Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Rosmersholm. Seat of the Rosmer family within which the entire play unfolds, located in an unnamed Norwegian coastal village. Rosmersholm is literally the home of Johannes Rosmer, but in keeping with the temper of the play, the title actually signifies his spiritual homecoming. His life, both personal and political, is stormy. Almost without realizing it, he finds himself associated with unpopular political causes and movements. His decision to abandon the beliefs of his ancestors for the freethinking ideals being promoted by modern philosophers and social reformers is an affront to the “house.” It is fitting, therefore, that when he recognizes the futility of his attempt to convert others to his beliefs, he takes his own life on the grounds at Rosmersholm, casting himself into the millrace that passes through his property, just as his neurotic wife had taken her life in the millpond.

Ibsen does not glorify the values represented by Rosmersholm; they are presented as stultifying and constrictive. Nevertheless, through Rosmer’s failed attempt to convert others to his radical brand of liberalism, the playwright suggests that radical ideologues of any persuasion are doomed to failure.

Rosmersholm Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Durbach, Errol. “Ibsen the Romantic”: Analogues of Paradise in the Later Plays. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1982. A tracing of romantic elements in Ibsen’s later plays. The section on Rosmersholm, a play that Durbach considers bleak and depressing, discusses how joy nevertheless can be found in the midst of despair.

Holtan, Orley I. Mythic Patterns in Ibsen’s Last Plays. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1970. An overview of the mythic content in Ibsen’s last seven plays, Holtan’s study contains a good discussion of the echoes from ancient Scandinavian mythology that can be heard in Rosmersholm.

Johnston, Brian. The Ibsen Cycle: The Design of the Plays from “Pillars of Society” to “When We Dead Awaken.” Boston: Twayne, 1975. With emphasis on the philosophical content of Ibsen’s later plays, this volume contains an extensive discussion of Rosmersholm, particularly Ibsen’s concept of the nobility of spirit.

Meyer, Michael. Ibsen: A Biography. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971. A standard biography of Ibsen, it contains a good discussion of both the play itself and its place in Ibsen’s canon, in which, according to Meyer, it marks the transition from a concern with matters of society to a focus on the internal life of individuals.

Weigand, Hermann J. The Modern Ibsen: A Reconsideration. New York: Henry Holt, 1925. Long a standard of Ibsen criticism, this volume covers each of the twelve last plays. The section on Rosmersholm offers a detailed and incisive explication, with emphasis on the psychological motivations of each of the characters, and serves as an excellent introduction for the general reader.