Why did Ibsen change the ending of his play A Doll's House? What was the original ending?
Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House remains a popular play, and even more than 100 years after Ibsen’s death, its topic still resonates with readers and play-goers alike. It questions the traditional roles of men and women, and so is not an unusual story; a woman feels overwhelmed by her familial responsibility, and her husband treats her like a possession to the point that she loses her individuality. She is constantly patronized by Torvald, but does almost encourage his use of diminutive terms such as “my little songbird” or “my lark” or “my squirrel.” Eventually she decides to leave, despite the fact that she has young children, feeling that “I have had great injustice done me, Torvald; first by father, and then by you.”
The character of Torvald is shocked by Nora’s decision, and he wonders “you don't consider what the world will say!” So too were some critics appalled that a woman could even consider leaving her children behind. In the original ending, the last stage direction indicates that Nora has gone, and the final slamming of the door leaves Torvald prostrate with his head in his hands. Nora has refused any assistance from him, even suggesting that he is a “stranger” to her. Before her dramatic exit, she even tells him that she will never return or attempt to contact him.
Ibsen was grudgingly persuaded to change the ending, leaving it open to interpretation because some actors and interested parties were reluctant to be involved in something so controversial. The new ending leaves audiences to decide what she may or may not do. She does not leave, but she lies powerless and desperate in her children’s bedroom. The assumption is that she will remain after all the dutiful mother, and audiences of the time were able to leave the theater satisfied with a clear conscience.
Despite the controversy, the new ending did not remain, and the original ending was ultimately reinstated.
The original ending of the play, the one where Nora leaves her husband and children behind so that she can find out who she truly is, was deemed unrealistic by the German actress Hedwig Niemann-Raabe. Because she could not imagine abandoning her own family, she felt that no woman could ever do such a thing, so she insisted that she would need the ending to be changed in order to perform the part. Niemann-Raabe was quite famous, so Ibsen agreed to write another ending in order to keep her in the production of the play. In the alternate ending, Nora is about to leave, but her husband, Torvald, forces her to look upon her sleeping children one last time, impressing upon her the fact that they would wake up "motherless" in the morning: she then relents, though she says it "is a sin against [her]self." She "sinks down by the door," so we infer she does not leave. In this new ending, Ibsen turns Nora into a woman who consents to being ruled by her husband and being self-sacrificing for her children, a much less controversial ending than the original. However, the alternate ending was only performed a few times before Niemann-Raabe agreed that the original ending was better.
The traditional version of Ibsen's A Doll's House ends with Nora leaving her family. This was particularly shocking at the time it was written because the idea of a mother abandoning her children was very much against the idealized view of family life. Ibsen only changed the ending at the request of his agent, who felt the play would not be received well in German theaters. Productions of the play in Germany had the alternative ending, in which Nora tells Torvald she is going to leave but is persuaded to stay. Nowadays most productions of the play use the original ending. Ibsen himself was never happy with the change and later felt he should have refused to rewrite the ending for commercial purposes.
To have a woman walk out on her husband and her children was essentially unheard of in nineteenth-century society. When the play was in rehearsal in Germany, the actress who was to play Nora refused to take the part unless the ending was changed. Even though he did not want to do so, Ibsen wrote another ending to the play. He had Nora return home to give Torvald another chance. Ibsen did not like this alternate ending, though, and the original ending, Nora's leaving and slamming the door behind her, is the one more commonly performed.
Ibsen changed the ending of his play A Doll's House in response to outside pressure. To be specific, a theater in Germany refused to stage the play unless Ibsen Nora gave Torvald another change to change.
The original ending is the one that we almost always see/read now, in which Nora just walks out.