Gunnar Heiberg Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Gunnar Edvard Rode Heiberg was born in Christiania (now Oslo) in 1857 into a family that belonged to the upper bourgeoisie, inasmuch as his father was a high government official. The boy followed the common path of young men of his class and prepared for his matriculation certificate, which he obtained in 1874. A student of law, he also developed literary interests and published his first works in 1878. These works, two long poems, attempt to rewrite the story of the Fall of Man in such a manner that Lucifer and Cain appear as the real heroes and to establish a rational basis for a view of life that could replace Christianity, which Heiberg, like his radical contemporaries, regarded as outdated.

Shortly after the publication of his poems, Heiberg left Norway and went to Rome, ostensibly for the purpose of studying art history. He hoped, however, that some distance from home would permit him to collect his thoughts and write a play. This proved not to be the case, and after his return to Christiania, he worked for some time as a journalist and theater critic for the daily newspaper Dagbladet. He continued to work on his ideas for a drama, however, and finished the manuscript of his first play, Tante Ulrikke, in 1883. It was published the following year, but its radical content made it unacceptable to Norway’s main stage, the Christiania Theater.

Tante Ulrikke was, however, accepted by the National Stage of Bergen,...

(The entire section is 521 words.)