Henrik Ibsen

A Doll's House

Henrik Ibsen

Biography (excerpt):

Henrik Johan Ibsen (1828-1906), Norwegian dramatist and poet, was born in the small town of Skien in southern Norway, of well-to-do parents. In 1834 his father's business began to fail, and the next year the family was forced to leave its patrician home. At the age of 15, Ibsen was apprenticed to a pharmacist in Grimstad, an even smaller southern town. When he was 18, he fathered a child. He wrote his first play, Catilina (1850), under the influence of the revolutions of 1848. The publication of the play attracted little notice, but it is significant that its theme, the failure of the main character, Catiline, to keep faith with himself, represents the first appearance of a major theme in Ibsen's mature drama.

In His Own Words: Letters & Speeches

Henrik Ibsen Chronology:

From Brian, Johnston. "Ibsen Chronology." Ibsen Voyages--with Brian Johnston. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2009. http://www.ibsenvoyages.com/chronology.html.


  • Ibsen born in Skien, Norway, on March 20
  • Leo Tolstoy born in Russia


  • Financial problems force the Ibsen family to move out of town to a smaller house for eight years.


  • Ibsen leaves home, at age 14, to earn his living as an apothecary's apprentice in the seacoast town of Grimstad. Except for one brief visit, he never returns to his hometown.


  • A maid in the Grimstad household, considerably older than Ibsen, bears him an illegitamite son. Ibsen was to support this son financially for many years, despite his own impoverished circumstances.


  • Revolutions throughout Europe which are one by one suppressed. Ibsen writes sonnets in support of these revolutions.
  • Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels publish Manifesto of the Communist Party.


  • Ibsen writes his first play, Catiline, which is submitted to the Chrisiania Theatre and rejected.


  • August Strindberg born in Sweden.


  • Ibsen writes his second play, The Burial Mound, which is performed at the Cristiania Theatre.


  • Ibsen arrives in Bergen to take up an appointment as playwright in residence and stage manager of the new Norwegian Theatre, established by Ole Bull. He was to spend six years in Bergen, learning every aspect of dramatic and theatrical craft.


  • St. John's Night is performed at Bergen.


  • Lady Inger of Østraat performed at Bergen.
  • Søren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher, dies.


  • The Feast at Solhoug performed at Bergen. This is Ibsen's first success in the theatre.


  • Olaf Liliekrans performed at Bergen.
  • Ibsen takes up new post of artistic director, Norwegian Theatre in Christiania.


  • June 18, Ibsen marries Suzannah Thoresen.
  • The Vikings at Helgeland performed at Christiania Theatre.
  • Gustav Flaubert's Madame Bovary.
  • Apparition of the Virgin Mary reputed to have appeared to Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes, France.


  • Ibsen's son, Sigurd, born.
  • Charles Darwin publishes The Origin of Species.
  • Karl Marx, Critique of Political Economy.
  • John Stuart Mill, Essay on Liberty.


  • Anton Chekhov born.


  • Outbreak of American Civil War.


  • Love's Comedy, Ibsen's first major play, published as a supplement to a journal. The play subjected to harsh attacks as "an offense against human decency." Ibsen himself now the subject of critical abuse. The Christiania Theatre dared not perform the play.
  • The Norwegian Theatre in Christiania goes bankrupt and Ibsen loses his job.
  • In May, awarded a grant from the University of Christiania to compile folk songs and legends. This required extensive travel through Norway.


  • The Pretenders published.


  • January, The Pretenders performed at the Christiania Theatre. It is Ibsen's most successful production to date.
  • April 5, leaves Christiania for Copenhagen and Rome. The beginning of a twenty-seven year exile from Norway, in which most of his major work will be written.


  • Ibsen in Rome. In March, Brank published and creates a sensation throughout Scandinavia. From now on, Ibsen will be Scaninavia's most prominent writer.


  • November 14, Peer Gynt published.
  • Karl Marx's Das Kapital published.
  • Emile Zola writes Thérèse Raquin, his first "naturalist" novel.


  • In October, after staying in Florence, Bologna, and Venice, Ibsen moves to Dresden.


  • In September, The League of Youth published. Ibsen's first realistic prose play.
  • Wyoming establishes women's suffrage.
  • John Stuart Mill writes On the Subjection of Women.
  • Ibsen begins his long intellectual friendship with the young Danish critic, Georg Brandes.


  • Franco-Prussian War. Napoleon III capitulates to Prussia.
  • Revolt in Paris, proclamation of the Third Republic.
  • Schliemann begins excavations at Troy.


  • Election of socialists to the Paris Commune, upon which troops, led by Thiers on behalf of the French bourgeoisie massacred over 25,000 Communards—men, women and children—in one week. Thousands more executed or deported to tropical penal colonies. Ibsen wrote to Georg Brandes about these events.


  • Friedrich Nietzsche's The Birth of Trajedy.
  • Jules Verne writes Around the World in 80 Days.


  • Emperor and Galilean published.


  • First Impressionist exhibition in Paris.


  • Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.


  • First performance of Peer Gynt, with music by Edvard Grieg, at the Christiania Theatre.
  • In April, The Vikings at Helgeland performed at the Court Theatre in Munich, the first of Ibsen's plays produced outside Scandinavia.
  • In June, Ibsen attends a performace of The Pretenders by the Duke of Saxe-Meiningen's players.
  • Opening of Bayreuth for first complete performance of Richard Wagner's Cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen. Ibsen is living close to Bayreuth, in Munich.


  • Pillars of Society, inaugurating Ibsen's Cycle of twelve realist prose plays.


  • In December, A Doll House. The play quickly becomes notorious, first in Scandinavia, then throughout Europe. Ibsen is soon to become the most written about man of letters, internationally, until his death in 1906.


  • Emile Zola's Nana.
  • Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.
  • Rodin sculpts The Thinker.


  • Publication of Ghosts causes a major scandal internationally; the play is banned from public performance in many countries, giving rise to the minority theatre movement where, in Berlin, the Freie Bühne, and in London, the Independent Theatre, will be founded to perform Ibsen's play. No established theatre in Scandinavia dared put on the play, and the bookshops returned copies of the play to the publisher. It would be over ten years before the first edition was sold out.


  • An Enemy of the People published.
  • World premiere of Ghosts in Chicago, performed in Norwegian by Danish and Norwegian amateurs before audiences of Scandinavian immigrants.
  • James Joyce, Irish novelist, and lifelong Ibsen admirer, born.


  • First European performance of Ghosts by August Lindberg in Hälsingborg, Sweden. Lindberg was regularly to direct and act ihn Ibsen's plays.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche, Also Sprach Zarathustra.


  • The Wild Duck published.


  • Rosmersholm published.


  • Andre Antoine establishes his Théâtre Libre, the firest of the non-commercial theatres to take up the cause of Ibsen.
  • August Strindberg writes The Father.


  • The Lady from the Sea published.


  • Otto Brahm and Paul Schlenther open the independent theatre, Freie Bühne, in Berlin, to evade censorship and produce Ghosts.
  • Opening of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.


  • Hedda Gabler published.
  • Andre Antoine produces Ghosts at the Théâtre Libre. Lugné Poë called the production "a thunderbolt in French theatrical history."


  • J.T. Grein established the Independent Theatre in London which opened on Friday March 13 with Ghosts. The performance causes the greatest scandal and controversy in British theatrical history. Banned by Lord Chamberlain, the play had to be performed at the Independent Theatre as a private club.
  • George Bernard Shaw's The Quintessence of Ibsenism published.
  • In July Ibsen returns to settle in Norway after twenty-seven years exile.


  • The Master Builder published.
  • Maurice Maeterlinck writes Pelléas et Mélisande.
  • George Bernard Shaw's first play, Widowers' Houses.


  • Little Eyolf published.
  • Shaw's Arms and the Man.


  • John Gabriel Borkman published.
  • Anton Checkhov's The Seagull.


  • When We Dead Awaken, Ibsen's "Epilogue" to the Cycle, published.
  • H.G. Wells' When the Sleeper Wakes.
  • Leo Tolstoy's Resurrection.
  • Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest.


  • Ibsen suffers his first stroke and has to stop writing. He has his second stroke the following year.
  • Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche dies.
  • Oscar Wild dies.


  • Queen Victoria dies.
  • Strinberg's The Dance of Death.


  • Shaw's Man and Superman.


  • Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard.
  • Chekhov dies.


  • May 23, Ibsen dies
  • Samuel Beckett born April 13 (or May13).

Source Citation: 

Brian, Johnston. "Ibsen Chronology." Ibsen Voyages--with Brian Johnston. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2009. http://www.ibsenvoyages.com/chronology.html.