History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/Scandinavian Romantic
At the start of his career, Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) wrote Romantic dramas, whose most famous examples include "Peer Gynt" (1867) and "Kongs-Emnerne" (The pretenders to the crown, 1863), the latter based on the life of King Hakon (1217-1263).
Henrik Hertz (1797-1870) wrote one of the main comedies of the period: "Kong Renés Datter" (King René's daughter, 1845), based on the life of Yolande, duchess of Lorraine (1428-1483). Adam Oehlenschläger (1779-1850) introduced romanticism to the Danish theatre with "Hakon Jarl hin Rige" (Earl Hakon the Mighty, 1808).
"Peer Gynt". Time: 1800-1860. Place: Norway, Africa.
"Peer Gynt" text at http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/i/ibsen/henrik/peer
Although knowing him as an inveterate liar, Ase is at first mesmerized by the outrageous hunting stories told by her son, Peer, to justify his long absence, before noticing such events happened to someone else. Her complaints against her son are vehement to the point that a frustrated Peer lifts her on top of the millhouse and leaves her there for neighbors to find. Though uninvited, Peer joins a wedding party where he meets Solveig and is immediately smitten by her modest looks. The groom is unable to get his bride out of the garret where she is staying out of spite of the arranged marriage. Instead of helping the groom, Peer takes off with the bride. Instead of helping the bride, he abandons her on a mountain path after seducing her. To gain freedom, Peer takes to the mountains, where he meets the old man of the Douvre, who presides over a band of trolls. The old man explains to Peer the advantages of living a troll's life, but when he proposes marriage to his daughter, Peer runs off again. When he returns to his village, he finds his mother stripped of most of her possessions by the villagers, angry at her son's misdeeds. She is sick. Peer takes her in his arms, imagining the two of them off on a sleigh-ride to St Peter's gate, where she dies indeed. Over the course of several decades, Peer amasses a large fortune in the slave trade to the United States and the selling of idols in China. In Morocco, he is treated as a prophet by his servant girls, till one of them abandons him treacherously in the desert. His fortune takes an even more downward turn when he is mistakenly taken to a madhouse. Peer wants to get out from a place where, according to him, one cannot become one's self, but the director of the establishment points out that here one is all too much one's self. Peer escapes on a boat on its way to Norway, but it founders in a storm. To save his own life, Peer pushes down to his death a passenger clinging to a narrow piece of wreckage. Peer returns to his village almost in the same state as he left, where he is greeted by a smelter, servant of the great master. The smelter declares that Peer's life is over: he is to be melted away with the common run of humankind. Peer is astounded at this judgment. Has he not continuously acted as himself, different and apart from all others? The smelter does not agree, but Peer cannot find anyone, not even the devil, who is ready to attest that his life's actions merit any special outcome, until Solveig arrives, who has waited all these years only for his return. The smelter agrees to let him lay in her arms at least for a while.
"The pretenders to the crown"
"The pretenders to the crown". Time: 1210s-1240s. Place: Bergen, Oslo, and Nidaros, Norway.
"The pretenders to the crown" text at http://www.onread.com/book/The-collected-works-of-Henrik-Ibsen-298272
After Inga submitted to the ordeal of burning steel on her hands, swearing that Hakon was truly her son of the previous king, he is elected king of Norway. To conciliate the other pretenders to the crown, notably his uncle, Skule, presently a jarl and main intendant in the previous reign, Hakon agrees to send away his mother, marry Skule's daughter, Margrete, and allow Skule to hold the king's seal on all his letters. One day, Skule sends a letter to one of the king's enemies without his knowledge. Bishop Nikolas, main religious authority in the realm, discovers this and tries to foment hate between the two, so that he himself may attain greater power in their division. He specifies that despite the results of the ordeal, Hakon may still be a bastard, because many years ago he had advised a priest, Trond, to exchange the baby left to his charge by Inga for another. Meanwhile, Hakon also discovers Skule's treachery and takes away his power to control the seal. Nevertheless, he names him to a post of higher rank, as the first duke in Norway. Nikolas becomes very sick and on his death-couch informs Skule about a letter he received from Inga containing Trond's admission as to whether he exchanged the baby or not. To continue exerting power even after death, he maliciously asks Skule to burn his papers only to reveal afterwards that he just burned Trond's letter. Though wavering in uncertainty, Skule eventually revolts against Hakon and is named the second king in Norway. One day, Skule receives the visit of a woman he once abandoned many years ago, who, to his joy, reveals he has a son, Peter, whom she leaves with him as the eventual heir to the crown. After achieving one great victory against his foe, Skule is surrounded with fewer warriors in the town of Nidaros. To impress the legitimacy of his crown to the townsmen, he asks Peter to remove St. Olaf's shrine from a convent, but this move backfires, as they consider this a sacrilege, being against the friars' will. Skule is forced to escape with few men in a skiff and heads towards a monastery where Hakon's baby and heir to the throne is kept. On the way, Nikolas' ghost appears to encourage him, but instead, Skule is devastated on considering that he and Peter are acting as servants of the devil's will. At the convent, Peter begs him to kill Hakon's son, but losing confidence in himself, Skule admits that the grand thought of Norway's unification is not his but Hakon's. In despair, he convinces his son to submit to death at the hands of the men beside the rightful king.
"King René's daughter"
"King René's daughter". Time: 15th century. Place: Provence, France.
"King René's daughter" text at http://archive.org/details/kingrensdaught00hertiala
During her childhood, Iolanthe, daughter of King René, became blind as a result of a fire in the house. Since then, she has been kept secluded and is even unaware of what sight is. To make peace with his rebellious subject, Count Antonio Vaudemont, the king has promised his daughter's hand in marriage to the count's son, Tristan. By chance, Tristan enters a garden where Iolanthe is sleeping. He removes an amulet from her breast, which awakes her, the amulet serving as a charm discovered by her tutor, Ebn Jahia, to control her sleep-time, so that servants may be prepared to minister to her. While Tristan's friend, Geoffrey, surveys the region for their safety, Tristan asks Iolanthe for a white rose. She gives him a red one instead. He discovers she is blind and does not know she is blind. Yet there is one thing she possesses. "In you is such an inward radiance of soul that you have no need of what by the light we through the eye discern," he says. He calls her "beautiful unknown" and quickly declares his love of her. Iolanthe is charmed by his voice and manner. "Your words are laden with a wondrous power," she says. "Say, from what master did you learn the art to charm, by words, which yet are mysteries?" Tristan must go but promises to return. Iolanthe's servant, Martha, is surprised to find her awake. King René and Ebn Jahia discover that a stranger has intruded into the garden and spoken to Iolanthe. Ebn Jahia tells the king now is the time to reveal to his daughter what sight is, for otherwise there is no hope she will ever be cured. Reluctantly, the king tries to, but is only partly successful. To his surprise, he receives word that Tristan has broken off the engagement, but then, Tristan and Geoffrey with their aides overpower the king's guards and re-enter the garden. Their wonder is great on discovering Tristan has already met Iolanthe, "a beautiful maiden", in Tristan's eyes, "whose praise not all Provence's troubadours could chant in measures equal to her worth". Ibn Jahia cures Iolanthe, but she lies in a fearful state, having regained her sight but wondering at everything she sees. Confident in the future, the king is overjoyed. "Blessings on you both from God, whose wondrous works we all revere," he cries out.
"Earl Hakon the Mighty"
"Earl Hakon the Mighty". Time: 10th century. Place: Norway.
"Earl Hakon the Mighty" text at http://www.archive.org/details/earlhakonmighty00oehlgoog
Hakon has reigned in Norway as an earl for 17 years, but he is worried about the intentions of Olaf Trygveson, who intends to become the country's legitimate king. In a sacred grove where pagan gods are worshiped, Hakon discovers the blacksmith's daughter, Gudrun, who says to him in banter: "Do you refuse a kiss to Hakon, soon to be proud Norway's king, and shall he long solicit?" But she manages to escape from his lustful arms. He asks Thorer, his right-hand man, to meet Olaf to discover his intentions and "to seek a strife with him". Meanwhile, Bergthor, the blacksmith, hearing from Gudrun what happened at the grove, hides her in the cellar so that Hakon cannot get to her. Thorer speaks to Olaf about Hakon. "A long time has he sat there; but, my lord, at last have Norway's peasants found it is disgraceful to be governed by an earl," he says,"and Norway anxiously but awaits a bold and lawful king to overthrow Earl Hakon and to hurl him from his seat." This surprises Olaf and makes him change his plans. He now would be Norway's king, not only for personal power. "To Christianize my country! Noble thought!" he exclaims. While walking about in preparation for battle, Hakon's feather in his helmet is struck by an arrow, Einar's, intending to frighten the great earl. Hakon threatens and challenges him while pointing to a tree. "There is a small dark spot upon the bark; now shoot, and if the arrow passes through the spot, and sticks firm in it, then will I believe your story," he says. Einar succeeds, so that Hakon takes him in his army. One of the earl's men, Stein, interrupts Gudrun's wedding party, because the earl wants her for himself. The bridegroom, Orm, with the help of friends and family members, succeed in defending her against Stein and his fellows, the peasants crying out: "Earl Hakon dies!" Thorer's thrall, Grib, reveals to Carlshoved and Jostein, two warriors, that Hakon plans to kill Olaf by stealth instead of fighting him in the field of battle. "Here, in this very wood," he says, "shall Olaf be enticed by Thorer Klake, greeted with show of friendship, and then murdered." They are horrified but pretend to promise constant loyalty towards the earl. As Olaf approaches, Carlshoved decries far off "the crimson banner with the milk-white cross", Jostein explaining: "The red betokens valiant hero's courage, the white the peace of Christianity." With a retinue of monks, Olaf raises the banner on high and plants it firmly in the ground, exclaiming: "The tree shall spread its mighty branches wide over the fatherland and in its shade shall friendship, love, and piety reside." Jostein and Carlshoved immediately reveal Thorer's intention, but the danger is averted on learning that Grib has stabbed his master with a poisoned dagger. Olaf then approaches Hakon in disguise, offering him an ultimatum: "Choose between two courses: still be earl of Hlade as before and do me homage, or else take flight, for when we meet again it will be the time for red and bleeding brows." The earl chooses to fight. In a skirmish, Hakon' son, Erland, is killed. To inveigle the gods in his favor, he stabs to death his other son, Erlin. On hearing this, Einar changes side. Hakon is unable to defeat Olaf, and must hide in the castle of Thyra, a woman he deserted and whose two brothers he killed. Still loving him, she accepts to hide him in a subterranean cave. "The pallid ghost you see was once great Norway's mighty lord," Hakon says mournfully of himself. In the cavern and alone with his man, Karker, Hakon hears about Olaf's offer of a reward for his head. Wearied, he falls asleep, but yet is seen walking in his sleep, crying out to Karker: "It is over now. Here is my dagger, plunge it in my heart." A frightened Karker answers: "That will but make you angry should you wake." Yet at last Karker stabs him to death. Olaf is crowned, but, on hearing how treacherously Hakon was murdered, he orders Karker to be hanged.