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The Writer’s Almanac for Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Today I’m sharing some insight from the Writer’s Almanac. Enjoy

Today in 1879, the world premiere of Henrik Ibsen‘s play A Doll’s House took place at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, Denmark (books by this author). When the play opened, the cast had only rehearsed together 11 times, including the dress rehearsal. There was a director, but he didn’t give much guidance to the actors about how they should approach their characters. The stage set from Ibsen’s play The Pillars of Society (1877) was still hanging around the theater, so the production used the same set for A Doll’s House.

The print version of A Doll’s House was published a couple of weeks before the stage premiere, so most of the critics had already read it. The play was hugely controversial because of its ending: the main character, Nora, walks out on her family, leaving behind her husband and three young children.

When A Doll’s House was first produced in Germany a year later, the lead actress, Hedwig Niemann-Raabe, refused to act the final scene, claiming that she would never leave her own children. She insisted on a new ending. There were no sufficient copyright laws to protect A Doll’s House from being rewritten by someone else, so Ibsen finally agreed to write a new ending, rather than have someone else butcher it. In the new version, Nora is overcome with emotion when her husband shows her the door to the nursery, and she sinks down on her knees and doesn’t leave. Ibsen hated the alternative ending, calling it “a barbaric outrage.”

 

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