The Master Builder



  • A tragedy by Henrik Ibsen. The play, written on Ibsen's returnto Norway after many years of exile, was first performed in 1893 in Berlin.An English-language version was staged in London a few weeks later.Contemporary critics found the play's symbolism "maddeningly obscure",with The Stage denouncing it as "three acts of gibberish".

    The play concerns the architect Halvard Solness, a man ofgreat energy and iron will whose virility is now waning with age.A young woman, Hilda Wangel, appears one day to announce (with overtsexual symbolism) that she has worshipped him since the day, manyyears earlier, that she watched him climb to the top of a great towerhe had built. Solness is both excited and troubled by her admiration.He has just built a house with a tower for himself and his wife, andHilda insists that he climb to the top and crown it with a laurelwreath. Solness, overcome by her faith in him, struggles to the topbefore falling to his death.

    Ibsen admitted that Solness was "a man somewhat likeme". Both were inveterate wanderers, both had midlife crisesinvolving brief infatuations with young women, and both failed tofind happiness in success when it belatedly arrived.