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The muse who inspired Ibsen to write ‘A Doll’s House’


Theatre Conspiracy is bringing Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House to the stage. In its release announcing the show, the Alliance for the Arts provides fascinating information about the real life story that inspired Ibsen to write the play. It follows:

“In 1871, eight years before Henrik Ibsen wrote A Doll’s House, Ibsen met a Norwegian girl called Laura Petersen. Ibsen took quite a fancy to her and called her his ‘skylark.’

“In 1872, she married a Danish schoolmaster, Victor Kieler, who subsequently contracted tuberculosis. His doctors prescribed a warmer climate, but they were poor, and Victor became hysterical at the mention of money. Laura arranged a loan without her husband’s knowledge, for which a friend stood security. The trip to Italy thus financed was successful, and Victor made a good recovery.

“Two years later, however, repayment of the loan was demanded. Laura did not have the money herself, dared not tell her husband and, worse, still, the friend who had stood security had himself fallen on hard times. Laura attempted to pay off the loan by forging a check. The forgery was discovered, the bank refused payment, and Laura was forced to tell her husband the whole story.

“Despite the fact that she had done [all this] purely to save his life, Victor Kieler treated Laura like a criminal. He claimed she was an unfit wife and mother and when she suffered a nervous breakdown, he had her committed to a public asylum, and demanded a separation so that the children could be removed from Laura’s care. She was discharged after a month, and managed to persuade Victor to take her back for the children’s sake, which he eventually, but grudgingly, agreed to do.

“In September 1878, only a couple of months after hearing about Laura’s committal to the asylum, Ibsen began work on A Doll’s House. In his notes he wrote the following: ‘A woman cannot be herself in modern society with laws made by men and with prosecutors and judges who assess female conduct from a male standpoint.’”

Kudos to the Alliance for providing this background information.

February 15, 2018.



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