The innovative dramas of Henrik Ibsen created a sensation among 19th-century audiences with their mordant attacks on social conventions. Among the finest of these ground-breaking works was Ghosts, first performed in 1881. In it, the playwright assailed the hypocrisy of moral codes, offering a daring treatment of such then-taboo issues as infidelity, venereal disease, and illegitimacy. Ibsen substituted the modern scientific idea of heredity for the ancient Greek concept of fate, exposing hidden sins of the past as the roots of corruption.
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About the Author
Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) has been described as 'the father of modern theatre'. Most of his early plays were traditional historical dramas. After Peer Gynt, a fairy-tale fantasy in verse, Ibsen wrote the rest of his plays in prose, and came to be regarded as the great Naturalist dramatist.
Stephen Unwin is a founding member of the English Touring theatre for whom he has directed more than 20 productions of both classics and new plays. Before that he was Associate Director at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh and was responsible for a number of International and Scottish premieres. He has also directed opera and theatre at the Royal Opera House, the National Theatre and throughout the world.
Read an Excerpt
By HENRIK IBSEN
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1997 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
SCENE.—A large room looking upon a garden. A door in the left-hand wall, and two in the right. In the middle of the room, a round table with chairs set about it, and books, magazines and newspapers upon it. In the foreground on the left, a window, by which is a small sofa with a work-table in front of it. At the back the room opens into a conservatory rather smaller than the room. From the right-hand side of this a door leads to the garden. Through the large panes of glass that form the outer wall of the conservatory, a gloomy fjord landscape can be discerned, half obscured by steady rain.
ENGSTRAND is standing close up to the garden door. His left leg is slightly deformed, and he wears a boot with a clump of wood under the sole. REGINA, with an empty garden-syringe in her hand, is trying to prevent his coming in.
Regina (below her breath). What is it you want? Stay where you are. The rain is dripping off you.
Engstrand. God's good rain, my girl.
Regina. The Devil's own rain, that's what it is!
Engstrand. Lord, how you talk, Regina. (Takes a few limping steps forward.) What I wanted to tell you was this———
Regina. Don't clump about like that, stupid! The young master is lying asleep upstairs.
Engstrand. Asleep still? In the middle of the day?
Regina. Well, it's no business of yours.
Engstrand. I was out on the spree last night———
Regina. I don't doubt it.
Engstrand. Yes, we are poor weak mortals, my girl———
Regina. We are indeed.
Engstrand.—and the temptations of the world are manifold, you know—but, for all that, here I was at my work at half-past five this morning.
Regina. Yes, yes, but make yourself scarce now. I am not going to stand here as if I had a rendez-vous with you.
Engstrand. As if you had a what?
Regina. I am not going to have any one find you here; so now you know, and you can go.
Engstrand (coming a few steps nearer). Not a bit of it! Not before we have had a little chat. This afternoon I shall have finished my job down at the school house, and I shall be off home to town by to-night's boat.
Regina (mutters). Pleasant journey to you!
Engstrand. Thanks, my girl! To-morrow is the opening of the Orphanage, and I expect there will be a fine kick-up here and plenty of good strong drink, don't you know. And no one shall say of Jacob Engstrand that he can't hold off when temptation comes in his way.
Engstrand. Yes, because there will be a lot of fine folk here tomorrow. Parson Manders is expected from town, too.
Regina. What is more, he's coming to-day.
Engstrand. There you are! And I'm going to be precious careful he doesn't have anything to say against me, do you see?
Regina. Oh, that's your game, is it?
Engstrand. What do you mean?
Regina (with a significant look at him). What is it you want to humbug Mr. Manders out of, this time?
Engstrand. Sh! Sh! Are you crazy? Do you suppose I would want to humbug Mr. Manders? No, no—Mr. Manders has always been too kind a friend for me to do that. But what I wanted to talk to you about, was my going back home to-night.
Regina. The sooner you go, the better I shall be pleased.
Engstrand. Yes, only I want to take you with me, Regina.
Regina (open - mouthed). You want to take me———? What did you say?
Engstrand. I want to take you home with me, I said.
Regina (contemptuously). You will never get me home with you.
Engstrand. Ah, we shall see about that.
Regina. Yes, you can be quite certain we shall see about that. I, who have been brought up by a lady like Mrs. Alving?—I, who have been treated almost as if I were her own child?—do you suppose I am going home with you?—to such a house as yours? Not likely!
Engstrand. What the devil do you mean? Are you setting yourself up against your father, you hussy?
Regina (mutters, without looking at him). You have often told me I was none of yours.
Engstrand. Bah!—why do you want to pay any attention to that?
Regina. Haven't you many and many a time abused me and called me a ? For shame!
Engstrand. I'll swear I never used such an ugly word.
Regina. Oh, it doesn't matter what word you used.
Engstrand. Besides, that was only when I was a bit fuddled—hm! Temptations are manifold in this world, Regina.
Engstrand. And it was when your mother was in a nasty temper. I had to find some way of getting my knife into her, my girl. She was always so precious genteel. (Mimicking her.) "Let go, Jacob! Let me be! Please to remember that I was three years with the Alvings at Rosenvold, and they were people who went to Court!" (Laughs.) Bless my soul, she never could forget that Captain Alving got a Court appointment while she was in service here.
Regina. Poor mother—you worried her into her grave pretty soon.
Engstrand (shrugging his shoulders). Of course, of course; I have got to take the blame for everything.
Regina (beneath her breath, as she turns away). Ugh—that leg, too!
Engstrand. What are you saying, my girl?
Regina. Pied de mounton.
Engstrand. Is that English?
Engstrand. You have had a good education out here, and no mistake; and it may stand you in good stead now, Regina.
Regina (after a short silence). And what was it you wanted me to come to town for?
Engstrand. Need you ask why a father wants his only child? Ain't I a poor lonely widower?
Regina. Oh, don't come to me with that tale. Why do you want me to go?
Engstrand. Well, I must tell you I am thinking of taking up a new line now.
Regina (whistles). You have tried that so often—but it has always proved a fool's errand.
Engstrand. Ah, but this time you will just see, Regina! Strike me dead if———
Regina (stamping her feet). Stop swearing!
Engstrand. Sh! Sh!—you're quite right, my girl, quite right! What I wanted to say was only this, that I have put by a tidy penny out of what I have made by working at this new Orphanage up here.
Regina. Have you? All the better for you.
Engstrand. What is there for a man to spend his money on, out here in the country?
Regina. Well, what then?
Engstrand. Well, you see, I thought of putting the money into something that would pay. I thought of some kind of an eating-house for seafaring folk———
Engstrand. Oh, a high-class eating-house, of course,—not a pigsty for common sailors. Damn it, no; it would be a place ships' captains and first mates would come to; really good sort of people, you know.
Regina. And what should I———?
Engstrand. You would help there. But only to make a show, you know. You wouldn't find it hard work, I can promise you, my girl. You should do exactly as you liked.
Regina. Oh, yes, quite so!
Engstrand. But we must have some women in the house; that is as clear as daylight. Because in the evening we must make the place a little attractive—some singing and dancing, and that sort of thing. Remember they are seafolk—wayfarers on the waters of life! (Coming nearer to her.) Now don't be a fool and stand in your own way, Regina. What good are you going to do here? Will this education, that your mistress has paid for, be of any use? You are to look after the children in the new Home, I hear. Is that the sort of work for you? Are you so frightfully anxious to go and wear out your health and strength for the sake of these dirty brats?
Regina. No, if things were to go as I want them to, then. Well, it may happen; who knows? It may happen!
Engstrand. What may happen?
Regina. Never you mind. Is it much that you have put by, up here?
Engstrand. Taking it all round, I should say about forty or fifty pounds.
Regina. That's not so bad.
Engstrand. It's enough to make a start with, my girl.
Regina. Don't you mean to give me any of the money?
Engstrand. No, I'm hanged if I do.
Regina. Don't you mean to send me as much as a dress-length of stuff, just for once?
Engstrand. Come and live in the town with me and you shall have plenty of dresses.
Regina. Pooh!—I can get that much for myself, if I have a mind to.
Engstrand. But it's far better to have a father's guiding hand, Regina. Just now I can get a nice house in Little Harbour Street. They don't want much money down for it—and we could make it like a sort of seamen's home, don't you know.
Regina. But I have no intention of living with you! I have nothing whatever to do with you. So now, be off!
Engstrand. You wouldn't be living with me long, my girl. No such luck—not if you knew how to play your cards. Such a fine wench as you have grown this last year or two—
Engstrand. It wouldn't be very long before some first mate came along—or perhaps a captain.
Regina. I don't mean to marry a man of that sort. Sailors have no savoir-vivre.
Engstrand. What haven't they got?
Regina. I know what sailors are, I tell you. They aren't the sort of people to marry.
Engstrand. Well, don't bother about marrying them. You can make it pay just as well. (More confidentially.) That fellow—the Englishman—the one with the yacht—he gave seventy pounds, he did; and she wasn't a bit prettier than you.
Regina (advancing towards him). Get out!
Engstrand (stepping back). Here! here!—you're not going to hit me, I suppose?
Regina. Yes! If you talk like that of mother, I will hit you. Get out, I tell you! (Pushes him up to the garden door.) And don't bang the doors. Young Mr. Alving———
Engstrand. Is asleep—I know. It's funny how anxious you are about young Mr. Alving. (In a lower tone.) Oho! is it possible that it is he that———?
Regina. Get out, and be quick about it! Your wits are wandering, my good man. No, don't go that way; Mr. Manders is just coming along. Be off down the kitchen stairs.
Engstrand (moving towards the right). Yes, yes—all right. But have a bit of a chat with him that's coming along. He's the chap to tell you what a child owes to its father. For I am your father, anyway, you know. I can prove it by the Register.
[He goes out through the farther door which REGINA has opened. She shuts it after him, looks hastily at herself in the mirror, fans herself with her handkerchief and sets her collar straight; then busies herself with the flowers. MANDERS enters the conservatory through the garden door. He wears an overcoat, carries an umbrella and has a small travelling-bag slung over his shoulder on a strap.]
Manders. Good morning, Miss Engstrand.
Regina (turning round with a look of pleased surprise). Oh, Mr. Manders, good morning. The boat is in, then?
Manders. Just in. (Comes into the room.) It is most tiresome, this rain every day.
Regina (following him in). It's a splendid rain for the farmers, Mr. Manders.
Manders. Yes, you are quite right. We town-folk think so little about that.
[Begins to take off his overcoat.]
Regina. Oh, let me help you. That's it. Why, how wet it is! I will hang it up in the hall. Give me your umbrella, too; I will leave it open, so that it will dry.
[She goes out with the things by the farther door on the right. MANDERS lays his bag and his hat down on a chair. REGINA reenters.]
Manders. Ah, it's very pleasant to get indoors. Well, is everything going on well here?
Regina. Yes, thanks.
Manders. Properly busy, though, I expect, getting ready for to-morrow?
Regina. Oh, yes, there is plenty to do.
Manders. And Mrs. Alving is at home, I hope?
Regina. Yes, she is. She has just gone upstairs to take the young master his chocolate.
Manders. Tell me—I heard down at the pier that Oswald had come back.
Regina. Yes, he came the day before yesterday. We didn't expect him till to-day.
Manders. Strong and well, I hope?
Regina. Yes, thank you, well enough. But dreadfully tired after his journey. He came straight from Paris without a stop—I mean, he came all the way without breaking his journey. I fancy he is having a sleep now, so we must talk a little bit more quietly, if you don't mind.
Manders. All right, we will be very quiet.
Regina (while she moves an armchair up to the table). Please sit down, Mr. Manders, and make yourself at home. (He sits down; she puts a footstool under his feet.) There! Is that comfortable?
Manders. Thank you, thank you. That is most comfortable. (Looks at her.) I'll tell you what, Miss Engstrand, I certainly think you have grown since I saw you last.
Regina. Do you think so? Mrs. Alving says, too, that I have developed.
Manders. Developed? Well, perhaps a little—just suitably.
[A short pause.]
Regina. Shall I tell Mrs. Alving you are here?
Manders. Thanks, there is no hurry, my dear child.—Now tell me, Regina my dear, how has your father been getting on here?
Regina. Thank you, Mr. Manders, he is getting on pretty well.
Manders. He came to see me, the last time he was in town.
Regina. Did he? He is always so glad when he can have a chat with you.
Manders. And I suppose you have seen him pretty regularly every day?
Regina. I? Oh, yes, I do—whenever I have time, that is to say.
Manders. Your father has not a very strong character, Miss Engstrand. He sadly needs a guiding hand.
Regina. Yes, I can quite believe that.
Manders. He needs someone with him that he can cling to, someone whose judgment he can rely on. He acknowledged that freely himself, the last time he came up to see me.
Regina. Yes, he has said something of the same sort to me. But I don't know whether Mrs. Alving could do without me—most of all just now, when we have the new Orphanage to see about. And I should be dreadfully unwilling to leave Mrs. Alving, too; she has always been so good to me.
Manders. But a daughter's duty, my good child——. Naturally we should have to get your mistress's consent first.
Regina. Still I don't know whether it would be quite the thing, at my age, to keep house for a single man.
Manders. What!! My dear Miss Engstrand, it is your own father we are speaking of!
Regina. Yes, I dare say, but still. Now, if it were in a good house and with a real gentleman———
Manders. But, my dear Regina——
Regina.—— one whom I could feel an affection for, and really feel in the position of a daughter to——
Manders. Come, come—my dear good child
Regina. I should like very much to live in town. Out here it is terribly lonely; and you know yourself, Mr. Manders, what it is to be alone in the world. And, though I say it, I really am both capable and willing. Don't you know any place that would be suitable for me, Mr. Manders?
Manders. I? No, indeed I don't.
Regina. But, dear Mr. Manders—at any rate don't forget me, in case——
Manders (getting up). No, I won't forget you, Miss Engstrand.
Regina. Because, if I———
Manders. Perhaps you will be so kind as to let Mrs. Alving know I am here?
Regina. I will fetch her at once, Mr. Manders.
[Goes out to the left. MANDERS walks up and down the room once or twice, stands for a moment at the farther end of the room with his hands behind his back and looks out into the garden. Then he comes back to the table, takes up a book and looks at the title page, gives a start and looks at some of the others.]
[MRS. ALVING comes in by the door on the left. She is followed by REGINA, who goes out again at once through the nearer door on the right.]
Mrs. Alving (holding out her hand). I am very glad to see you, Mr. Manders.
Manders. How do you do, Mrs. Alving. Here I am, as I promised.
Mrs. Alving. Always punctual!
Manders. Indeed, I was hard put to it to get away. What with vestry meetings and committees———
Mrs. Alving. It was all the kinder of you to come in such good time; we can settle our business before dinner. But where is your luggage?
Manders (quickly). My things are down at the village shop. I am going to sleep there to-night.
Excerpted from Ghosts by HENRIK IBSEN. Copyright © 1997 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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