Part 1 out of 2
Produced by Nicole Apostola
by Henrik Ibsen
Translated, with an Introduction, by William Archer
The winter of 1879-80 Ibsen spent in Munich, and the greater part
of the summer of 1880 at Berchtesgaden. November 1880 saw him back
in Rome, and he passed the summer of 1881 at Sorrento. There,
fourteen years earlier, he had written the last acts of _Peer
Gynt_; there he now wrote, or at any rate completed, _Gengangere_.
It was published in December 1881, after he had returned to Rome.
On December 22 he wrote to Ludwig Passarge, one of his German
translators, "My new play has now appeared, and has occasioned a
terrible uproar in the Scandinavian press; every day I receive
letters and newspaper articles decrying or praising it. ... I
consider it utterly impossible that any German theatre will accept
the play at present. I hardly believe that they will dare to play
it in the Scandinavian countries for some time to come." How
rightly he judged we shall see anon.
In the newspapers there was far more obloquy than praise. Two men,
however, stood by him from the first: Bjornson, from whom he had
been practically estranged ever since _The League of Youth_, and
Georg Brandes. The latter published an article in which he declared
(I quote from memory) that the play might or might not be Ibsen's
greatest work, but that it was certainly his noblest deed. It was,
doubtless, in acknowledgment of this article that Ibsen wrote to
Brandes on January 3, 1882: "Yesterday I had the great pleasure of
receiving your brilliantly clear and so warmly appreciative review
of _Ghosts_. ... All who read your article must, it seems to me,
have their eyes opened to what I meant by my new book--assuming,
that is, that they have any _wish_ to see. For I cannot get rid of
the impression that a very large number of the false interpretations
which have appeared in the newspapers are the work of people who
know better. In Norway, however, I am willing to believe that the
stultification has in most cases been unintentional; and the reason
is not far to seek. In that country a great many of the critics are
theologians, more or less disguised; and these gentlemen are, as a
rule, quite unable to write rationally about creative literature.
That enfeeblement of judgment which, at least in the case of the
average man, is an inevitable consequence of prolonged occupation
with theological studies, betrays itself more especially in the
judging of human character, human actions, and human motives.
Practical business judgment, on the other hand, does not suffer
so much from studies of this order. Therefore the reverend
gentlemen are very often excellent members of local boards;
but they are unquestionably our worst critics." This passage is
interesting as showing clearly the point of view from which
Ibsen conceived the character of Manders. In the next paragraph
of the same letter he discusses the attitude of "the so-called
Liberal press"; but as the paragraph contains the germ of _An
Enemy of the People_, it may most fittingly be quoted in the
introduction to that play.
Three days later (January 6) Ibsen wrote to Schandorph, the Danish
novelist: "I was quite prepared for the hubbub. If certain of our
Scandinavian reviewers have no talent for anything else, they have
an unquestionable talent for thoroughly misunderstanding and
misinterpreting those authors whose books they undertake to judge. ...
They endeavour to make me responsible for the opinions which
certain of the personages of my drama express. And yet there is not
in the whole book a single opinion, a single utterance, which can
be laid to the account of the author. I took good care to avoid
this. The very method, the order of technique which imposes its
form upon the play, forbids the author to appear in the speeches of
his characters. My object was to make the reader feel that he was
going through a piece of real experience; and nothing could more
effectually prevent such an impression than the intrusion of the
author's private opinions into the dialogue. Do they imagine at
home that I am so inexpert in the theory of drama as not to know
this? Of course I know it, and act accordingly. In no other play
that I have written is the author so external to the action, so
entirely absent from it, as in this last one."
"They say," he continued, "that the book preaches Nihilism. Not at
all. It is not concerned to preach anything whatsoever. It merely
points to the ferment of Nihilism going on under the surface, at
home as elsewhere. A Pastor Manders will always goad one or other
Mrs. Alving to revolt. And just because she is a woman, she will,
when once she has begun, go to the utmost extremes."
Towards the end of January Ibsen wrote from Rome to Olaf Skavlan:
"These last weeks have brought me a wealth of experiences, lessons,
and discoveries. I, of course, foresaw that my new play would call
forth a howl from the camp of the stagnationists; and for; this I
care no more than for the barking of a pack of chained dogs. But
the pusillanimity which I have observed among the so-called
Liberals has given me cause for reflection. The very day after my
play was published the _Dagblad_ rushed out a hurriedly-written
article, evidently designed to purge itself of all suspicion of
complicity in my work. This was entirely unnecessary. I myself am
responsible for what I write, I and no one else. I cannot possibly
embarrass any party, for to no party do I belong. I stand like a
solitary franc-tireur at the outposts, and fight for my own hand.
The only man in Norway who has stood up freely, frankly, and
courageously for me is Bjornson. It is just like him. He has in
truth a great, kingly soul, and I shall never forget his action in
One more quotation completes the history of these stirring January
days, as written by Ibsen himself. It occurs in a letter to a
Danish journalist, Otto Borchsenius. "It may well be," the poet
writes, "that the play is in several respects rather daring. But it
seemed to me that the time had come for moving some boundary-posts.
And this was an undertaking for which a man of the older generation,
like myself, was better fitted than the many younger authors who
might desire to do something of the kind. I was prepared for a
storm; but such storms one must not shrink from encountering. That
would be cowardice."
It happened that, just in these days, the present writer had
frequent opportunities of conversing with Ibsen, and of hearing
from his own lips almost all the views expressed in the above
extracts. He was especially emphatic, I remember, in protesting
against the notion that the opinions expressed by Mrs. Alving or
Oswald were to be attributed to himself. He insisted, on the
contrary, that Mrs. Alving's views were merely typical of the moral
chaos inevitably produced by re-action from the narrow conventionalism
represented by Manders.
With one consent, the leading theatres of the three Scandinavian
capitals declined to have anything to do with the play. It was more
than eighteen months old before it found its way to the stage at
all. In August 1883 it was acted for the first time at Helsingborg,
Sweden, by a travelling company under the direction of an eminent
Swedish actor, August Lindberg, who himself played Oswald. He took
it on tour round the principal cities of Scandinavia, playing it,
among the rest, at a minor theatre in Christiania. It happened that
the boards of the Christiania Theatre were at the same time
occupied by a French farce; and public demonstrations of protest
were made against the managerial policy which gave _Tete de
Linotte_ the preference over _Gengangere_. Gradually the prejudice
against the play broke down. Already in the autumn of 1883 it was
produced at the Royal (Dramatiska) Theatre in Stockholm. When the
new National Theatre was opened in Christiania in 1899, _Gengangere_
found an early place in its repertory; and even the Royal Theatre
in Copenhagen has since opened its doors to the tragedy.
Not until April 1886 was _Gespenster_ acted in Germany, and then
only at a private performance, at the Stadttheater, Augsburg, the
poet himself being present. In the following winter it was acted
at the famous Court Theatre at Meiningen, again in the presence of
the poet. The first (private) performance in Berlin took place on
January 9, 1887, at the Residenz Theater; and when the Freie Buhne,
founded on the model of the Paris Theatre Libre, began its
operations two years later (September 29, 1889), _Gespenster_ was
the first play that it produced. The Freie Buhne gave the initial
impulse to the whole modern movement which has given Germany a new
dramatic literature; and the leaders of the movement, whether
authors or critics, were one and all ardent disciples of Ibsen, who
regarded _Gespenster_ as his typical masterpiece. In Germany, then,
the play certainly did, in Ibsen's own words, "move some boundary-posts."
The Prussian censorship presently withdrew its veto, and on,
November 27, 1894, the two leading literary theatres of Berlin, the
Deutsches Theater and the Lessing Theater, gave simultaneous
performances of the tragedy. Everywhere in Germany and Austria it
is now freely performed; but it is naturally one of the least
popular of Ibsen's plays.
It was with _Les Revenants_ that Ibsen made his first appearance on
the French stage. The play was produced by the Theatre Libre (at
the Theatre des Menus-Plaisirs) on May 29, 1890. Here, again, it
became the watchword of the new school of authors and critics, and
aroused a good deal of opposition among the old school. But the
most hostile French criticisms were moderation itself compared with
the torrents of abuse which were poured upon _Ghosts_ by the
journalists of London when, on March 13, 1891, the Independent
Theatre, under the direction of Mr. J. T. Grein, gave a private
performance of the play at the Royalty Theatre, Soho. I have
elsewhere [Note: See "The Mausoleum of Ibsen," _Fortnightly
Review_, August 1893. See also Mr. Bernard Shaw's _Quintessence of
Ibsenism_, p. 89, and my introduction to Ghosts in the single-volume
edition.] placed upon record some of the amazing feats of
vituperation achieved of the critics, and will not here recall
them. It is sufficient to say that if the play had been a tenth
part as nauseous as the epithets hurled at it and its author, the
Censor's veto would have been amply justified. That veto is still
(1906) in force. England enjoys the proud distinction of being the
one country in the world where _Ghosts_ may not be publicly acted.
In the United States, the first performance of the play in English
took place at the Berkeley Lyceum, New York City, on January 5,
1894. The production was described by Mr. W. D. Howells as "a great
theatrical event--the very greatest I have ever known." Other
leading men of letters were equally impressed by it. Five years
later, a second production took place at the Carnegie Lyceum; and
an adventurous manager has even taken the play on tour in the
United States. The Italian version of the tragedy, _Gli Spettri_,
has ever since 1892 taken a prominent place in the repertory of the
great actors Zaccone and Novelli, who have acted it, not only
throughout Italy, but in Austria, Germany, Russia, Spain, and South
In an interview, published immediately after Ibsen's death,
Bjornstjerne Bjornson, questioned as to what he held to be his
brother-poet's greatest work, replied, without a moment's
hesitation, _Gengangere_. This dictum can scarcely, I think, be
accepted without some qualification. Even confining our attention
to the modern plays, and leaving out of comparison _The Pretenders_,
_Brand_, and _Peer Gynt_, we can scarcely call _Ghosts_ Ibsen's
richest or most human play, and certainly not his profoundest or
most poetical. If some omnipotent Censorship decreed the
annihilation of all his works save one, few people, I imagine,
would vote that that one should be _Ghosts_. Even if half a dozen
works were to be saved from the wreck, I doubt whether I, for my
part, would include _Ghosts_ in the list. It is, in my judgment, a
little bare, hard, austere. It is the first work in which Ibsen
applies his new technical method--evolved, as I have suggested,
during the composition of _A Doll's House_--and he applies it with
something of fanaticism. He is under the sway of a prosaic ideal--
confessed in the phrase, "My object was to make the reader feel
that he was going through a piece of real experience"--and he is
putting some constraint upon the poet within him. The action moves
a little stiffly, and all in one rhythm. It lacks variety and
suppleness. Moreover, the play affords some slight excuse for the
criticism which persists in regarding Ibsen as a preacher rather
than as a creator--an author who cares more for ideas and doctrines
than for human beings. Though Mrs. Alving, Engstrand and Regina are
rounded and breathing characters, it cannot be denied that Manders
strikes one as a clerical type rather than an individual, while
even Oswald might not quite unfairly be described as simply and
solely his father's son, an object-lesson in heredity. We cannot be
said to know him, individually and intimately, as we know Helmer or
Stockmann, Hialmar Ekdal or Gregors Werle. Then, again, there are
one or two curious flaws in the play. The question whether Oswald's
"case" is one which actually presents itself in the medical books
seems to me of very trifling moment. It is typically true, even if
it be not true in detail. The suddenness of the catastrophe may
possibly be exaggerated, its premonitions and even its essential
nature may be misdescribed. On the other hand, I conceive it,
probable that the poet had documents to found upon, which may be
unknown to his critics. I have never taken any pains to satisfy
myself upon the point, which seems to me quite immaterial. There is
not the slightest doubt that the life-history of a Captain Alving
may, and often does, entail upon posterity consequences quite as
tragic as those which ensue in Oswald's case, and far more
wide-spreading. That being so, the artistic justification of the
poet's presentment of the case is certainly not dependent on its
absolute scientific accuracy. The flaws above alluded to are of
another nature. One of them is the prominence given to the fact
that the Asylum is uninsured. No doubt there is some symbolical
purport in the circumstance; but I cannot think that it is either
sufficiently clear or sufficiently important to justify the
emphasis thrown upon it at the end of the second act. Another
dubious point is Oswald's argument in the first act as to the
expensiveness of marriage as compared with free union. Since the
parties to free union, as he describes it, accept all the
responsibilities of marriage, and only pretermit the ceremony, the
difference of expense, one would suppose, must be neither more nor
less than the actual marriage fee. I have never seen this remark of
Oswald's adequately explained, either as a matter of economic fact,
or as a trait of character. Another blemish, of somewhat greater
moment, is the inconceivable facility with which, in the third act,
Manders suffers himself to be victimised by Engstrand. All these
little things, taken together, detract, as it seems to me, from the
artistic completeness of the play, and impair its claim to rank as
the poet's masterpiece. Even in prose drama, his greatest and most
consummate achievements were yet to come.
Must we, then, wholly dissent from Bjornson's judgment? I think
not. In a historical, if not in an aesthetic, sense, _Ghosts_ may
well rank as Ibsen's greatest work. It was the play which first
gave the full measure of his technical and spiritual originality
and daring. It has done far more than any other of his plays to
"move boundary-posts." It has advanced the frontiers of dramatic
art and implanted new ideals, both technical and intellectual, in
the minds of a whole generation of playwrights. It ranks with
_Hernani_ and _La Dame aux Camelias_ among the epoch-making plays
of the nineteenth century, while in point of essential originality
it towers above them. We cannot, I think, get nearer to the truth
than Georg Brandes did in the above-quoted phrase from his first
notice of the play, describing it as not, perhaps, the poet's
greatest work, but certainly his noblest deed. In another essay,
Brandes has pointed to it, with equal justice, as marking Ibsen's
final breach with his early-one might almost say his hereditary
romanticism. He here becomes, at last, "the most modern of the
moderns." "This, I am convinced," says the Danish critic, "is his
imperishable glory, and will give lasting life to his works."
MRS. HELEN ALVING, widow of Captain Alving, late Chamberlain to
the King. [Note: Chamberlain (Kammerherre) is the only title of
honour now existing in Norway. It is a distinction conferred by the
King on men of wealth and position, and is not hereditary.]
OSWALD ALVING, her son, a painter.
JACOB ENGSTRAND, a carpenter.
REGINA ENGSTRAND, Mrs. Alving's maid.
The action takes place at Mrs. Alving's country house, beside one
of the large fjords in Western Norway.
A FAMILY-DRAMA IN THREE ACTS.
[A spacious garden-room, with one door to the left, and two doors
to the right. In the middle of the room a round table, with chairs
about it. On the table lie books, periodicals, and newspapers. In
the foreground to the left a window, and by it a small sofa, with a
worktable in front of it. In the background, the room is continued
into a somewhat narrower conservatory, the walls of which are
formed by large panes of glass. In the right-hand wall of the
conservatory is a door leading down into the garden. Through the
glass wall a gloomy fjord landscape is faintly visible, veiled by
[ENGSTRAND, the carpenter, stands by the garden door. His left leg
is somewhat bent; he has a clump of wood under the sole of his
boot. REGINA, with an empty garden syringe in her hand, hinders him
REGINA. [In a low voice.] What do you want? Stop where you are.
You're positively dripping.
ENGSTRAND. It's the Lord's own rain, my girl.
REGINA. It's the devil's rain, _I_ say.
ENGSTRAND. Lord, how you talk, Regina. [Limps a step or two forward
into the room.] It's just this as I wanted to say--
REGINA. Don't clatter so with that foot of yours, I tell you! The
young master's asleep upstairs.
ENGSTRAND. Asleep? In the middle of the day?
REGINA. It's no business of yours.
ENGSTRAND. I was out on the loose last night--
REGINA. I can quite believe that.
ENGSTRAND. Yes, we're weak vessels, we poor mortals, my girl--
REGINA. So it seems.
ENGSTRAND. --and temptations are manifold in this world, you see.
But all the same, I was hard at work, God knows, at half-past five
REGINA. Very well; only be off now. I won't stop here and have
_rendezvous's_ [Note: This and other French words by Regina are in
that language in the original] with you.
ENGSTRAND. What do you say you won't have?
REGINA. I won't have any one find you here; so just you go about
ENGSTRAND. [Advances a step or two.] Blest if I go before I've had
a talk with you. This afternoon I shall have finished my work at
the school house, and then I shall take to-night's boat and be off
home to the town.
REGINA. [Mutters.] Pleasant journey to you!
ENGSTRAND. Thank you, my child. To-morrow the Orphanage is to be
opened, and then there'll be fine doings, no doubt, and plenty of
intoxicating drink going, you know. And nobody shall say of Jacob
Engstrand that he can't keep out of temptation's way.
ENGSTRAND. You see, there's to be heaps of grand folks here
to-morrow. Pastor Manders is expected from town, too.
REGINA. He's coming to-day.
ENGSTRAND. There, you see! And I should be cursedly sorry if he
found out anything against me, don't you understand?
REGINA. Oho! is that your game?
ENGSTRAND. Is what my game?
REGINA. [Looking hard at him.] What are you going to fool Pastor
Manders into doing, this time?
ENGSTRAND. Sh! sh! Are you crazy? Do _I_ want to fool Pastor
Manders? Oh no! Pastor Manders has been far too good a friend to me
for that. But I just wanted to say, you know--that I mean to be off
home again to-night.
REGINA. The sooner the better, say I.
ENGSTRAND. Yes, but I want you with me, Regina.
REGINA. [Open-mouthed.] You want me--? What are you talking about?
ENGSTRAND. I want you to come home with me, I say.
REGINA. [Scornfully.] Never in this world shall you get me home
ENGSTRAND. Oh, we'll see about that.
REGINA. Yes, you may be sure we'll see about it! Me, that have been
brought up by a lady like Mrs Alving! Me, that am treated almost as
a daughter here! Is it me you want to go home with you?--to a house
like yours? For shame!
ENGSTRAND. What the devil do you mean? Do you set yourself up
against your father, you hussy?
REGINA. [Mutters without looking at him.] You've sail often enough
I was no concern of yours.
ENGSTRAND. Pooh! Why should you bother about that--
REGINA. Haven't you many a time sworn at me and called me a--? _Fi
ENGSTRAND. Curse me, now, if ever I used such an ugly word.
REGINA. Oh, I remember very well what word you used.
ENGSTRAND. Well, but that was only when I was a bit on, don't you
know? Temptations are manifold in this world, Regina.
ENGSTRAND. And besides, it was when your mother was that
aggravating--I had to find something to twit her with, my child.
She was always setting up for a fine lady. [Mimics.] "Let me go,
Engstrand; let me be. Remember I was three years in Chamberlain
Alving's family at Rosenvold." [Laughs.] Mercy on us! She could
never forget that the Captain was made a Chamberlain while she was
in service here.
REGINA. Poor mother! you very soon tormented her into her grave.
ENGSTRAND. [With a twist of his shoulders.] Oh, of course! I'm to
have the blame for everything.
REGINA. [Turns away; half aloud.] Ugh--! And that leg too!
ENGSTRAND. What do you say, my child?
REGINA. _Pied de mouton_.
ENGSTRAND. Is that English, eh?
ENGSTRAND. Ay, ay; you've picked up some learning out here; and
that may come in useful now, Regina.
REGINA. [After a short silence.] What do you want with me in town?
ENGSTRAND. Can you ask what a father wants with his only child?
A'n't I a lonely, forlorn widower?
REGINA. Oh, don't try on any nonsense like that with me! Why do you
ENGSTRAND. Well, let me tell you, I've been thinking of setting up
in a new line of business.
REGINA. [Contemptuously.] You've tried that often enough, and much
good you've done with it.
ENGSTRAND. Yes, but this time you shall see, Regina! Devil take me--
REGINA. [Stamps.] Stop your swearing!
ENGSTRAND. Hush, hush; you're right enough there, my girl. What I
wanted to say was just this--I've laid by a very tidy pile from
this Orphanage job.
REGINA. Have you? That's a good thing for you.
ENGSTRAND. What can a man spend his ha'pence on here in this
REGINA. Well, what then?
ENGSTRAND. Why, you see, I thought of putting the money into some
paying speculation. I thought of a sort of a sailor's tavern--
ENGSTRAND. A regular high-class affair, of course; not any sort of
pig-sty for common sailors. No! damn it! it would be for captains
and mates, and--and--regular swells, you know.
REGINA. And I was to--?
ENGSTRAND. You were to help, to be sure. Only for the look of the
thing, you understand. Devil a bit of hard work shall you have, my
girl. You shall do exactly what you like.
REGINA. Oh, indeed!
ENGSTRAND. But there must be a petticoat in the house; that's as
clear as daylight. For I want to have it a bit lively like in the
evenings, with singing and dancing, and so on. You must remember
they're weary wanderers on the ocean of life. [Nearer.] Now don't
be a fool and stand in your own light, Regina. What's to become of
you out here? Your mistress has given you a lot of learning; but
what good is that to you? You're to look after the children at the
new Orphanage, I hear. Is that the sort of thing for you, eh? Are
you so dead set on wearing your life out for a pack of dirty brats?
REGINA. No; if things go as I want them to--Well there's no saying--
there's no saying.
ENGSTRAND. What do you mean by "there's no saying"?
REGINA. Never you mind.--How much money have you saved?
ENGSTRAND. What with one thing and another, a matter of seven or
eight hundred crowns. [A "krone" is equal to one shilling and
REGINA. That's not so bad.
ENGSTRAND. It's enough to make a start with, my girl.
REGINA. Aren't you thinking of giving me any?
ENGSTRAND. No, I'm blest if I am!
REGINA. Not even of sending me a scrap of stuff for a new dress?
ENGSTRAND. Come to town with me, my lass, and you'll soon get
REGINA. Pooh! I can do that on my own account, if I want to.
ENGSTRAND. No, a father's guiding hand is what you want, Regina.
Now, I've got my eye on a capital house in Little Harbour Street.
They don't want much ready-money; and it could be a sort of a
Sailors' Home, you know.
REGINA. But I will not live with you! I have nothing whatever to do
with you. Be off!
ENGSTRAND. You wouldn't stop long with me, my girl. No such luck!
If you knew how to play your cards, such a fine figure of a girl as
you've grown in the last year or two--
ENGSTRAND. You'd soon get hold of some mate--or maybe even a
REGINA. I won't marry any one of that sort. Sailors have no _savoir
ENGSTRAND. What's that they haven't got?
REGINA. I know what sailors are, I tell you. They're not the sort
of people to marry.
ENGSTRAND. Then never mind about marrying them. You can make it pay
all the same. [More confidentially.] He--the Englishman--the man
with the yacht--he came down with three hundred dollars, he did;
and she wasn't a bit handsomer than you.
REGINA. [Making for him.] Out you go!
ENGSTRAND. [Falling back.] Come, come! You're not going to hit me,
REGINA. Yes, if you begin talking about mother I shall hit you. Get
away with you, I say! [Drives him back towards the garden door.]
And don't slam the doors. Young Mr. Alving--
ENGSTRAND. He's asleep; I know. You're mightily taken up about
young Mr. Alving--[More softly.] Oho! you don't mean to say it's
REGINA. Be off this minute! You're crazy, I tell you! No, not that
way. There comes Pastor Manders. Down the kitchen stairs with you.
ENGSTRAND. [Towards the right.] Yes, yes, I'm going. But just you
talk to him as is coming there. He's the man to tell you what a
child owes its father. For I am your father all the same, you know.
I can prove it from the church register.
[He goes out through the second door to the right, which REGINA
has opened, and closes again after him. REGINA glances hastily at
herself in the mirror, dusts herself with her pocket handkerchief;
and settles her necktie; then she busies herself with the flowers.]
[PASTOR MANDERS, wearing an overcoat, carrying an umbrella, and
with a small travelling-bag on a strap over his shoulder, comes
through the garden door into the conservatory.]
MANDERS. Good-morning, Miss Engstrand.
REGINA. [Turning round, surprised and pleased.] No, really! Good
morning, Pastor Manders. Is the steamer in already?
MANDERS. It is just in. [Enters the sitting-room.] Terrible weather
we have been having lately.
REGINA. [Follows him.] It's such blessed weather for the country,
MANDERS. No doubt; you are quite right. We townspeople give too
little thought to that. [He begins to take of his overcoat.]
REGINA. Oh, mayn't I help you?--There! Why, how wet it is? I'll
just hang it up in the hall. And your umbrella, too--I'll open it
and let it dry.
[She goes out with the things through the second door on the right.
PASTOR MANDERS takes off his travelling bag and lays it and his hat
on a chair. Meanwhile REGINA comes in again.]
MANDERS. Ah, it's a comfort to get safe under cover. I hope
everything is going on well here?
REGINA. Yes, thank you, sir.
MANDERS. You have your hands full, I suppose, in preparation for
REGINA. Yes, there's plenty to do, of course.
MANDERS. And Mrs. Alving is at home, I trust?
REGINA. Oh dear, yes. She's just upstairs, looking after the young
MANDERS. Yes, by-the-bye--I heard down at the pier that Oswald had
REGINA. Yes, he came the day before yesterday. We didn't expect him
MANDERS. Quite strong and well, I hope?
REGINA. Yes, thank you, quite; but dreadfully tired with the
journey. He has made one rush right through from Paris--the whole
way in one train, I believe. He's sleeping a little now, I think;
so perhaps we'd better talk a little quietly.
MANDERS. Sh!--as quietly as you please.
REGINA. [Arranging an arm-chair beside the table.] Now, do sit
down, Pastor Manders, and make yourself comfortable. [He sits down;
she places a footstool under his feet.] There! Are you comfortable
MANDERS. Thanks, thanks, extremely so. [Looks at her.] Do you know,
Miss Engstrand, I positively believe you have grown since I last
REGINA. Do you think so, Sir? Mrs. Alving says I've filled out too.
MANDERS. Filled out? Well, perhaps a little; just enough.
REGINA. Shall I tell Mrs. Alving you are here?
MANDERS. Thanks, thanks, there is no hurry, my dear child.--
By-the-bye, Regina, my good girl, tell me: how is your father
getting on out here?
REGINA. Oh, thank you, sir, he's getting on well enough.
MANDERS. He called upon me last time he was in town.
REGINA. Did he, indeed? He's always so glad of a chance of talking
to you, sir.
MANDERS. And you often look in upon him at his work, I daresay?
REGINA. I? Oh, of course, when I have time, I--
MANDERS. Your father is not a man of strong character, Miss
Engstrand. He stands terribly in need of a guiding hand.
REGINA. Oh, yes; I daresay he does.
MANDERS. He requires some one near him whom he cares for, and whose
judgment he respects. He frankly admitted as much when he last came
to see me.
REGINA. Yes, he mentioned something of the sort to me. But I don't
know whether Mrs. Alving can spare me; especially now that we've
got the new Orphanage to attend to. And then I should be so sorry
to leave Mrs. Alving; she has always been so kind to me.
MANDERS. But a daughter's duty, my good girl--Of course, we should
first have to get your mistress's consent.
REGINA. But I don't know whether it would be quite proper for me,
at my age, to keep house for a single man.
MANDERS. What! My dear Miss Engstrand! When the man is your own
REGINA. Yes, that may be; but all the same--Now, if it were in a
thoroughly nice house, and with a real gentleman--
MANDERS. Why, my dear Regina--
REGINA. --one I could love and respect, and be a daughter to--
MANDERS. Yes, but my dear, good child--
REGINA. Then I should be glad to go to town. It's very lonely out
here; you know yourself, sir, what it is to be alone in the world.
And I can assure you I'm both quick and willing. Don't you know of
any such place for me, sir?
MANDERS. I? No, certainly not.
REGINA. But, dear, dear Sir, do remember me if--
MANDERS. [Rising.] Yes, yes, certainly, Miss Engstrand.
REGINA. For if I--
MANDERS. Will you be so good as to tell your mistress I am here?
REGINA. I will, at once, sir. [She goes out to the left.]
MANDERS. [Paces the room two or three times, stands a moment in the
background with his hands behind his back, and looks out over the
garden. Then he returns to the table, takes up a book, and looks at
the title-page; starts, and looks at several books.] Ha--indeed!
[MRS. ALVING enters by the door on the left; she is followed by
REGINA, who immediately goes out by the first door on the right.]
MRS. ALVING. [Holds out her hand.] Welcome, my dear Pastor.
MANDERS. How do you do, Mrs. Alving? Here I am as I promised.
MRS. ALVING. Always punctual to the minute.
MANDERS. You may believe it was not so easy for me to get away.
With all the Boards and Committees I belong to--
MRS. ALVING. That makes it all the kinder of you to come so early.
Now we can get through our business before dinner. But where is
MANDERS. [Quickly.] I left it down at the inn. I shall sleep there
MRS. ALVING. [Suppressing a smile.] Are you really not to be
persuaded, even now, to pass the night under my roof?
MANDERS. No, no, Mrs. Alving; many thanks. I shall stay at the inn,
as usual. It is so conveniently near the landing-stage.
MRS. ALVING. Well, you must have your own way. But I really should
have thought we two old people--
MANDERS. Now you are making fun of me. Ah, you're naturally in
great spirits to-day--what with to-morrow's festival and Oswald's
MRS. ALVING. Yes; you can think what a delight it is to me! It's
more than two years since he was home last. And now he has promised
to stay with me all the winter.
MANDERS. Has he really? That is very nice and dutiful of him. For I
can well believe that life in Rome and Paris has very different
attractions from any we can offer here.
MRS. ALVING. Ah, but here he has his mother, you see. My own
darling boy--he hasn't forgotten his old mother!
MANDERS. It would be grievous indeed, if absence and absorption in
art and that sort of thing were to blunt his natural feelings.
MRS. ALVING. Yes, you may well say so. But there's nothing of that
sort to fear with him. I'm quite curious to see whether you know
him again. He'll be down presently; he's upstairs just now, resting
a little on the sofa. But do sit down, my dear Pastor.
MANDERS. Thank you. Are you quite at liberty--?
MRS. ALVING. Certainly. [She sits by the table.]
MANDERS. Very well. Then let me show you--[He goes to the chair
where his travelling-bag lies, takes out a packet of papers, sits
down on the opposite side of the table, and tries to find a clear
space for the papers.] Now, to begin with, here is--[Breaking off.]
Tell me, Mrs. Alving, how do these books come to be here?
MRS. ALVING. These books? They are books I am reading.
MANDERS. Do you read this sort of literature?
MRS. ALVING. Certainly I do.
MANDERS. Do you feel better or happier for such reading?
MRS. ALVING. I feel, so to speak, more secure.
MANDERS. That is strange. How do you mean?
MRS. ALVING. Well, I seem to find explanation and confirmation of
all sorts of things I myself have been thinking. For that is the
wonderful part of it, Pastor Minders--there is really nothing new
in these books, nothing but what most people think and believe.
Only most people either don't formulate it to themselves, or else
keep quiet about it.
MANDERS. Great heavens! Do you really believe that most people--?
MRS. ALVING. I do, indeed.
MANDERS. But surely not in this country? Not here among us?
MRS. ALVING. Yes, certainly; here as elsewhere.
MANDERS. Well, I really must say--!
MRS. ALVING. For the rest, what do you object to in these books?
MANDERS. Object to in them? You surely do not suppose that I have
nothing better to do than to study such publications as these?
MRS. ALVING. That is to say, you know nothing of what you are
MANDERS. I have read enough about these writings to disapprove of
MRS. ALVING. Yes; but your own judgment--
MANDERS. My dear Mrs. Alving, there are many occasions in life when
one must rely upon others. Things are so ordered in this world; and
it is well that they are. Otherwise, what would become of society?
MRS. ALVING. Well, well, I daresay you're right there.
MANDERS. Besides, I of course do not deny that there may be much
that is attractive in such books. Nor can I blame you for wishing
to keep up with the intellectual movements that are said to be
going on in the great world-where you have let your son pass so
much of his life. But--
MRS. ALVING. But?
MANDERS. [Lowering his voice.] But one should not talk about it,
Mrs. Alving. One is certainly not bound to account to everybody for
what one reads and thinks within one's own four walls.
MRS. ALVING. Of course not; I quite agree with you.
MANDERS. Only think, now, how you are bound to consider the
interests of this Orphanage, which you decided on founding at a
time when--if I understand you rightly--you thought very
differently on spiritual matters.
MRS. ALVING. Oh, yes; I quite admit that. But it was about the
MANDERS. It was about the Orphanage we were to speak; yes. All I
say is: prudence, my dear lady! And now let us get to business.
[Opens the packet, and takes out a number of papers.] Do you see
MRS. ALVING. The documents?
MANDERS. All--and in perfect order. I can tell you it was hard work
to get them in time. I had to put on strong pressure. The
authorities are almost morbidly scrupulous when there is any
decisive step to be taken. But here they are at last. [Looks
through the bundle.] See! here is the formal deed of gift of the
parcel of ground known as Solvik in the Manor of Rosenvold, with
all the newly constructed buildings, schoolrooms, master's house,
and chapel. And here is the legal fiat for the endowment and for
the Bye-laws of the Institution. Will you look at them? [Reads.]
"Bye-laws for the Children's Home to be known as 'Captain Alving's
MRS. ALVING. (Looks long at the paper.) So there it is.
MANDERS. I have chosen the designation "Captain" rather than
"Chamberlain." "Captain" looks less pretentious.
MRS. ALVING. Oh, yes; just as you think best.
MANDERS. And here you have the Bank Account of the capital lying at
interest to cover the current expenses of the Orphanage.
MRS. ALVING. Thank you; but please keep it--it will be more
MANDERS. With pleasure. I think we will leave the money in the Bank
for the present. The interest is certainly not what we could wish--
four per cent. and six months' notice of withdrawal. If a good
mortgage could be found later on--of course it must be a first
mortgage and an unimpeachable security--then we could consider the
MRS. ALVING. Certainly, my dear Pastor Manders. You are the best
judge in these things.
MANDERS. I will keep my eyes open at any rate.--But now there is
one thing more which I have several times been intending to ask
MRS. ALVING. And what is that?
MANDERS. Shall the Orphanage buildings be insured or not?
MRS. ALVING. Of course they must be insured.
MANDERS. Well, wait a moment, Mrs. Alving. Let us look into the
matter a little more closely.
MRS. ALVING. I have everything insured; buildings and movables and
stock and crops.
MANDERS. Of course you have--on your own estate. And so have I--of
course. But here, you see, it is quite another matter. The
Orphanage is to be consecrated, as it were, to a higher purpose.
Yes, but that's no reason--
MANDERS. For my own part, I should certainly not see the smallest
impropriety in guarding against all contingencies--
MRS. ALVING. No, I should think not.
MANDERS. But what is the general feeling in the neighbourhood? You,
of course, know better than I.
MRS. ALVING. Well--the general feeling--
MANDERS. Is there any considerable number of people--really
responsible people--who might be scandalised?
MRS. ALVING. What do you mean by "really responsible people"?
MANDERS. Well, I mean people in such independent and influential
positions that one cannot help attaching some weight to their
MRS. ALVING. There are several people of that sort here, who would
very likely be shocked if--
MANDERS. There, you see! In town we have many such people. Think
of all my colleague's adherents! People would be only too ready to
interpret our action as a sign that neither you nor I had the right
faith in a Higher Providence.
MRS. ALVING. But for your own part, my dear Pastor, you can at
least tell yourself that--
MANDERS. Yes, I know--I know; my conscience would be quite easy,
that is true enough. But nevertheless we should not escape grave
misinterpretation; and that might very likely react unfavourably
upon the Orphanage.
MRS. ALVING. Well, in that case--
MANDERS. Nor can I entirely lose sight of the difficult--I may even
say painful--position in which _I_ might perhaps be placed. In the
leading circles of the town, people take a lively interest in this
Orphanage. It is, of course, founded partly for the benefit of the
town, as well; and it is to be hoped it will, to a considerable
extent, result in lightening our Poor Rates. Now, as I have been
your adviser, and have had the business arrangements in my hands, I
cannot but fear that I may have to bear the brunt of fanaticism--
MRS. ALVING. Oh, you mustn't run the risk of that.
MANDERS. To say nothing of the attacks that would assuredly be made
upon me in certain papers and periodicals, which--
MRS. ALVING. Enough, my dear Pastor Manders. That consideration is
MANDERS. Then you do not wish the Orphanage to be insured?
MRS. ALVING. No. We will let it alone.
MANDERS. [Leaning hack in his chair.] But if, now, a disaster were
to happen? One can never tell--Should you be able to make good the
MRS. ALVING. No; I tell you plainly I should do nothing of the
MANDERS. Then I must tell you, Mrs. Alving--we are taking no small
responsibility upon ourselves.
MRS. ALVING. Do you think we can do otherwise?
MANDERS. No, that is just the point; we really cannot do otherwise.
We ought not to expose ourselves to misinterpretation; and we have
no right whatever to give offence to the weaker brethren.
MRS. ALVING. You, as a clergyman, certainly should not.
MANDERS. I really think, too, we may trust that such an institution
has fortune on its side; in fact, that it stands under a special
MRS. ALVING. Let us hope so, Pastor Manders.
MANDERS. Then we will let it take its chance?
MRS. ALVING. Yes, certainly.
MANDERS. Very well. So be it. [Makes a note.] Then--no insurance.
MRS. ALVING. It's odd that you should just happen to mention the
MANDERS. I have often thought of asking you about it--
MRS. ALVING. --for we very nearly had a fire down there yesterday.
MANDERS. You don't say so!
MRS. ALVING. Oh, it was a trifling matter. A heap of shavings had
caught fire in the carpenter's workshop.
MANDERS. Where Engstrand works?
MRS. ALVING. Yes. They say he's often very careless with matches.
MANDERS. He has so much on his mind, that man--so many things to
fight against. Thank God, he is now striving to lead a decent life,
MRS. ALVING. Indeed! Who says so?
MANDERS. He himself assures me of it. And he is certainly a capital
MRS. ALVING. Oh, yes; so long as he's sober--
MANDERS. Ah, that melancholy weakness! But, a is often driven to it
by his injured leg, lie says,' Last time he was in town I was
really touched by him. He came and thanked me so warmly for having
got him work here, so that he might be near Regina.
MRS. ALVING. He doesn't see much of her.
MANDERS. Oh, yes; he has a talk with her every day. He told me so
MRS. ALVING. Well, it may be so.
MANDERS. He feels so acutely that he needs some one to keep a firm
hold on him when temptation comes. That is what I cannot help
liking about Jacob Engstrand: he comes to you so helplessly,
accusing himself and confessing his own weakness. The last time he
was talking to me--Believe me, Mrs. Alving, supposing it were a
real necessity for him to have Regina home again--
MRS. ALVING. [Rising hastily.] Regina!
MANDERS. --you must not set yourself against it.
MRS. ALVING. Indeed I shall set myself against it. And besides--
Regina is to have a position in the Orphanage.
MANDERS. But, after all, remember he is her father--
MRS. ALVING. Oh, I know very well what sort of a father he has been
to her. No! She shall never go to him with my goodwill.
MANDERS. [Rising.] My dear lady, don't take the matter so warmly.
You sadly misjudge poor Engstrand. You seem to be quite terrified--
MRS. ALVING. [More quietly.] It makes no difference. I have taken
Regina into my house, and there she shall stay. [Listens.] Hush, my
dear Mr. Manders; say no more about it. [Her face lights up with
gladness.] Listen! there is Oswald coming downstairs. Now we'll
think of no one but him.
[OSWALD ALVING, in a light overcoat, hat in hand, and smoking a
large meerschaum, enters by the door on the left; he stops in the
OSWALD. Oh, I beg your pardon; I thought you were in the study.
[Comes forward.] Good-morning, Pastor Manders.
MANDERS. [Staring.] Ah--! How strange--!
MRS. ALVING. Well now, what do you think of him, Mr. Manders?
MANDERS. I--I--can it really be--?
OSWALD. Yes, it's really the Prodigal Son, sir.
MANDERS. [Protesting.] My dear young friend--
OSWALD. Well, then, the Lost Sheep Found.
MRS. ALVING. Oswald is thinking of the time when you were so much
opposed to his becoming a painter.
MANDERS. To our human eyes many a step seems dubious, which
afterwards proves--[Wrings his hand.] But first of all, welcome,
welcome home! Do not think, my dear Oswald--I suppose I may call
you by your Christian name?
OSWALD. What else should you call me?
MANDERS. Very good. What I wanted to say was this, my dear Oswald
you must not think that I utterly condemn the artist's calling. I
have no doubt there are many who can keep their inner self unharmed
in that profession, as in any other.
OSWALD. Let us hope so.
MRS. ALVING. [Beaming with delight.] I know one who has kept both
his inner and his outer self unharmed. Just look at him, Mr.
OSWALD. [Moves restlessly about the room.] Yes, yes, my dear
mother; let's say no more about it.
MANDERS. Why, certainly--that is undeniable. And you have begun to
make a name for yourself already. The newspapers have often spoken
of you, most favourably. Just lately, by-the-bye, I fancy I haven't
seen your name quite so often.
OSWALD. [Up in the conservatory.] I haven't been able to paint so
MRS. ALVING. Even a painter needs a little rest now and then.
MANDERS. No doubt, no doubt. And meanwhile he can be preparing
himself and mustering his forces for some great work.
OSWALD. Yes.--Mother, will dinner soon be ready?
MRS. ALVING. In less than half an hour. He has a capital appetite,
MANDERS. And a taste for tobacco, too.
OSWALD. I found my father's pipe in my room--
MANDERS. Aha--then that accounts for it!
MRS. ALVING. For what?
MANDERS. When Oswald appeared there, in the doorway, with the pipe
in his mouth, I could have sworn I saw his father, large as life.
OSWALD. No, really?
MRS. ALVING. Oh, how can you say so? Oswald takes after me.
MANDERS. Yes, but there is an expression about the corners of the
mouth--something about the lips--that reminds one exactly of
Alving: at any rate, now that he is smoking.
MRS. ALVING. Not in the least. Oswald has rather a clerical curve
about his mouth, I think.
MANDERS. Yes, yes; some of my colleagues have much the same
MRS. ALVING. But put your pipe away, my dear boy; I won't have
smoking in here.
OSWALD. [Does so.] By all means. I only wanted to try it; for I
once smoked it when I was a child.
MRS. ALVING. You?
OSWALD. Yes. I was quite small at the time. I recollect I came up
to father's room one evening when he was in great spirits.
MRS. ALVING. Oh, you can't recollect anything of those times.
OSWALD. Yes, I recollect it distinctly. He took me on his knee, and
gave me the pipe. "Smoke, boy," he said; "smoke away, boy!" And I
smoked as hard as I could, until I felt I was growing quite pale,
and the perspiration stood in great drops on my forehead. Then he
burst out laughing heartily--
MANDERS. That was most extraordinary.
MRS. ALVING. My dear friend, it's only something Oswald has dreamt.
OSWALD. No, mother, I assure you I didn't dream it. For--don't you
remember this?--you came and carried me out into the nursery. Then
I was sick, and I saw that you were crying.--Did father often play
such practical jokes?
MANDERS. In his youth he overflowed with the joy of life--
OSWALD. And yet he managed to do so much in the world; so much that
was good and useful; although he died so early.
MANDERS. Yes, you have inherited the name of an energetic and
admirable man, my dear Oswald Alving. No doubt it will be an
incentive to you--
OSWALD. It ought to, indeed.
MANDERS. It was good of you to come home for the ceremony in his
OSWALD. I could do no less for my father.
MRS. ALVING. And I am to keep him so long! That is the best of all.
MANDERS. You are going to pass the winter at home, I hear.
OSWALD. My stay is indefinite, sir.-But, ah! it is good to be at
MRS. ALVING. [Beaming.] Yes, isn't it, dear?
MANDERS. [Looking sympathetically at him.] You went out into the
world early, my dear Oswald.
OSWALD. I did. I sometimes wonder whether it wasn't too early.
MRS. ALVING. Oh, not at all. A healthy lad is all the better for
it; especially when he's an only child. He oughtn't to hang on at
home with his mother and father, and get spoilt.
MANDERS. That is a very disputable point, Mrs. Alving. A child's
proper place is, and must be, the home of his fathers.
OSWALD. There I quite agree with you, Pastor Manders.
MANDERS. Only look at your own son--there is no reason why we
should not say it in his presence--what has the consequence been
for him? He is six or seven and twenty, and has never had the
opportunity of learning what a well-ordered home really is.
OSWALD. I beg your pardon, Pastor; there you're quite mistaken.
MANDERS. Indeed? I thought you had lived almost exclusively in
OSWALD. So I have.
MANDERS. And chiefly among the younger artists?
OSWALD. Yes, certainly.
MANDERS. But I thought few of those young fellows could afford to
set up house and support a family.
OSWALD. There are many who cannot afford to marry, sir.
MANDERS. Yes, that is just what I say.
OSWALD. But they may have a home for all that. And several of them
have, as a matter of fact; and very pleasant, well-ordered homes
they are, too.
[MRS. ALVING follows with breathless interest; nods, but says
MANDERS. But I'm not talking of bachelors' quarters. By a "home" I
understand the home of a family, where a man lives with his wife and
OSWALD. Yes; or with his children and his children's mother.
MANDERS. [Starts; clasps his hands.] But, good heavens--
MANDERS. Lives with--his children's mother!
OSWALD. Yes. Would you have him turn his children's mother out of
MANDERS. Then it is illicit relations you are talking of! Irregular
marriages, as people call them!
OSWALD. I have never noticed anything particularly irregular about
the life these people lead.
MANDERS. But how is it possible that a--a young man or young woman
with any decency of feeling can endure to live in that way?--in the
eyes of all the world!
OSWALD. What are they to do? A poor young artist--a poor girl--
marriage costs a great deal. What are they to do?
MANDERS. What are they to do? Let me tell you, Mr. Alving, what they
ought to do. They ought to exercise self-restraint from the first;
that is what they ought to do.
OSWALD. That doctrine will scarcely go down with warm-blooded young
people who love each other.
MRS. ALVING. No, scarcely!
MANDERS. [Continuing.] How can the authorities tolerate such things!
Allow them to go on in the light of day! [Confronting MRS. ALVING.]
Had I not cause to be deeply concerned about your son? In circles
where open immorality prevails, and has even a sort of recognised
OSWALD. Let me tell you, sir, that I have been in the habit of
spending nearly all my Sundays in one or two such irregular homes--
MANDERS. Sunday of all days!
OSWALD. Isn't that the day to enjoy one's self? Well, never have I
heard an offensive word, and still less have I witnessed anything
that could be called immoral. No; do you know when and where I have
come across immorality in artistic circles?
MANDERS. No, thank heaven, I don't!
OSWALD. Well, then, allow me to inform you. I have met with it when
one or other of our pattern husbands and fathers has come to Paris
to have a look round on his own account, and has done the artists
the honour of visiting their humble haunts. They knew what was what.
These gentlemen could tell us all about places and things we had
never dreamt of.
MANDERS. What! Do you mean to say that respectable men from home
OSWALD. Have you never heard these respectable men, when they got
home again, talking about the way in which immorality runs rampant
MANDERS. Yes, no doubt--
MRS. ALVING. I have too.
OSWALD. Well, you may take their word for it. They know what they
are talking about! [Presses has hands to his head.] Oh! that that
great, free, glorious life out there should be defiled in such a way!
MRS. ALVING. You mustn't get excited, Oswald. It's not good for you.
OSWALD. Yes; you're quite right, mother. It's bad for me, I know.
You see, I'm wretchedly worn out. I shall go for a little turn
before dinner. Excuse me, Pastor: I know you can't take my point of
view; but I couldn't help speaking out. [He goes out by the second
door to the right.]
MRS. ALVING. My poor boy!
MANDERS. You may well say so. Then this is what he has come to!
[MRS. ALVING looks at him silently.]
MANDERS. [Walking up and down.] He called himself the Prodigal Son.
[MRS. ALVING continues looking at him.]
MANDERS. And what do you say to all this?
MRS. ALVING. I say that Oswald was right in every word.
MANDERS. [Stands still.] Right? Right! In such principles?
MRS. ALVING. Here, in my loneliness, I have come to the same way of
thinking, Pastor Manders. But I have never dared to say anything.
Well! now my boy shall speak for me.
MANDERS. You are greatly to be pitied, Mrs. Alving. But now I must
speak seriously to you. And now it is no longer your business
manager and adviser, your own and your husband's early friend, who
stands before you. It is the priest--the priest who stood before you
in the moment of your life when you had gone farthest astray.
MRS. ALVING. And what has the priest to say to me?
MANDERS. I will first stir up your memory a little. The moment is
well chosen. To-morrow will be the tenth anniversary of your
husband's death. To-morrow the memorial in his honour will be
unveiled. To-morrow I shall have to speak to the whole assembled
multitude. But to-day I will speak to you alone.
MRS. ALVING. Very well, Pastor Manders. Speak.
MANDERS. Do you remember that after less than a year of married life
you stood on the verge of an abyss? That you forsook your house and
home? That you fled from your husband? Yes, Mrs. Alving--fled, fled,
and refused to return to him, however much he begged and prayed you?
MRS. ALVING. Have you forgotten how infinitely miserable I was in
that first year?
MANDERS. It is the very mark of the spirit of rebellion to crave for
happiness in this life. What right have we human beings to
happiness? We have simply to do our duty, Mrs. Alving! And your duty
was to hold firmly to the man you had once chosen, and to whom you
were bound by the holiest ties.
MRS. ALVING. You know very well what sort of life Alving was
leading--what excesses he was guilty of.
MANDERS. I know very well what rumours there were about him; and I
am the last to approve the life he led in his young days, if report
did not wrong him. But a wife is not appointed to be her husband's
judge. It was your duty to bear with humility the cross which a
Higher Power had, in its wisdom, laid upon you. But instead of that
you rebelliously throw away the cross, desert the backslider whom
you should have supported, go and risk your good name and
reputation, and--nearly succeed in ruining other people's reputation
into the bargain.
MRS. ALVING. Other people's? One other person's, you mean.
MANDERS. It was incredibly reckless of you to seek refuge with me.
MRS. ALVING. With our clergyman? With our intimate friend?
MANDERS. Just on that account. Yes, you may thank God that I
possessed the necessary firmness; that I succeeded in dissuading you
from your wild designs; and that it was vouchsafed me to lead you
back to the path of duty, and home to your lawful husband.
MRS. ALVING. Yes, Pastor Manders, that was certainly your work.
MANDERS. I was but a poor instrument in a Higher Hand. And what a
blessing has it not proved to you, all the days of your life, that I
induced you to resume the yoke of duty and obedience! Did not
everything happen as I foretold? Did not Alving turn his back on his
errors, as a man should? Did he not live with you from that time,
lovingly and blamelessly, all his days? Did he not become a
benefactor to the whole district? And did he not help you to rise to
his own level, so that you, little by little, became his assistant
in all his undertakings? And a capital assistant, too--oh, I know,
Mrs. Alving, that praise is due to you.--But now I come to the next
great error in your life.
MRS. ALVING. What do you mean?
MANDERS. Just as you once disowned a wife's duty, so you have since
disowned a mother's.
MRS. ALVING. Ah--!
MANDERS. You have been all your life under the dominion of a
pestilent spirit of self-will. The whole bias of your mind has been
towards insubordination and lawlessness. You have never known how to
endure any bond. Everything that has weighed upon you in life you
have cast away without care or conscience, like a burden you were
free to throw off at will. It did not please you to be a wife any
longer, and you left your husband. You found it troublesome to be a
mother, and you sent your child forth among strangers.
MRS. ALVING. Yes, that is true. I did so.
MANDERS. And thus you have become a stranger to him.
MRS. ALVING. No! no! I am not.
MANDERS. Yes, you are; you must be. And in what state of mind has he
returned to you? Bethink yourself well, Mrs. Alving. You sinned
greatly against your husband;--that you recognise by raising yonder
memorial to him. Recognise now, also, how you have sinned against
your son--there may yet be time to lead him back from the paths of
error. Turn back yourself, and save what may yet be saved in him.
For [With uplifted forefinger] verily, Mrs. Alving, you are a
guilt-laden mother! This I have thought it my duty to say to you.
MRS. ALVING. [Slowly and with self-control.] You have now spoken
out, Pastor Manders; and to-morrow you are to speak publicly in
memory of my husband. I shall not speak to-morrow. But now I will
speak frankly to you, as you have spoken to me.
MANDERS. To be sure; you will plead excuses for your conduct--
MRS. ALVING. No. I will only tell you a story.
MRS. ALVING. All that you have just said about my husband and me,
and our life after you had brought me back to the path of duty--as
you called it--about all that you know nothing from personal
observation. From that moment you, who had been our intimate friend,
never set foot in our house gain.
MANDERS. You and your husband left the town immediately after.
MRS. ALVING. Yes; and in my husband's lifetime you never came to see
us. It was business that forced you to visit me when you undertook
the affairs of the Orphanage.
MANDERS. [Softly and hesitatingly.] Helen--if that is meant as a
reproach, I would beg you to bear in mind--
MRS. ALVING. --the regard you owed to your position, yes; and that I
was a runaway wife. One can never be too cautious with such
MANDERS. My dear--Mrs. Alving, you know that is an absurd exaggeration--
MRS. ALVING. Well well, suppose it is. My point is that your
judgment as to my married life is founded upon nothing but common
knowledge and report.
MANDERS. I admit that. What then?
MRS. ALVING. Well, then, Pastor Manders--I will tell you the truth.
I have sworn to myself that one day you should know it--you alone!
MANDERS. What is the truth, then?
MRS. ALVING. The truth is that my husband died just as dissolute as
he had lived all his days.
MANDERS. [Feeling after a chair.] What do you say?
MRS. ALVING. After nineteen years of marriage, as dissolute--in his
desires at any rate--as he was before you married us.
MANDERS. And those-those wild oats--those irregularities--those
excesses, if you like--you call "a dissolute life"?
MRS. ALVING. Our doctor used the expression.
MANDERS. I do not understand you.
MRS. ALVING. You need not.
MANDERS. It almost makes me dizzy. Your whole married life, the
seeming union of all these years, was nothing more than a hidden
MRS. ALVING. Neither more nor less. Now you know it.
MANDERS. This is--this is inconceivable to me. I cannot grasp it! I
cannot realise it! But how was it possible to--? How could such a
state of things be kept secret?
MRS. ALVING. That has been my ceaseless struggle, day after day.
After Oswald's birth, I thought Alving seemed to be a little better.
But it did not last long. And then I had to struggle twice as hard,
fighting as though for life or death, so that nobody should know
what sort of man my child's father was. And you know what power
Alving had of winning people's hearts. Nobody seemed able to believe
anything but good of him. He was one of those people whose life does
not bite upon their reputation. But at last, Mr. Manders--for you
must know the whole story--the most repulsive thing of all happened.
MANDERS. More repulsive than what you have told me?
MRS. ALVING. I had gone on bearing with him, although I knew very
well the secrets of his life out of doors. But when he brought the
scandal within our own walls--
MANDERS. Impossible! Here!
MRS. ALVING. Yes; here in our own home. It was there [Pointing
towards the first door on the right], in the dining-room, that I
first came to know of it. I was busy with something in there, and
the door was standing ajar. I heard our housemaid come up from the
garden, with water for those flowers.
MRS. ALVING. Soon after, I heard Alving come in too. I heard him say
something softly to her. And then I heard--[With a short laugh]--oh!
it still sounds in my ears, so hateful and yet so ludicrous--I heard
my own servant-maid whisper, "Let me go, Mr. Alving! Let me be!"
MANDERS. What unseemly levity on his part'! But it cannot have been
more than levity, Mrs. Alving; believe me, it cannot.
MRS. ALVING. I soon knew what to believe. Mr. Alving had his way
with the girl; and that connection had consequences, Mr. Manders.
MANDERS. [As though petrified.] Such things in this house--in this
MRS. ALVING. I had borne a great deal in this house. To keep him at
home in the evenings, and at night, I had to make myself his boon
companion in his secret orgies up in his room. There I have had to
sit alone with him, to clink glasses and drink with him, and to
listen to his ribald, silly talk. I have had to fight with him to
get him dragged to bed--
MANDERS. [Moved.] And you were able to bear all this!
MRS. ALVING. I had to bear it for my little boy's sake. But when the
last insult was added; when my own servant-maid--; then I swore to
myself: This shall come to an end! And so I took the reins into my
own hand--the whole control--over him and everything else. For now I
had a weapon against him, you see; he dared not oppose me. It was
then I sent Oswald away from home. He was nearly seven years old,
and was beginning to observe and ask questions, as children do. That
I could not bear. It seemed to me the child must be poisoned by
merely breathing the air of this polluted home. That was why I sent
him away. And now you can see, too, why he was never allowed to set
foot inside his home so long as his father lived. No one knows what
that cost me.
MANDERS. You have indeed had a life of trial.
MRS. ALVING. I could never have borne it if I had not had my work.
For I may truly say that I have worked! All the additions to the
estate--all the improvements--all the labour-saving appliances, that
Alving was so much praised for having introduced--do you suppose he
had energy for anything of the sort?--he, who lay all day on the
sofa, reading an old Court Guide! No; but I may tell you this too:
when he had his better intervals, it was I who urged him on; it was
I who had to drag the whole load when he relapsed into his evil
ways, or sank into querulous wretchedness.
MANDERS. And it is to this man that you raise a memorial?
MRS. ALVING. There you see the power of an evil conscience.
MANDERS. Evil--? What do you mean?
MRS. ALVING. It always seemed to me impossible but that the truth
must come out and be believed. So the Orphanage was to deaden all
rumours and set every doubt at rest.
MANDERS. In that you have certainly not missed your aim, Mrs.
MRS. ALVING. And besides, I had one other reason. I was determined
that Oswald, my own boy, should inherit nothing whatever from his
MANDERS. Then it is Alving's fortune that--?
MRS. ALVING. Yes. The sums I have spent upon the Orphanage, year by
year, make up the amount--I have reckoned it up precisely--the
amount which made Lieutenant Alving "a good match" in his day.
MANDERS. I don't understand--
MRS. ALVING. It was my purchase-money. I do not choose that that
money should pass into Oswald's hands. My son shall have everything
[OSWALD ALVING enters through the second door to the right; he has
taken of his hat and overcoat in the hall.]
MRS. ALVING. [Going towards him.] Are you back again already? My
dear, dear boy!
OSWALD. Yes. What can a fellow do out of doors in this eternal rain?
But I hear dinner is ready. That's capital!
REGINA. [With a parcel, from the dining-room.] A parcel has come for
you, Mrs. Alving. [Hands it to her.]
MRS. ALVING. [With a glance at MR. MANDERS.] No doubt copies of the
ode for to-morrow's ceremony.
REGINA. And dinner is ready.
MRS. ALVING. Very well. We will come directly. I will just--[Begins
to open the parcel.]
REGINA. [To OSWALD.] Would Mr. Alving like red or white wine?
OSWALD. Both, if you please.
REGINA. _Bien_. Very well, sir. [She goes into the dining-room.]
OSWALD. I may as well help to uncork it. [He also goes into the
dining room, the door of which swings half open behind him.]
MRS. ALVING. [Who has opened the parcel.] Yes, I thought so. Here is
the Ceremonial Ode, Pastor Manders.
MANDERS. [With folded hands.] With what countenance I am to deliver
my discourse to-morrow--!
MRS. ALVING. Oh, you will get through it somehow.
MANDERS. [Softly, so as not to be heard in the dining-room.] Yes; it
would not do to provoke scandal.
MRS. ALVING. [Under her breath, but firmly.] No. But then this long,
hateful comedy will be ended. From the day after to-morrow, I shall
act in every way as though he who is dead had never lived in this
house. There shall be no one here but my boy and his mother.
[From the dining-room comes the noise of a chair overturned, and at
the same moment is heard:]
REGINA. [Sharply, but in a whisper.] Oswald! take care! are you mad?
Let me go!
MRS. ALVING. [Starts in terror.] Ah--!
[She stares wildly towards the half-open door. OSWALD is heard
laughing and humming. A bottle is uncorked.]
MANDERS. [Agitated.] What can be the matter? What is it, Mrs.
MRS. ALVING. [Hoarsely.] Ghosts! The couple from the conservatory--
MANDERS. Is it possible! Regina--? Is she--?
MRS. ALVING. Yes. Come. Not a word--!
[She seizes PASTOR MANDERS by the arm, and walks unsteadily towards
[The same room. The mist still lies heavy over the landscape.]
[MANDERS and MRS. ALVING enter from the dining-room.]
MRS. ALVING. [Still in the doorway.] _Velbekomme_ [Note: A phrase
equivalent to the German _Prosit die Mahlzeit_--May good digestion
wait on appetite.], Mr. Manders. [Turns back towards the
dining-room.] Aren't you coming too, Oswald?
OSWALD. [From within.] No, thank you. I think I shall go out a
MRS. ALVING. Yes, do. The weather seems a little brighter now. [She
shuts the dining-room door, goes to the hall door, and calls:]
REGINA. [Outside.] Yes, Mrs. Alving?
MRS. ALVING. Go down to the laundry, and help with the garlands.
REGINA. Yes, Mrs. Alving.
[MRS. ALVING assures herself that REGINA goes; then shuts the door.]
MANDERS. I suppose he cannot overhear us in there?
MRS. ALVING. Not when the door is shut. Besides, he's just going
MANDERS. I am still quite upset. I don't know how I could swallow a
morsel of dinner.
MRS. ALVING. [Controlling her nervousness, walks up and down.] Nor
I. But what is to be done now?
MANDERS. Yes; what is to be done? I am really quite at a loss. I am
so utterly without experience in matters of this sort.
MRS. ALVING. I feel sure that, so far, no mischief has been done.
MANDERS. No; heaven forbid! But it is an unseemly state of things,
MRS. ALVING. It is only an idle fancy on Oswald's part; you may be
sure of that.
MANDERS. Well, as I say, I am not accustomed to affairs of the kind.
But I should certainly think--
MRS. ALVING. Out of the house she must go, and that immediately.
That is as clear as daylight--
MANDERS. Yes, of course she must.
MRS. ALVING. But where to? It would not be right to--
MANDERS. Where to? Home to her father, of course.
MRS. ALVING. To whom did you say?
MANDERS. To her--But then, Engstrand is not--? Good God, Mrs.
Alving, it's impossible! You must be mistaken after all.
MRS. ALVING. Unfortunately there is no possibility of mistake.
Johanna confessed everything to me; and Alving could not deny it. So
there was nothing to be done but to get the matter hushed up.
MANDERS. No, you could do nothing else.
MRS. ALVING. The girl left our service at once, and got a good sum
of money to hold her tongue for the time. The rest she managed for
herself when she got to town. She renewed her old acquaintance with
Engstrand, no doubt let him see that she had money in her purse, and
told him some tale about a foreigner who put in here with a yacht
that summer. So she and Engstrand got married in hot haste. Why, you
married them yourself.
MANDERS. But then how to account for--? I recollect distinctly
Engstrand coming to give notice of the marriage. He was quite
overwhelmed with contrition, and bitterly reproached himself for the
misbehaviour he and his sweetheart had been guilty of.
MRS. ALVING. Yes; of course he had to take the blame upon himself.
MANDERS. But such a piece of duplicity on his part! And towards me
too! I never could have believed it of Jacob Engstrand. I shall not
fail to take him seriously to task; he may be sure of that.--And
then the immorality of such a connection! For money--! How much did
the girl receive?
MRS. ALVING. Three hundred dollars.
MANDERS. Just think of it--for a miserable three hundred dollars, to
go and marry a fallen woman!
MRS. ALVING. Then what have you to say of me? I went and married a
MANDERS. Why--good heavens!--what are you talking about! A fallen
MRS. ALVING. Do you think Alving was any purer when I went with him
to the altar than Johanna was when Engstrand married her?
MANDERS. Well, but there is a world of difference between the two
MRS. ALVING. Not so much difference after all--except in the price:--
a miserable three hundred dollars and a whole fortune.
MANDERS. How can you compare such absolutely dissimilar cases? You
had taken counsel with your own heart and with your natural
MRS. ALVING. [Without looking at him.] I thought you understood
where what you call my heart had strayed to at the time.
MANDERS. [Distantly.] Had I understood anything of the kind, I
should not have been a daily guest in your husband's house.
MRS. ALVING. At any rate, the fact remains that with myself I took
no counsel whatever.
MANDERS. Well then, with your nearest relatives--as your duty bade
you--with your mother and your two aunts.
MRS. ALVING. Yes, that is true. Those three cast up the account for
me. Oh, it's marvellous how clearly they made out that it would be
downright madness to refuse such an offer. If mother could only see
me now, and know what all that grandeur has come to!
MANDERS. Nobody can be held responsible for the result. This, at
least, remains clear: your marriage was in full accordance with law
MRS. ALVING. [At the window.] Oh, that perpetual law and order! I
often think that is what does all the mischief in this world of
MANDERS. Mrs. Alving, that is a sinful way of talking.
MRS. ALVING. Well, I can't help it; I must have done with all this
constraint and insincerity. I can endure it no longer. I must work
my way out to freedom.
MANDERS. What do you mean by that?
MRS. ALVING. [Drumming on the window frame.] I ought never to have
concealed the facts of Alving's life. But at that time I dared not
do anything else-I was afraid, partly on my own account. I was such
MANDERS. A coward?
MRS. ALVING. If people had come to know anything, they would have
said--"Poor man! with a runaway wife, no wonder he kicks over the
MANDERS. Such remarks might have been made with a certain show of
MRS. ALVING. [Looking steadily at him.] If I were what I ought to
be, I should go to Oswald and say, "Listen, my boy: your father led
a vicious life--"
MANDERS. Merciful heavens--!
MRS. ALVING. --and then I should tell him all I have told you--every
word of it.
MANDERS. You shock me unspeakably, Mrs. Alving.
MRS. ALVING. Yes; I know that. I know that very well. I myself am
shocked at the idea. [Goes away from the window.] I am such a coward.
MANDERS. You call it "cowardice" to do your plain duty? Have you
forgotten that a son ought to love and honour his father and mother?
MRS. ALVING. Do not let us talk in such general terms. Let us ask:
Ought Oswald to love and honour Chamberlain Alving?
MANDERS. Is there no voice in your mother's heart that forbids you
to destroy your son's ideals?
MRS. ALVING. But what about the truth?
MANDERS. But what about the ideals?
MRS. ALVING. Oh--ideals, ideals! If only I were not such a coward!
MANDERS. Do not despise ideals, Mrs. Alving; they will avenge
themselves cruelly. Take Oswald's case: he, unfortunately, seems to
have few enough ideals as it is; but I can see that his father
stands before him as an ideal.
MRS. ALVING. Yes, that is true.
MANDERS. And this habit of mind you have yourself implanted and
fostered by your letters.
MRS. ALVING. Yes; in my superstitious awe for duty and the
proprieties, I lied to my boy, year after year. Oh, what a coward--
what a coward I have been!
MANDERS. You have established a happy illusion in your son's heart,
Mrs. Alving; and assuredly you ought not to undervalue it.
MRS. ALVING. H'm; who knows whether it is so happy after all--? But,
at any rate, I will not have any tampering wide Regina. He shall not
go and wreck the poor girl's life.
MANDERS. No; good God--that would be terrible!
MRS. ALVING. If I knew he was in earnest, and that it would be for
MANDERS. What? What then?
MRS. ALVING. But it couldn't be; for unfortunately Regina is not the
right sort of woman.
MANDERS. Well, what then? What do you mean?
MRS. ALVING. If I weren't such a pitiful coward, I should say to
him, "Marry her, or make what arrangement you please, only let us
have nothing underhand about it."
MANDERS. Merciful heavens, would you let them marry! Anything so
dreadful--! so unheard of--
MRS. ALVING. Do you really mean "unheard of"? Frankly, Pastor
Manders, do you suppose that throughout the country there are not
plenty of married couples as closely akin as they?
MANDERS. I don't in the least understand you.
MRS. ALVING. Oh yes, indeed you do.
MANDERS. Ah, you are thinking of the possibility that--Alas! yes,
family life is certainly not always so pure as it ought to be. But
in such a case as you point to, one can never know--at least with
any certainty. Here, on the other hand--that you, a mother, can
think of letting your son--
MRS. ALVING. But I cannot--I wouldn't for anything in the world;
that is precisely what I am saying.
MANDERS. No, because you are a "coward," as you put it. But if you
were not a "coward," then--? Good God! a connection so shocking!
MRS. ALVING. So far as that goes, they say we are all sprung from
connections of that sort. And who is it that arranged the world so,
MANDERS. Questions of that kind I must decline to discuss with you,
Mrs. Alving; you are far from being in the right frame of mind for
them. But that you dare to call your scruples "cowardly"--!
MRS. ALVING. Let me tell you what I mean. I am timid and
faint-hearted because of the ghosts that hang about me, and that I
can never quite shake off.
MANDERS. What do you say hangs about you?