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IBSEN, Henrik

The Master Builder

SOLNESS: [Looks despondently at her.] Building homes for human beings—is not worth a rap, Hilda.

HILDA: Do you say that now?

SOLNESS: Yes, for now I see it. Men have no use for these homes of theirs—to be happy in. And I should not have had any use for such a home, if I had had one. [With a quiet, bitter laugh.] See, that is the upshot of the whole affair, however far back I look. Nothing really built; nor anything sacrificed for the chance of building. Nothing, nothing! the whole is nothing!


Hedda Gabler

(Hedda sits in the corner of the sofa. Brack lays his coat over the back of the nearerst chair and sits down, keeping his hat in his hand. A short pause. They look at each other.)

HEDDA. Well?

BRACK (in the same tone). Well?

HEDDA. I spoke first.

BRACK (bending a little forward). Come, let us have a cosy little chat, Mrs. Hedda.

HEDDA (leaning further back in the sofa ). Does it not seem like a whole eternity since our last talk? Of course I don’t count those few words yesterday evening and this morning.

BRACK. You mean since our last confidential talk? Our last tete-a- tete?

HEDDA. Well, yes- since you put it so.

BRACK. Not a day has passed but I have wished that you were home again.

HEDDA. And I have done nothing but wish the same thing.

BRACK. You? Really, Mrs. Hedda? And I thought you had been enjoying your tour so much!

HEDDA. Oh, yes, you may be sure of that!

BRACK. But Tesman’s letters spoke of nothing but happiness.

HEDDA. Oh, Tesman! You see, he thinks nothing so delightful as grubbing in libraries and making copies of old parchments, or whatever you call them.

An enemy of the people

The most dangerous enemy of truth and freedom among us-Is the compact majority. Yes, the damned, compact, liberal majority . . .

The majority has might-unfortunately-but right it is not. Right-are I and a few others. The minority is always right. . .

I have a mind to make a revolution against the lie that the majority is in the possession of truth. What kind of truths are those around which the majority usually gathers? They are truths that have become so old that they are on the way toward becoming shaky. But once a truth has become that old, it is also on the way toward becoming a lie . . . A normally constituted truth lives, let us say, as a rule seventeen or eighteen years; at most twenty, rarely more. But such aged truths are always exceedingly thin. Nevertheless it is only at that stage that the majority makes their acquaintance . . . All these majority truths . . . are rather like rancid, spoiled . . . hams. And that is the source of the moral scurvy that rages all around us...


Peer Gynt

His courser is white as the milk is

that streams in the rivers of Paradise.

Bend every knee! Bow every head!

His eyes are as bright-gleaming, mild-beaming stars.

Yet none earth-born endureth

the rays of those stars in their blinding splendour!

Through the desert he came.

Gold and pearl-drops sprang forth on his breast.

Where he rode there was light.

Behind him was darkness;

behind him raged drought and the simoom.

He, the glorious one, came!

Through the desert he came,

like a mortal apparelled.

Kaaba, Kaaba stands void;-

he himself hath proclaimed it!

To be oneself on a basis of gold

is no better than founding one's house on the sand.

For your watch, and your ring, and the rest of your trappings

the good people fawn on you, grovelling to earth;

they lift their hats to your jewelled breast-pin;

but your ring and your breast-pin are not your person.-


The Doll house

ACT II – Excerpt

[THE SAME SCENE.--THE Christmas Tree is in the corner by the piano, stripped of its ornaments and with burnt-down candle-ends on its dishevelled branches. NORA'S cloak and hat are lying on the sofa. She is alone in the room, walking about uneasily. She stops by the sofa and takes up her cloak.]

Nora [drops her cloak]. Someone is coming now! [ Goes to the door and listens.] No--it is no one. Of course, no one will come today, Christmas Day--nor tomorrow either. But, perhaps--[opens the door and looks out]. No, nothing in the letterbox; it is quite empty. [ Comes forward.] What rubbish! of course he can't be in earnest about it. Such a thing couldn't happen; it is impossible--I have three little children.

[Enter the NURSE from the room on the left, carrying a big cardboard box.]

Nurse. At last I have found the box with the fancy dress.

Nora. Thanks; put it on the table.

Nurse [ doing so]. But it is very much in want of mending.

Nora. I should like to tear it into a hundred thousand pieces.

Nurse . What an idea! It can easily be put in order--just a little patience.

Nora. Yes, I will go and get Mrs Linde to come and help me with it.

Nurse . What, out again? In this horrible weather? You will catch cold, ma'am, and make yourself ill.

Nora . Well, worse than that might happen. How are the children?

Nurse. The poor little souls are playing with their Christmas presents, but--

Nora. Do they ask much for me?

Nurse. You see, they are so accustomed to have their mamma with them.

Nora. Yes, but, nurse, I shall not be able to be so much with them now as I was before.

Nurse . Oh well, young children easily get accustomed to anything.

Nora. Do you think so? Do you think they would forget their mother if she went away altogether?

Nurse. Good heavens!--went away altogether?

Nora. Nurse, I want you to tell me something I have often wondered about--how could you have the heart to put your own child out among strangers?

Nurse. I was obliged to, if I wanted to be little Nora's nurse.

Nora. Yes, but how could you be willing to do it?

Nurse. What, when I was going to get such a good place by it? A poor girl who has got into trouble should be glad to. Besides, that wicked man didn't do a single thing for me.

Nora. But I suppose your daughter has quite forgotten you.

Nurse . No, indeed she hasn't. She wrote to me when she was confirmed, and when she was married.

Nora [ putting her arms round her neck ]. Dear old Anne, you were a good mother to me when I was little.

Nurse. Little Nora, poor dear, had no other mother but me.

Nora. And if my little ones had no other mother, I am sure you would--What nonsense I am talking! [ Opens the box.] Go in to them. Now I must--. You will see tomorrow how charming I shall look.

Nurse. I am sure there will be no one at the ball so charming as you, ma'am. [Goes into the room on the left.]

Nora [ begins to unpack the box, but soon pushes it away from her ]. If only I dared go out. If only no one would come. If only I could be sure nothing would happen here in the meantime. Stuff and nonsense! No one will come. Only I mustn't think about it. I will brush my muff. What lovely, lovely gloves! Out of my thoughts, out of my thoughts! One, two, three, four, five, six-- [Screams.] Ah! there is someone coming--. [Makes a movement towards the door, but stands irresolute.]

[Enter Mrs Linde from the hall, where she has taken off her cloak and hat.]

Nora. Oh, it's you, Christine. There is no one else out there, is there? How good of you to come!

Mrs Linde . I heard you were up asking for me.

Nora. Yes, I was passing by. As a matter of fact, it is something you could help me with. Let us sit down here on the sofa. Look here. Tomorrow evening there is to be a fancy-dress ball at the Stenborgs', who live above us; and Torvald wants me to go as a Neapolitan fisher-girl, and dance the Tarantella that I learned at Capri.

I am half inclined to think we are all ghosts…it is not only what we have inherited from our fathers and mothers that exists again in us, but all sorts of old dead ideas and all kinds of old dead beliefs and things of that kind. They are not actually alive in us; but there they are dormant all the same, and we can never be rid of them. Whenever I take up a newspaper and read it, I fancy I see ghosts creeping between the lines. There must be ghosts all over the world. They must be as countless as the grains of the sands, it seems to me. And we are so miserably afraid of the light, all of us.