Initially, the response to Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder (Bygmester Solness in Norwegian) was mixed. The play received overwhelming praise when it was published in Scandinavia in 1892, but the demands it placed on actors made it difficult to stage, and as a result, the early performances of the play were criticized. As the actors and audience became accustomed to the play’s innovative technique, however, audiences began to applaud Ibsen’s creative mix of realism and expressionism in his compelling portrait of a middle-aged architect who assesses his obsessive drive to succeed.
The Master Builder chronicles the career and personal relationships of Halvard Solness, a man who has not let anything stand in the way of his rampant ambition. As he struggles with the destructive consequences of his monomaniacal pursuit and his growing fear that he has lost his creative powers, a mysterious young woman appears. She will help Solness gain a glimpse of his former robust self as she leads him to his tragic fate. In The Master Builder, Ibsen paints an intriguing portrait of one man’s consuming desire for success.