Places Discussed

*North Country

*North Country. Four of the five acts of the play are set in various locations in the far north, presumably Norway and surrounding regions. Ibsen is intentionally vague about setting, however, in order to suggest the fairy-tale quality of his drama. Farms, towns, and woodlands serve a dual purpose. They are realistic locations in which much of the action takes place, but they are simultaneously places where Peer Gynt’s imaginative life is realized. Trolls, elves, and other fantastic creatures populate these regions. Thus, setting comes to symbolize the state of mind of the hero as he strives to become successful, respected, and powerful.

*North Africa

*North Africa. The fourth act of Peer Gynt is set principally in Morocco and Egypt, where the hero’s wanderings take him and give him opportunity to interact with other tycoons and attempt to solve the modern riddle of the Sphinx on the meaning of life. Gynt’s astute answer to that riddle lands him in a Cairo madhouse. Through this radical shift in locale, Ibsen further suggests the epic nature of his play, emphasizing the foolish dreams of his hero to become emperor of the world.

Historical Context

Legend has it that when Mark Twain visited London during the Diamond Jubilee celebration of Queen Victoria, he observed that British history...

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Literary Style

Act
A major division in a drama. In Greek plays the sections of the drama signified by the appearance of the chorus and were...

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Compare and Contrast

1876: The International Association for the Exploration and Civilization of Africa is founded under the auspices of the Belgian king,...

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Topics for Further Study

Discuss the use of Christian allegory in Peer Gynt.

Peer Gynt has been described as the national story of Norway....

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Media Adaptations

An American version of Peer Gynt was filmed in 1915.

Peer Gynt was filmed in 1934 by German director Fritz...

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What Do I Read Next?

Henrick Ibsen's Brand (1866), written the year before Peer Gynt, is also written in epic verse. Brand is the first of...

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Bibliography and Further Reading

Sources
Beyer, Edvard. ‘‘The Reception of Ibsen's Brand and Peer Gynt in Scandinavia 186668,’’ in Contemporary...

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Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Fjelde, Rolf. “Peer Gynt, Naturalism, and the Dissolving Self.” The Drama Review 13, no. 2 (Winter, 1968): 28-43. Explores a rhetorical perspective on Peer’s identity, concluding that Peer is an example of the uncentered self who can achieve wholeness only through a relationship with others.

Groddeck, Georg. “Peer Gynt.” In Ibsen: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Rolf Fjelde. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1965. A psychoanalytical exploration of Peer Gynt, this book chapter emphasizes Peer’s relationships to the women in his life.

Johnston, Brian. To the Third Empire: Ibsen’s Early Drama. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1980. A detailed and insightful survey of Ibsen’s early dramatic production, the volume includes a major section devoted to Peer Gynt. Points out that the drama, which has a moral purpose, owes its appeal to the same playful strategies for dealing with reality that Ibsen argues against.

McFarlane, James. Ibsen and Meaning: Studies, Essays and Prefaces, 1953-87. Norwich, England: Norvik Press, 1989. In a major contribution to Ibsen criticism, his play Brand (1866) is compared to and contrasted with Peer Gynt. Unlike the protagonist of Brand, says McFarlane, Peer Gynt is a man who lives entirely in his illusions.

Shapiro, Bruce G. Divine Madness and the Absurd Paradox: Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt” and the Philosophy of Kierkegaard. Westview, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1990. An in-depth discussion of the relationship between the character of Peer Gynt and Kierkegaardian philosophy, particularly his theory of the contrast between the aesthetic and the ethical spheres of existence.