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Exiled Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen wrote A Doll's House and Hedda Gabler, the latter of which featured one of theater's most notorious characters.
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Henrik Ibsen was born on March 20, 1828, in Skien, Norway. In 1862, he was exiled to Italy, where he wrote the tragedy Brand. In 1868, Ibsen moved to Germany, where he wrote one of his most famous works: the play A Doll's House. In 1890, he wrote Hedda Gabler, creating one of theater's most notorious characters. By 1891, Ibsen had returned to Norway a literary hero. He died on May 23, 1906, in Oslo, Norway.
As a child, Henrik Ibsen showed little sign of the theatrical genius he would become. He grew up in the small Norwegian coastal town of Skien as the oldest of five children born to Knud and Marichen Ibsen. His father was a successful merchant and his mother painted, played the piano and loved to go to the theater. Ibsen himself expressed an interest in becoming an artist as well.
The family was through into poverty when Ibsen was 8 because of problems with his father's business. Nearly all traces of their previous affluence had to be sold off to cover debts, and the family moved to a rundown farm near town. There Ibsen spent much of his time reading, painting and performing magic tricks.
At 15, Ibsen stopped school and went to work. He landed a position as an apprentice in an apothecary in Grimstad. Ibsen worked there for six years, using his limited free time to write poetry and paint. In 1849, he wrote his first play Catilina, a drama written in verse modeled after one of his great influences, William Shakespeare.
Ibsen moved to Christiania (later known as Oslo) in 1850 to prepare for university examinations to study at the University of Christiania. Living in the capital, he made friends with other writers and artistic types. One of these friends, Ole Schulerud, paid for the publication of Ibsen's first play Catilina, which failed to get much notice.
The following year, Ibsen had a fateful encounter with violinist and theater manager Ole Bull. Bull liked Ibsen and offered him a job as a writer and manager for the Norwegian Theatre in Bergen. The position proved to be an intense tutorial in all things theatrical and even included traveling abroad to learn more about his craft. In 1857, Ibsen returned to Christiania to run another theater there. This proved to be a frustrating venture for him, with others claiming that he mismanaged the theater and calling for his ouster. Despite his difficulties, Ibsen found time to write Love's Comedy, a satirical look at marriage, in 1862.
Ibsen left Norway in 1862, eventually settling in Italy for a time. There he wrote Brand, a five-act tragedy about a clergyman whose feverish devotion to his faith costs him his family and ultimately his life in 1865. The play made him famous in Scandinavia. Two years later, Ibsen created one of his masterworks, Peer Gynt. A modern take on Greek epics of the past, the verse play follows the title character on a quest.
In 1868, Ibsen moved to Germany. During his time there, he saw his social drama The Pillars of Society first performed in Munich.
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