Further information on Winter 2020 courses


Solveig Zempel: The Plays of Henrik Ibsen


Expanded description:


Course text

Students need to get the following specific paperback editions!  (These are new translations, much preferable to the older versions). The instructor will provide additional handouts

These paperbacks tend to cost around $16, and may be available more cheaply on Kindle.

They are published by Penguin Classics, which also has older editions that we don’t want.

  1. A Doll’s House and Other Plays by Henrik Ibsen (edited by Tore Rem, Introduction by Tore Rem, and translated by Deborah Dawkin and Erik Skuggevik)
  1. Hedda Gabler and Other Plays by Henrik Ibsen (translated by Deborah Dawkin and Erik Skuggevik, available in paperback on Jan. 14, 2020)



Schedule of classes (subject to modification)

All readings are from Penguin Classics (new titles).   Please try to read each play before the session.  Discussion questions specific to each play will be handed out at the previous session.  Students are encouraged to bring their own questions for discussion as well.

Day 1   Introduction to the course, overview of Ibsen’s life and works. 

Day 2   Pillars of the Community

Day 3   Doll’s House

Day 4   Ghost

Day 5   Wild Duck

Day 6   Lady from the Sea or Rosmersholm

Day 7   Hedda Gabler

Day 8   One additional play or summarize our discussion.  Wrap up

Hints to prepare for class sessions:  As you read each play, you might want to consider and perhaps jot down notes on the following, in addition to discussion suggestions that the instructor will hand out in class:

  1. Describe the major characters. Indicate the relationships between them.  What do we learn about their backgrounds in each act?  What role do the secondary characters play?
  2. Outline how the action unfolds, and how the background to the action is gradually revealed. Describe any special literary or dramatic techniques that you spot, such as use of symbols, retrospective technique, staging, etc.
  3. Describe the structure of the society Ibsen depicts in the play. How does Ibsen depict the relationships between men and women in the play?  If children are present, what is their role? Who represents various classes?  How do the classes interact?  How are the relationships between men and women and between members of various classes today similar to or different from Ibsen’s depiction in this play?
  4. Think about the implications of the ending of the play. Do any of the characters learn a lesson?  Does the audience?  What questions are we left with at the end of the play?
  5. Write down anything that you would like to have the class discuss.