The Wild Duck

Definition

Theater

  • Henrik Ibsen's tragicomedy aboutthe damaging effects of idealism. Sometimes regarded as his masterpiece,it was first performed in 1884 in Bergen. The idealistic Gregers Werletakes it upon himself to save Hjalmar Ekdal's family from "a life based on lies" by telling Hjalmar that his beloved 14-year-old daughter, Hedvig, is not in fact his child. Although Hedvig worships him, Hjalmar turns against her. Gregers advises the girl to shoot the wounded duck, which thefamily keeps in the attic, to prove to her father that she will sacrificeher greatest treasure for him. Instead, she shoots herself.

    There has been much speculation as to what the captive ducksymbolizes; suggestions have ranged from the family's self-delusions,to human weakness, to misplaced idealism. Ibsen himself gave no clue.Neither would he suggest how the parts should be played. He once attendeda performance of The Wild Duck in Copenhagen to the great excitementof the cast, who asked if their interpretations had been satisfactory.Again, the playwright refused to offer any opinion.

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