Henrik Ibsen's religious drama, Brand, caused a huge stir when it was first published in Scandinavia in 1866. Although it was well received in Denmark, it was highly debated in Norway, Ibsen's pious homeland. Ibsen wrote the play while on a self-imposed exile in Italy, which began in 1864. Although the play's sources of inspiration have been interpreted in many different ways, it is likely that the work—like Ibsen's exile—was a statement on Norway's failure to join with its Danish neighbors in preventing Germany from taking two of Denmark's duchies in 1864. The play was the first commercial and critical success of Ibsen's and paved the way for his future successes, starting with Peer Gynt, which he published a year after Brand. Both plays are verse dramas—plays written in the style of a poem—a more literary but less common type of modern drama.
Brand was a cathartic writing experience for Ibsen, who never intended the play to be staged. Like the inspiration for the play, the meaning in the work has also been interpreted in many different ways. The main character, Brand, is a pastor who holds himself and all of his followers, including his wife, to the rigid command of ‘‘Naught or All!’’ This essentially means that people must be willing to risk their lives and all earthly attachments if they wish to find eternal salvation. Brand is tested on this faith, and even though he falters a few times, he nevertheless goes the distance, sacrificing his mother, son, and wife in an attempt to adhere to his beliefs. The ambiguous ending has been interpreted in many contradictory ways, including that Brand's life is either meaningful or worthless. Although this is one of Ibsen's major works, it is currently out of print. Various translations can often be found in libraries. One such translation is the 1960 Doubleday edition, translated by Michael Meyer.