Ludvig Holberg Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Although he is regarded today mainly as an author of comedies, Ludvig Holberg spent only two short periods of his life writing in that genre. A man of the Enlightenment, he wrote extensively in history, biography, law, and moral philosophy. Among his many works of nonfiction is an important autobiography. In addition, he is one of the most prolific essayists in both Danish and Norwegian literature.

Closer to his comic authorship are his novel Nicolai Klimii iter Subterraneum (1741; Journey to the World Underground, 1742), his satires, and his long mock-heroic poem Peder Paars (1722; English translation, 1962), which narrates the woefully unheroic journey of a merchant and his clerk from the town of Kallundborg to that of Aarhus, where the merchant is to visit his fiancée.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Ludvig Holberg stands as the originator of modern Danish and Norwegian literature. He not only introduced the essay as a genre in Denmark and Norway and established a native comic tradition but also created a literature for a new public. Earlier writers had addressed a select group of state officials, particularly pastors, who possessed the education and knowledge necessary to appreciate their writing, while Holberg appealed to a bourgeoisie that was growing rapidly both in numbers and in influence. His contemporary success as a writer can be explained with reference to that fact.

His later success, however, depends entirely on the intrinsic quality of his art. Holberg is still considered Denmark’s greatest dramatist, and in Norwegian literature he is eclipsed only by Henrik Ibsen. His comedies continue to be performed regularly in both his native land and in his adopted country. More than half of them have been translated into English, as have Peder Paars and a number of Holberg’s prose works.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Anderson, Jens K. Conflicting Values in Holberg’s Comedies: Literary Tradition or Social Teaching? Minneapolis: Center for Nordic Studies, University of Minnesota, 1991. This study examines the comedies of Holberg, with emphasis on the values that he portrays in them. Bibliography.

Argetsinger, Gerald S. Ludvig Holberg’s Comedies. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1983. A critical analysis and interpretation of Holberg’s comedic dramas. Bibliography and index.

Billeskov Jansen, F. J. Ludvig Holberg. New York: Twayne, 1974. A basic biography of Holberg that covers his life and works. Bibliography.

Housgaard, Jens. Ludvig Holberg: The Playwright and His Age up to 1730. Odense, Denmark: Odense University Press, 1993. A study of the works of Holberg and a description of the times in which he lived. Bibliography and index.

Rossel, Sven Hakon, ed. Ludvig Holberg: A European Writer: A Study in Influence and Reception. Atlanta, Ga.: Rodopi, 1994. An examination of Holberg’s works, with particular emphasis on his critical reception and influence on other writers. Bibliography and index.