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Norway and the Wild Duck

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  • louise
    In Ibsen s later plays we seem at last to be shown men and women as they are; and it is at first more than we can endure. It sets the brain whirling, this
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 5, 2004
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      "In Ibsen's later plays we seem at last to be shown men and women as
      they are; and it is at first more than we can endure. It sets the
      brain whirling, this array of naked souls. Bernick, Rosmer, Ellida,
      Mrs. Alving, Rebecca, Hedda, Lovborg - men and women, weak or
      strong, they have all to yield up their secret to this new Wizard of
      the North. All Ibsen's characters speak and act as if they were
      hypnotized, and under their creator's imperious command to reveal
      themselves. There never was such a mirror held up to nature before:
      it is too terrible. One cannot read Dickens after a play of
      Ibsen's, hardly even Thackeray. Refuge may be found in Scott, whose
      men and women are hidden in the trappings of romance; or in
      Shakespeare, where, though souls are sometimes naked, they appear
      in "the light that never was on sea or land", and fill us with the
      melancholy we have learned to love. Yet we must return to Ibsen
      with his remorseless surgery, his remorseless elctric light, until
      we, too, have grown strong, and learned to face the naked, if
      necessary, the flayed and bleeding reality. It is well, once in a
      lifetime, once in an age, to go down to the roots of things, to put
      a thermomoeter in the central fire, to grope about in caves and
      mines, to search the bottom of the sea; but the earth is not a naked
      geological specimen. It is a place to live on, clothed with grass
      and forests, and enamelled with flowers, with the atmosphere for
      cloak, and sun, moon, and stars for lamps. After a volume of the
      later Ibsen it is refreshing to enumerate these commonplaces.
      Neither is man, as was long ago remarked, a naked animal, nor is his
      soul unclothed: even those who strip it of religion and duty are
      ready with another garment, if it were only some fantastic new
      protestantism of Every Man His Own God. There is no such thing as
      naked reality; the attempt at it in literature is unreal, inasmuch
      as it is incomplete. The trees and flowers are as real as the soil
      from which they spring, and the so-called illusions with which the
      soul clothes itself are also a part of reality. To see the soul
      stripped of these, and held out like a heart throbbing from a living
      breast, is perhaps in our time a necessary lesson. But once is
      enough."

      Section XII, from 'Sentences and Paragraphs', by John Davidson,
      Lawrence & Bullen, 1983.

      So this is offered by way of a reminder, of the variousness of
      European existential thought, its artistic as well as philosophical
      expressions.

      Louise
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