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Title: Critical and popular reaction to Ibsen in England, 1872-1906
Author: Davis, Tracy C.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3417 9692
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 1984
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This study of Ibsen in England is divided into three sections. The first section chronicles Ibsen-related events between 1872, when his work was first introduced to a Briton, and 1888, when growing interest in the 'higher drama' culminated in a truly popular edition of three of Ibsen's plays. During these early years, knowledge about and appreciation of Ibsen's work was limited to a fairly small number of intellectuals and critics. A matinee performance in 1880 attracted praise, but successive productions were bowdlerized adaptations. Until 1889, when the British professional premiere of A Doll's House set all of London talking, the lack of interest among actors and producers placed the responsibility for eliciting interest in Ibsen on translators, lecturers, and essayists. The controversy initiated by A Doll's House was intensified in 1891, the so-called Ibsen Year, when six productions, numerous new translations, debates, lectures, published and acted parodies, and countless articles considered the value and desirability of Ibsen's startling modern plays. The central section of this study is concerned solely with the year 1891, and considers in detail the forums for debate; Ibsenite and non-Ibsenite partisans, activity, and opinion; and audience and popular reaction. In addition to prompting discussion about social issues, Ibsen's plays also challenged the censorship system, the actor-mangers' cartel, and the stock-in-trade decorous well-made play. In the 1890s, when Ibsen's themes and style changed, it became apparent that popular and critical taste had absorbed the lessons of plays like Ghosts and Hedda Gabler, and that their comparatively conventional structures and recognizable systems of signification were greatly preferred to the symbolic poeticism of plays like The Master Builder and When We Dead Awaken. Most of the later plays were relegated to independent producing societies whose technical and financial resources could not possibly provide suitable scenery or adequate rehearsal, while some of the greatest actors of the day accrued kudos in the earlier polemical plays. By the turn of the century, the Ibsenite impulse had diminished, and his erstwhile champions either promoted a false Ibsen Legend or morosely conceded defeat by a theatre where musical comedy and burlesque flourished. The final section of this study describes the aftermath of the Ibsen Year, and activity in the years leading up to the dramatist's death. General discussion of production style, acting technique, and the modernist movement as a whole are also included in the final chapter. One objective of this research has been to identify and analyze the whole spectrum of response, among as many types of readers, playgoers, and commentators as possible. To this end, a great variety of Victorian periodicals have been consulted, and columns of theatrical gossip, leading articles, interviews, and letters to editors have been sought to supplement the reviews, learned essays, and feuilletons by theatrical journalists and professional critics. Personal accounts in diaries, letters, and autobiographies have also been sought to provide indications of popular interest and opinion, and of Ibsen's place in the avant garde and mainstream theatre.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater ; PT Germanic literature