Pillars of Society

Definition

Theater

  • The first of the 'social' dramas in prose with which HenrikIbsen revolutionized the theater of the late 19th century.First performed in 1877 in Copenhagen, it quickly established theauthor's reputation in Germany, with five theaters in Berlin presentingthe play within five months of its publication. It was also the firstIbsen play to be translated (by William Archer) for production inLondon, opening as Quicksands; or, The Pillars of Society in1880 at the Gaiety Theatre.

    The story focuses on Karsten Bernick, a wealthy businessman whois regarded as the moral and financial pillar of the small Norwegian community in which he lives. Bernick, however, has a secret. Some 15 years earlier, threatened by a potential scandal, he had allowed his brother-in-law, Johan, to take the blame and flee to America. When Johan returns, Bernick is terrified that the truth will be revealed andbecomes enmeshed in a desperate, potentially deadly, plot to save hisskin. Although a tragic outcome seems inevitable, Ibsen contrives a happy ending that has left many critics dissatisfied: Johan sails for America without saying anything, and Bernick is prompted to make a highlypublic confession that has the effect of bringing his family closer together.

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