The Tarantella Dance in A Doll's House

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The Tarantella Dance in A Doll's House

In A Doll's House, Ibsen uses many symbols. One symbol that is used to symbolize Nora's character; is a dance called the Tarantella. The Tarantella is a folk dance from southern Italy. It goes from an already quick tempo to an even quicker one, while alternating between major and minor keys. It is characterized by swift movements, foot tapping, and on the women's part, exaggerated ruffling of petticoats. It involves a lot of very fast spinning and jumping until one cannot dance anymore and is so exhausted they fall to the ground. It is in constant uncertainty, like Nora's character.

The tarantella has a very interesting history. Its name derives from a little southern town of Italy called Taranto. It was believed that if a spider called the tarantula bit the townspeople, the only way to survive its bite was to do a dance called the Tarantella. The locals believed this was the only cure. If the people bitten did not dance they would suffer severe pain, muscle spasms, vomiting; most eventually died.

There were not any drugs that could counteract the venom. Many believed that the sweating associated with the dance flushed the venom from the dancer's bodies. They would continue dancing for hours and even days. It was so common that musicians patrolled the fields where most of the bites took place in expectation of being hired to play for the injured. Just as the dancer is trying to get rid of the venom, Nora was trying to rid herself of the deadly outside poison. The tarantella serves as her last chance to be Torvald's doll, to dance and amuse him. "HELMER: But, my dear Nora, you look so worn out. Have you been practising too much?" "NORA: No, I have not practised at all." "HELMER: But you will need to -" "NORA: Yes, indeed I shall, Torvald. But I can't get on a bit without you to help me; I have absolutely forgotten the whole thing" Rather, than taking care of the problem right away she let the music and her life continue to accelerate and spin out of control, just as the dance the Tarantella does.


"Tarantella." Buffalo News. [Online] Available:

"Where The Name Tarantula Came From." [Online] Available:

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"The Tarantella Dance in A Doll's House." 11 Dec 2016

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