Friday, March 20, 2009

Today in History: Henrik Ibsen

It was 181 years ago today that the father of modern drama was born. Happy Birthday Henrik!

Born into a well-to-do merchant family in Skien, Norway, Ibsen left home at the age of 15 to become an apprentice pharmacist. Not caring for this profession, he moved to Oslo as a young adult with hopes of matriculating at Oslo University. This was not to be his future, either, when he failed some of the entrance exams. This string of bad luck would, in the end, be a stroke of good luck for all of Norway because these false starts and wrong turns intensified Ibsen's desire to be a full-time playwright.

His career as a playwright was not always an easy one, having little success at first he was often forced to work in the theater as a producer and director instead. In fact some periods were so bad that Ibsen went into a self-imposed exile in Italy for nearly 30 years. He did not return to Norway until after he was recognized as a noted playwright. Over the course of his 56 year career, Ibsen would go on to author nearly 30 plays, including the famous A Doll's House.

Ibsen died in Oslo on May 23, 1906 after a series of strokes. An oft repeated story says that when a nurse assured one of his visitors that he was a little better, Ibsen sputtered "On the contrary" and died.

Even though he's been gone for more than a century, his impact on the world of modern drama is still widely recognized. In fact, in 2006, a number of countries celebrated Ibsen Year to commemorate the centennial of his passing.

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