Henrik Ibsen

I believe that first and foremost I am an individual, just as you are.

Henrik Johan Ibsen (20 March 182823 May 1906) was a Norwegian playwright who was largely responsible for the rise of the modern realistic drama. It is said that Ibsen is the most frequently performed dramatist in the world after Shakespeare.

QuotesEdit

He who possesses liberty otherwise than as an aspiration possesses it soulless, dead.
The State has its root in time, and will ripe and rot in time.
That power which circumstances placed in my hands, and which is an emanation of divinity, I am conscious of having used to the best of my skill. I have never wittingly wronged any one.
To live is to battle the demons in the heart as well as the brain. To write is to preside at judgement day over one's self.
The great secret of power is never to will to do more than you can accomplish.
I hold that man is in the right who is most closely in league with the future.
  • He who possesses liberty otherwise than as an aspiration possesses it soulless, dead. One of the qualities of liberty is that, as long as it is being striven after, it goes on expanding. Therefore, the man who stands still in the midst of the struggle and says, "I have it," merely shows by so doing that he has just lost it. Now this very contentedness in the possession of a dead liberty is characteristic of the so-called State, and, as I have said, it is not a good characteristic. No doubt the franchise, self-taxation, etc., are benefits — but to whom? To the citizen, not to the individual. Now, reason does not imperatively demand that the individual should be a citizen. Far from it. The State is the curse of the individual. With what is Prussia's political strength bought? With the absorption of the individual in the political and geographical idea. The waiter is the best soldier. And on the other hand, take the Jewish people, the aristocracy of the human race — how is it they have kept their place apart, their poetical halo, amid surroundings of coarse cruelty? By having no State to burden them. Had they remained in Palestine, they would long ago have lost their individuality in the process of their State's construction, like all other nations. Away with the State! I will take part in that revolution. Undermine the whole conception of a State, declare free choice and spiritual kinship to be the only all-important conditions of any union, and you will have the commencement of a liberty that is worth something. Changes in forms of government are pettifogging affairs — a degree less or a degree more, mere foolishness. The State has its root in time, and will ripe and rot in time. Greater things than it will fall — religion, for example. Neither moral conceptions nor art-forms have an eternity before them. How much are we really in duty bound to pin our faith to? Who will guarantee me that on Jupiter two and two do not make five ?
    • Letter to Georg Brandes (17 February 1871), as translated in Henrik Ibsen : Björnstjerne Björnson. Critical Studies (1899) by Georg Morris Cohen Brandes
    • Variant translation: The quality of liberty is that, as long as it is being striven after, it goes on expanding. Therefore, the man who stands still in the midst of the struggle and says: "I have it," merely shows by so doing that he has lost it. Now this very contentedness in the possession of a dead liberty is a characteristic of the so-called state; and it is worthless.
      • As translated in Ibsen : The Man, His Art & His Significance (1907) by Haldane Macfall, p. 238
    • Variant translation: Neither moral concepts nor art forms can expect to live forever. How much are we obliged to hold on to? Who can guarantee that 2 plus 2 don't add up to 5 on Jupiter?
  • That power which circumstances placed in my hands, and which is an emanation of divinity, I am conscious of having used to the best of my skill. I have never wittingly wronged any one. For this campaign there were good and sufficient reasons; and if some should think that I have not fulfilled all expectations, they ought in justice to reflect that there is a mysterious power without us, which in a great measure governs the issue of human undertakings.
  • Erring soul of man — if thou wast indeed forced to err, it shall surely be accounted to thee for good on that great day when the Mighty One shall descend in the clouds to judge the living dead and the dead who are yet alive!
  • At leve er — krig med trolde
    i hjertets og hjernens hvælv.
    At digte, — det er at holde
    dommedag over sig selv.
    • To live is to battle the demons
      in the heart as well as the brain.
      To write is to preside at
      judgement day over one's self.
      • Et vers (A Verse), inscribed on the volume Poems (1877)
    • Ibsen may have written this originally in German as a dedication to a female reader. It was published in German in Deutsche Rundschau in November 1886:
Leben, das heisst bekriegen
In Herz und Hirn die Gewalten;
Und dichten; über sich selber
Den Gerichtstag halten
.
  • The great secret of power is never to will to do more than you can accomplish. The great secret of action and victory is to be capable of living your life without ideals. Such is the sum of the whole world's wisdom.
    • As quoted in The Ibsen Calendar : A Quotation from the Works of Henrik Ibsen for Every Day (1913) by C. A. Arfwedson
  • I hold that man is in the right who is most closely in league with the future.
  • The great task of our time is to blow up all existing institutions — to destroy.
    • Letter of 1883, quoted in The Drama of Ibsen and Strindberg (1962) by Frank Laurence Lucas, p. 34.
  • It is inexcusable for scientists to torture animals; let them make their experiments on journalists and politicians.
    • As quoted in The Book of Poisonous Quotes (1993) edited by Colin Jarman, p. 232.
  • Tvert imot!
    • On the contrary!
    • His last words, in response to a nurse who said she thought he looked better than usual; as quoted in The History of World Theater : From the English Restoration to the Present (1999) by Felicia Hardison Londré and Margot Berthold, p. 341.

Love's Comedy (1862)Edit

Kjærlighedens Komedie as translated by C. H. Herford (1900)
Truth upon the Serpent's head shall trample.
The cause of Love shall win...
  • I thank God that in the bath of Pain
    He purged my love.
    What strong compulsion drew
    Me on I knew not, till I saw in you
    The treasure I had blindly sought in vain.
    I praise Him, who our love has lifted thus
    To noble rank by sorrow, — licensed us
    To a triumphal progress, bade us sweep
    Thro' fen and forest to our castle-keep,
    A noble pair, astride on Pegasus!
    • Falk, Act III
  • I feel myself like God's lost prodigal;
    I left Him for the world's delusive charms.
    With mild reproof He wooed me to his arms;
    And when I come, He lights the vaulted hall,
    Prepares a banquet for the son restored,
    And makes His noblest creature my reward.
    From this time forth I'll never leave that Light, —
    But stand its armed defender in the fight;
    Nothing shall part us, and our life shall prove
    A song of glory to triumphant love!
    • Falk, Act III
  • Tho' Doubt's beleaguering forces hem us in,
    Yet Truth upon the Serpent's head shall trample.
    The cause of Love shall win —
    • Falk, Act III
  • Yes, Love shall win!
    • Crowd, responding to Falk, in Act III
  • An unromantic poem I mean to make
    Of one who only lives for duty's sake.
    • Guldstad
  • I go to scale the Future's possibilities! Farewell!
    God bless thee, bride of my life's dawn, Where'er I be, to nobler deed thou'lt wake me.
    • Falk, in a statement rich with ironies.

Brand (1866)Edit

A thousand words can't
make the mark a single deed will leave.
He is the God of Love.
  • Ikke tusend ord
    sig prenter, som én gernings spor.
    • A thousand words can't
      make the mark a single deed will leave.
    • Manden, Act II
  • Tabets alt din vinding skabte —
    Evigt ejes kun det tabte!
    • Losing all was winning's cost!
      Eternally owned is but what's lost!
    • Brand, Act IV
  • Brand: Svar mig, Gud, i dødens slug!
    gælder ej et frelsens fnug
    mandeviljens
    quantum satis?
    [
    Skreden begraver ham; hele dalen fyldes.]
    En Røst: [
    Räber gennem tordenbragene] Han er deus caritatis!
    • Brand: Answer me, God, in the jaws of death:
      Is there no salvation for the Will of Man?
      No small measure of salvation?
      [The avalanche buries him. The valley is swallowed up.]
      A Voice: [Calls through the crashing thunder] He is the God of Love.
    • Act V

Peer Gynt (1867)Edit

[First performed in Oslo (then called Christiania) on February 24, 1876, with incidental music by Edvard Grieg]
Whether I pound or am being pounded,
all the same there will be moaning!
  • Peer, du lyver!
    • Peer, you are lying!
    • Åse, Act I, Scene I
  • Om jeg hamrer eller hamres,
    ligefuldt så skal der jamres!
    • Whether I pound or am being pounded,
      all the same there will be moaning!
    • Peer Gynt, declaring that no matter what he does, it is not what people want, Act I, Scene I
  • Ja, tænke det; ønske det; ville det med;
    men gjøre det! Nej, det skjønner jeg ikke!
    • To think it, wish it, even want it —
      but do it! No, that I cannot understand.
    • Peer Gynt, after he sees a boy cut off his finger to avoid serving in the army, Act III, Scene I
  • Really to sin you have to be serious about it.
    • Button-Moulder, Act V, Scene VII

The Pillars of Society (1877)Edit

The spirit of truth and the spirit of freedom — these are the pillars of society.
  • I'm afraid for all those who'll have the bread snatched from their mouths by these machines. You are very fond, sir, of talking about the consideration we owe to the community; it seems to me, however, that the community has its duties too. What business has science and capitalism got, bringing all these new inventions into the works, before society has produced a generation educated up to using them!
    • Aune, Act II
  • Look into any man's heart you please, and you will always find, in every one, at least one black spot which he has to keep concealed.
    • Bernick, Act III
  • The spirit of truth and the spirit of freedom — these are the pillars of society.
    • Lona, Act IV

A Doll's House (1879)Edit

I've the most extraordinary longing to say 'Bloody Hell'!
  • There can be no freedom or beauty about a home life that depends on borrowing and debt.
    • Torvald Helmer, Act I
  • What's to become of the morally sound? Left out in the cold, I suppose. We must heal the sick.
    • Dr. Rank, Act I
  • Many a man can save himself if he admits he's done wrong and takes his punishment.
    • Torvald Helmer, Act I
  • Jeg har en sånn umåtelig lyst til å si: død og pine.
    • I've the most extraordinary longing to say 'Bloody Hell'!
    • Nora Helmer, Act I
  • You don't get nothing for nothing in this life.
    • Dr. Rank, Act III
  • There is a big black hat and it makes you invisible. Have you heard of that hat? You put it on and then no one can see you.
    • Dr. Rank, Act III, speaking of death
  • The black, cold, icy water. Down and down, without end — if it would only end.
    • Nora Helmer, Act III
  • But our home's been nothing but a playpen. I've been your doll-wife here, just as at home I was Papa's doll-child. And in turn the children have been my dolls. I thought it fun when you played with me, just as they thought it fun when I played with them. That's been our marriage, Torvald.
    • Nora Helmer, Act III
    • Variant translation: Our home has been nothing but a playroom. I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I was papa's doll-child; and here the children have been my dolls. I thought it great fun when you played with me, just as they thought it great fun when I played with them. That is what our marriage has been, Torvald.
  • If I'm ever to reach any understanding of myself and the things around me, I must learn to stand alone. That's why I can't stay here with you any longer.
    • Nora Helmer, Act III
  • I have other duties equally sacred ... Duties to myself.
    • Nora Helmer, Act III
    • Variant translation: I have another duty equally sacred ... My duty to myself.
  • Helmer: First and foremost, you are a wife and mother.
    Nora: That I don't believe any more. I believe that first and foremost I am an individual, just as you are.

Ghosts (1881)Edit

There must be ghosts all over the world. They must be as countless as the grains of the sands, it seems to me. And we are so miserably afraid of the light, all of us.
  • To crave for happiness in this world is simply to be possessed by a spirit of revolt. What right have we to happiness?
    • Manders, Act I
  • I am half inclined to think we are all ghosts, Mr. Manders. It is not only what we have inherited from our fathers and mothers that exists again in us, but all sorts of old dead ideas and all kinds of old dead beliefs and things of that kind. They are not actually alive in us; but there they are dormant, all the same, and we can never be rid of them. Whenever I take up a newspaper and read it, I fancy I see ghosts creeping between the lines. There must be ghosts all over the world. They must be as countless as the grains of the sands, it seems to me. And we are so miserably afraid of the light, all of us.
    • Mrs. Alving, Act II

An Enemy of the People (1882)Edit

A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.
  • A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.
    • Billing, Act I
  • The majority never has right on its side.
    • Dr. Stockmann, Act IV
    • Robert Farquharson translation
  • You should never wear your best trousers when you go out to fight for freedom and truth.
    • Dr. Stockmann, Act V
    • Robert Farquharson translation
  • Sagen er den, ser I, at den stærkeste mand i verden, det er han, som står mest alene.
    • You see, the point is that the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.
    • Dr. Stockmann, Act V

The Wild Duck (1884)Edit

  • Always do that, wild ducks do. They shoot to the bottom as deep as they can get, sir — and bite themselves fast in the tangle and seaweed — and all the devil's own mess that grows down there. And they never come up again.
    • Ekdal, Act II
  • A marriage based on full confidence, based on complete and unqualified frankness on both sides; they are not keeping anything back; there's no deception underneath it all. If I might so put it, it's an agreement for the mutual forgiveness of sin.
    • Hjalmar, Act IV
  • Forget that foreign word "ideals." We have that good old native word: "lies."
    • Relling, Act V
  • Tar De livsløgnen fra et gennemsnitsmenneske, så tar De lykken fra ham med det samme.
    • If you take the life lie from an average man, you take away his happiness as well.
    • Relling, Act V

Hedda Gabler (1890)Edit

Oh courage...oh yes! If only one had that...Then life might be livable, in spite of everything.
  • Our common lust for life.
    • Lövborg, Act II
  • Oh courage...oh yes! If only one had that...Then life might be livable, in spite of everything.
    • Hedda, Act II
  • Back he'll come...With vine leaves in his hair. Flushed and confident.
    • Hedda, Act II
  • Everything I touch seems destined to turn into something mean and farcical.
    • Hedda, Act IV

The Master Builder (1892)Edit

When we dead awaken. ... We see that we have never lived.
  • The younger generation will come knocking at my door.
    • Solness, Act I
  • A forest bird never wants a cage.
    • Hilda, Act III
  • Castles in the air — they are so easy to take refuge in. And so easy to build, too.
    • Hilda, Act III

When We Dead Awaken (1899)Edit

  • People who don't know how to keep themselves healthy ought to have the decency to get themselves buried, and not waste time about it.
    • Ulfhejm, in Act I
  • When we dead awaken. ... We see that we have never lived.
    • Irene, in Act II

External linksEdit

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Last modified on 13 April 2014, at 07:36