In Ibsen's drama A Doll's House, he writes about a modern social tragedy. Ibsen's play is considered modern drama. In fact, Ibsen establishes a new genre known as modern drama. Prior to A Doll's House, contemporary plays were usually historical romances or contrived comedy of manners.
Ibsen is known as the "father of modern drama" because he elevated theatre from entertainment to a forum for exposing social problems. Ibsen broke away from the romantic tradition with his realistic portrayals of individual characters and his focus on psychological concerns as he sought to portray the real world, especially the position of women in society.
Although Ibsen claims that he was not a champion of feminine rights, he brought about attention to the sufferings of women in 1879. He adds that he did not write the play as an indication of his beliefs in women's rights. Instead, Ibsen claims that he believed in human rights:
Ibsen always denied that he believed in women's rights, stating instead that he believed in human rights.
Nonetheless, Ibsen's play A Doll's House establishes Ibsen a contemporary writer of modern drama. Also, he is successful in his attempt to highlight the struggles of women in the late 1800s:
In 1879, a wife was not legally permitted to borrow money without her husband's consent, so Nora must resort to deception to borrow the money she so desperately needs.
No doubt, A Doll's House is a social tragedy. In a time when divorce was stigmatized, Nora leaves Torvald with the intentions of divorcing him. She is weary with the facade that she has been keeping. Nora can no longer play house. She is so unhappy being Torvald's doll. She can no longer pretend that all is well in the Helmer household.
Ibsen's play brought about public debate in various countries. Many critics did not approve of Ibsen writing an ending in which the wife leaves her husband with the intentions of divorce. After much review, sentiments changed:
In his introduction to The Collected Works of Henrik Ibsen, which was published between 1906 and 1912, William Archer remarked: "It is with A Doll's House that Ibsen enters upon his kingdom as a world-poet." Archer added that this play was the work that would carry Ibsen's name beyond Norway. In a 1986 performance review, New York Times contributor Walter Goodman declared that A Doll's House is "a great document of feminism, and Nora is an icon of women's liberation."
Today, Ibsen is seen as the father of modern drama. He writes of social tragedy which had not been the focus in contemporary drama. Ibsen changes the face of modern day drama. His social tragedy in which Nora leaves Torvald with the possible intentions of divorcing Torvald was the beginning of modern day social tragedy.