A Doll’s House

This play by Henrick Ibsen performed at La Boite portrays the futility of marriage for women in the 19th century, when men dominated all areas of civil society.

This critique of marriage could well apply in the 21st century, as social progress is not linear … it often plunges backwards.

Strangely the production at La Boite seemed to suggest otherwise equating the emancipation of women with the modern era.

I say this because in the last scene of the play, when the heroine (Nora) finally leaves her self-absorbed husband, the director departs from the original script. Nora changes from her historical costume (shown) into a modern black shift and high heels as if to say that the world has changed and that modern woman has emerged independent. I ask where is the emancipation depicted in this version?

Does it lie in consumer matrimony? In modern streets dotted with wedding shops? In western films still showing marriage as the institution of choice for modern woman? As a necessary step before embarking on having children?

Ibsen was forced to re-write the ending of the dolls house to accommodate German society’s outrage that a woman  should leave her husband and her children. He later confessed this to have been a grave mistake. Here is the original ending as spoken by Nora to her husband Torvald in the original script:

I have heard that when a wife deserts her husband’s house, as I am doing now, he is legally freed from all obligations towards her.

In any case, I set you free from all your obligations.

You are not to feel yourself bound in the slightest way, any more than I shall.

There must be perfect freedom on both sides. See, here is your ring back. Give me mine.

Ian Curr
October 2014

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