41 pages 1 hour read

Henrik Ibsen

An Enemy of the People

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1882

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Authorial Context: Henrik Johan Ibsen

Henrik Johan Ibsen was born in Skien, Norway, in 1828 and grew up in a wealthy, socially connected family of ship owners and tradespeople. A common myth states that his family became destitute due to his stepfather’s drinking habits, and that this decline heavily influenced the moral standpoint in his later writings. Modern scholarship has revealed this to be largely untrue; although the family did experience periods of relative financial hardship as Norwegian society moved toward social democracy and away from a system of rule by a small elite group, they remained affluent and well respected throughout Ibsen’s life. After quitting school at age 15, Ibsen began writing plays while working in a pharmacy.

Ibsen often expressed disillusionment with Norwegian society. He struggled financially while working as a theater director throughout the 1850s and saw his native culture as stagnant. He eventually entered self-exile in Italy in 1862, visiting Norway only a handful of times during the next 27 years. He staged several plays to little acclaim throughout his young adulthood, finally finding success with Brand in 1865. After Peer Gynt was similarly successful two years later, Ibsen began to move away from writing plays based on Norwegian folklore and mythology, instead producing realist works with overt political and social messages.