Ibsen, Strindberg and Feminism

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In the late 19th century Naturalism was emerging as the primary movement in literature of that period. The movement was influenced heavily by the discoveries made in politics, sciences and psychology of the time. Discoveries such as Darwin’s evolutionary theories, Marx’s Das Kapital and even Freud’s research on the psychology of the human were creating shock and upset and began to revolutionised society’s outlook on the world. The naturalist movement in literature also coincided with the beginnings of women’s emancipation throughout the western world. Scandinavia, as well as experiencing The Modern Breakthrough, was also dealing with its own political struggles for national identity. For Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg the early woman’s movement was to influence their writing greatly. Many associate both playwrights with playing key roles in the rise of feminism. However, were Ibsen and Strindberg attempting to write about the emancipation of women in the 19th century as a feminist issue? To explore this issue this essay will consider key play texts of both writers, Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Strindberg’s Miss Julie. A Doll’s House will be considered through the reaction of London critics in the 19th century, the women’s political movements in Norway and other influences in Ibsen’s life at the time of writing. Miss Julie will be examined through the women’s movement in Sweden of the period and also through Strindberg’s original manuscript. Lastly there will a comparison of each male protagonist and the issues of their social status.

Many assume A Doll’s House to be a play purely about the emancipation of women. Nora is often seen as a catalyst for women’s equality within a dominant male society. Indeed when A Doll’s House firs...

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.... [Online book] pp. 152-163. Available from: [Accessed January 11 2010]

Scott, C. 1889. A Doll’s House. In: Egan, M. ed. The Critical Heritage, Henrik Ibsen. [Online book] pp. 101-103. Available from: [Accessed January 12 2010]

Scott, C. 1889. Clement Scott on Ibsen’s Unlovely Creed. In: Egan, M. ed. The Critical Heritage, Henrik Ibsen. [Online] p. 114. Available from: [Accessed January 12 2010]

Simonds, W, E. 1890. W.E Simonds on Nora’s Selflessness. In: Egan, M. ed. The Critical Heritage, Henrik Ibsen. [Online book] p. 147. Available from: [Accessed January 12 2010]

Strindberg, A. 1992. Miss Julie. USA: Dover Thrift Editions.

Templeton, J. 1997. Ibsen’s Women. Cambridge New York: Cambridge University Press
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