By Henrik Ibsen
Translation by Lanford Wilson
Southern Oregon University Production
Director: Scott Kaiser
Scenic/Costume Designer: Roger Wykes
Lighting Designer: Jason Burg Monahan
In A Doll’s House—the play that precedes Ghosts—Ibsen shows a young wife, Nora, leaving her husband and children after realizing her life with them is based upon lies.
When A Doll’s House premiered in 1878, the immediate response to Nora’s departure was outrage. Ibsen’s critics fumed: How could a wife run out on her family? Desert her husband? Abandon her children? Break her marriage vows? Forsake her duty? How could she slam the door in the face of society’s rules? How could she put herself first…?
Ibsen was deeply shaken by such severe criticism of his play. Searching for a response, he ruminated—what if Nora had never slammed the door? What if she had been persuaded to fulfill her obligations, and stay in a marriage riddled with lies and licentiousness? What if she had done her moral duty and willingly sacrificed herself—for the sake of her husband, her children, her marriage vows, and society’s rules? What then?
Ibsen’s answer to these questions, and his critics, is the play Ghosts.
Like the tragedy of Oedipus, not much happens in Ghosts, other than the truth being revealed.
On a single day in the Alving household, three decades of lies, passed down from one generation to the next, are peeled back, one brittle layer at a time, until the consequences of Mrs. Alving’s decision—the dead opposite of Nora’s—are brought into the sunlight.
“Ghosts had to be written,” Ibsen himself remarked in defense of his masterwork. “After Nora, Mrs. Alving had to come.”