How might Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's HouseĀ  be received by audiences today?

Expert Answers
Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If the play A Doll's House had been written for, and received by, today's audience, parts of the play might actually receive the same emotional response from the audience as it did then. When the play was first released, it was considered scandalous; however, it was also a very popular play. The play was published before it was actually performed, and all 8,000 printed copies sold out two weeks before the performance. Since it was such a huge bestseller, we know that the audience was very excited and looking forward to seeing the play ("Critical Overview"). However, the play's ending was not well received in Norway. The audience was not happy that Nora decided to leave her family at the end of the play. Audiences in Germany had an even stronger reaction. It was so strong, in fact, that Ibsen was forced to write an alternate ending, one in which Nora decides she cannot possibly leave her children ("Critical Overview").

I think that audiences today would sympathize and even support Nora's desires to leave her marriage. However, I think that many women would be just as equally appalled by Nora's decision to not just leave her husband, but her children as well. Nora argues that she does not see herself as being fit to raise the children because she sees how much of a child she still is herself, how little she knows about the world. She argues that she was raised by her father to uphold his opinions rather than being educated to learn her own mind. She states that both her father and her husband have treated her as a play thing, as we see in her lines:

But our home has been nothing but a playroom. I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I was papa's doll-child; and here the children have been my dolls. (III)

Hence, she argues that before she is fit to raise or educate children, she must first educate herself, as we see in her lines, "There is another task I must undertake first. I must try and educate myself" (III).

While readers or audience members today may sympathize with her desires to educate herself and her feeling that she is unfit to raise the children, other readers may wonder how she could possibly leave her children in the hands of a man she doesn't want to stay with herself. Still other readers may call her decision incredibly selfish. Therefore, many readers or audiences today will respond to the play in much the same way that the audiences of Ibsen's time did and find the ending rather shocking.