version _Olaf Liljekrans_. _Olaf Liljekrans_ indicates clearly a decline in Ibsen's interest in pure romance. It is much more satirical than _The Feast at Solhoug_, and marks a step in the direction of those superb masterpieces of satire and romance, _Brand_ and _Peer Gynt_. The play was twice presented on the stage in Bergen with considerable success, but the critics treated it harshly.

The relationship of the revised versions to the original versions of Ibsen's early plays is interesting, and might, if satisfactorily elucidated, throw considerable light on the development of his genius. It is evident that he was in this early period experimenting in metrical forms. He employed blank verse in _Catiline_, in the original version of _The Grouse in Justedal_, and even as late as 1853 in the revision of _The Warrior's Barrow_. There can be no question but that he was here following the Ochlenschlaeger tradition. Unrhymed pentameter, however, did not seem to satisfy him. He could with difficulty keep from falling into rhyme in _Catiline_, and in the early version of _The Warrior's Barrow_ he used rhymed pentameters. After the revision of this play he threw aside blank verse altogether. "Iambic pentameter," he says in the essay on the heroic ballad, "is by no means the most suitable form for the treatment of ancient Scandinavian material; this form of verse is altogether foreign to our national meters, and it is surely through a national form that the national material can find its fullest expression." The folk-tale and the ballad gave him the suggestion he needed. In _The Feast at Solhoug_ and the final version of _Olaf Liljekrans_ he employed the ballad meter, and this form became the basis for the verse in all his later metrical plays.


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