The Master Builder belongs to a series of dramas that depart from the earlier types written by Henrik Ibsen. In this play the bitter satire of the social dramas is not present; instead, the play is mysterious, symbolic, lyrical. Ibsen here deals with the human soul and its struggle to rise above its own desires. The idea had been in Ibsen’s mind for many years before he actually wrote the play, which is one of the most original of his works.
Ibsen completed The Master Builder in 1892, two years after the stormy but mostly favorable reception of Hedda Gabler (pb. 1890, pr. 1891; English translation, 1891). Whereas he had labored slowly and revised with care the earlier play, his work on The Master Builder proceeded smoothly, requiring few major changes from the first draft to the finished manuscript. One year before, Ibsen had left Munich to return to Norway, where he resided in Oslo until his death in 1906. His return to his native land, an event marked by great professional success and personal satisfaction, corresponded with a significant change in his dramatic style. His early romantic plays in verse are generally lofty, treating historical or epical subjects. The second period of his creative work, including Et dukkehjem (pr., pb. 1879; A Doll’s House, 1880), consists of social dramas, written in conversational, realistic prose. The last period, beginning with The Master Builder and...
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