When We Dead Awaken

by Henrik Ibsen

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Characters Discussed

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Arnold Rubek

Arnold Rubek, a sculptor. At a mountain resort on the coast of Norway, Rubek and Maia, his wife, see Irene. In his youth, Rubek had found in Irene the perfect model, but he had turned away from her love. After leaving Irene, Rubek had stopped creating beautiful works in marble and made only concealed caricatures, with an animal’s face hidden behind the human one. Finding his life of ease with Maia intolerable, he goes with Irene in search of their lost love and finds death with her in the snow at the top of the mountain.

Irene von Satow

Irene von Satow, the inspiration for Rubek’s greatest work, Woman Awakening from the Dead on the Resurrection Day After the Sleep of Death. Irene tells Rubek that she is dead. She had meant to kill Rubek with a knife but decides to spare him when he tells her that he too has suffered. Although she tells him that he is already dead, she lures him to the mountaintop where they perish in the snow.

Maia Rubek

Maia Rubek, Rubek’s wife. She finds Ulfheim, a sportsman, intriguing and accompanies him on a hunting trip to the mountains.


Ulfheim, a wealthy sportsman known as a bear-killer. After he and Maia quarrel on the snow-covered mountain, they are reconciled and tell each other of their youthful disappointments. Returning from the mountain, they meet Rubek and Irene going up toward the icy heights. Ulfheim warns them of the approaching storm.

A Sister of Mercy

A Sister of Mercy, a symbolic character. She watches Irene in each critical scene. At the end, she appears on the mountain, makes the sign of the cross, and wishes Rubek and Irene peace as they lie buried in the snow.

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Critical Essays