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Facts about A Dollís House

By: Jens-Morten Hanssen

Creative process

The earliest notes for A Doll`s House are dated October 19th 1878, just after Ibsen had moved from Munich to Rome. Under the heading "Notes for the contemporary tragedy" he writes:

There are two kinds of spiritual laws and two kinds of consciences - one for men and one for women. They do not understand each other, but in the practical matters of life women are judged by men`s law, as if they were not women, but men. In the end the wife in the play is at a loss to know what is right and what is wrong; she is totally confused by natural feelings on the one hand and belief in authority on the other.
[see the note in the original handwriting]

Ibsen knew of what was called the Laura Kieler affair, and this played some part in his drawing up of the dramatic conflicts in the play. Laura Smith Petersen - her later married name was Kieler - had had a novel published in 1869. The title was Brand`s Daughters: a Picture of Life, and it was a kind of sequel to Ibsen`s Brand. The following year she got to know Ibsen and the two of them became friends. She visited him in Dresden in 1871 and five years later - with her husband Victor Kieler - in Munich.

Laura Kieler

In 1876 Victor Kieler developed tuberculosis and his doctor advised a stay in a more southerly climate. Unknown to her husband, Laura Kieler borrowed money to finance this, but gradually got into such trouble with her creditors that, like Nora, she committed forgery in order to get hold of some money.
The affair ended in tragedy as the forgery was discovered, her husband demanded a divorce, her children were taken away from her, and the strain on her nerves led to her being committed to a mental hospital for a time. Ibsen knew about all this when he was working on A Doll`s House.

The first complete draft of the play was started on May 2nd 1879. This manuscript is dated as follows:

  Starting date Finishing date
Act 1 May 2nd May 24th
Act 2 June 4th July 14th
Act 3 July 18th August 3rd

Ibsen made changes continually, even when working on the fair copy, which was completed in mid-September. The finished manuscript was sent to Frederik Hegel from Amalfi. On October 6th 1879 Ibsen left Amalfi to return to Munich.

First edition

A Doll`s House came out on December 4th 1879 at Gyldendalske Boghandels Forlag (F. Hegel & Søn) in Copenhagen. The first edition comprised 8 000 copies, the largest edition so far of Ibsen`s works. The book was a sensational success, and the first edition was sold out in less than a month. A fresh issue of 4 000 copies came out on January 4th 1880 and a third of 2 500 copies on March 8th the same year.

A Doll`s House became the object of intense debate, both publicly and in private, and was Ibsen`s first international success, with which he entered the sphere of world literature.

Reviews (not translated):

First performance

The first performance of A Doll`s House took place at Det Kongelige (Royal) Teater in Copenhagen on December 21st 1879. The production was sold out and a great success. The parts of Nora and Torvald were played by Betty Hennings and Emil Poulsen, and the director was H. P. Holst.

Betty Hennings dancing Nora`s tarantella
See several pictures of the first performance at Det Kongelige Teater

In the course of two months the play was staged at all the main theatres in the Scandinavian countries: on January 8th at Dramaten in Stockholm, January 20th at Christiania Theater, January 30th at Den nationale Scene in Bergen and on February 25th at Finland`s national theatre in Helsingfors. On the Continent Germany was first, with productions at a number of theatres during 1880.

Reviews of the first performance:

See also:

  • Excerpt from: Herman Bang, Kritiske Studier og Udkast, Copenhagen 1880 [read the excerpt]

Did you know that...

there is another version of A Doll`s House with an alternative ending, where Nora stays? The author of this version was - Ibsen himself. Read more about it here.