Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Alving home

Alving home. Family estate located in Rosenvold on one of western Norway’s fjords. The house’s garden provides the play’s primary setting. This room has a door on the left and two doors on the right. Also on the left wall is a window, in front of which is a small sofa with a worktable in front of it. In the center of the room is a round table covered with books, magazines, and newspapers. Chairs are positioned around the table. The back of the room is a glass conservatory, and a glass door leads to the garden. All in all, it is a very prosaic, if expensively furnished room, in the style of the late nineteenth century.

The glass wall at the back of the garden room sets the atmosphere for the drama as it shows and reflects what is happening in and around the estate. Most of the time, the scene is a gloomy fjord shrouded in mist, which prepares the audience for the subject matter of the play. Later, a huge fire that destroys a new orphanage is visible through the glass. As the play ends, the new day’s dawn sunlight comes through the window. The reading materials on the table also show something about the house and its owner. These items represent the publications of new findings in science at the time, and as the play is a debate over science, they reinforce the subject matter of the script: that a fine house and wealth do not guarantee personal happiness.

Historical Context

(Drama for Students)

Norway in the 1880s
Ibsen lived away from Norway from 1863 to 1891. Rather than distancing him from the character of the...

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Literary Style

(Drama for Students)

Realism, as a literary movement, flourished in the United States and Europe in the late 1800s, which is when...

(The entire section is 787 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Drama for Students)

1882: German engineer Gottlieb Daimler invents the first internal combustion engine.

Today: Automobiles are so...

(The entire section is 240 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Drama for Students)

Parallels have been drawn between this play’s treatment of syphilis and the current AIDS epidemic. Make a list of suggestions of changes...

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Media Adaptations

(Drama for Students)

Ghosts was adapted as a silent film in 1915, starring Erich von Stroheim and Mary Alden. It was produced by D. W. Griffith.


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What Do I Read Next?

(Drama for Students)

Ibsen’s play An Enemy of the People was started before Ghosts but was not finished until after the latter play. It is a...

(The entire section is 316 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Drama for Students)

Archer, William, ‘‘Ibsen and English Criticism,’’ in Fortnightly Review, Vol. 46, No. 271, July, 1889,...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Clurman, Harold. Ibsen. New York: Collier Books, 1977. This introductory study provides the general reader with a good starting place for reading about Ibsen. Clurman, a renowned stage director, discusses the plays as theater as well as literature. His discussion of Ghosts clarifies a misunderstanding about the play’s title and explores at some length the motivations of the characters.

Fjelde, Rolf, ed. Ibsen: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1965. Sixteen essays that cover Ibsen’s conception of truth, realism, and stage craftsmanship, among other topics. Francis Fergusson discusses the realism, suspense, and tragic nature of Ghosts.

Lyons, Charles R., comp. Critical Essays on Henrik Ibsen. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987. A thorough and useful volume of essays that includes discussions that address topics like realism and dramatic form in Ibsen’s works. The remarks on Ghosts explore the use of asides, disease, and dramatic language.

McFarlane, James, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Ibsen. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Sixteen newly written essays on Ibsen’s life and work provide a good resource. Chapters 9-13 discuss Ibsen’s working methods and the stage history of the plays up through the age of film and television.

Valency, Maurice. The Flower and the Castle: An Introduction to Modern Drama. New York: Schocken Books, 1982. Readers interested in Ibsen as the founder of twentieth century drama will find rewarding material in this study, the first in Valency’s modern drama series. The author devotes more than 100 pages to Ibsen, and his comments on Ghosts are a good introduction to the play.