Staging the epic self : theatricality, philosophy and personality in brand and Peer Gynt

Michael INGHAM

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Whilst Ibsen himself averred “Brand is myself—in my best moment” (Meyer 2004:14) and considered Peer Gynt the character converse of his previous work, one is strongly inclined to concur with John Northam’s perceptive remark about Ibsen’s break-through poetic dramas that Peer Gynt is not just the antithesis of the preceding play but is in an important sense “its twin” (McFarlane 1994:38). Both plays stage the epic drama of the self and evince notably autobiographical elements in the process of dramatising, scrutinising and questioning the philosophical dialectic of self and other. This paper will explore the ambivalence of both plays and challenge the received critical idea about the Ibsen dramatic trajectory that tends to marginalize the watershed poetic and philosophical works. This view implies that they represent a false direction and that the subsequent social problem plays enabled Ibsen to discover his true self as a dramatist. As Shaw pointed out about the protagonists of Brand, Peer Gynt and Emperor and Galilean, Ibsen “put himself into the skin of Brand, Peer Gynt and Julian, and these figures have accordingly a certain direct virality which belongs to none of his subsequent creations of the male sex” (Shaw 1994:36).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIbsen and the modern self
PublisherOpen University of Hong Kong Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print)9789627707738
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2010


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