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Of the three plays in this volume, Ghosts and A Public Enemy are social dramas of his middle period; and the former, described by one London critic as "an open sewer", raised the greatest outcry of all Ibsen's attacks on convention. When We Dead Wake, his last play, handles in a symbolic manner the individual's inner conflict and, incidentally, provides the dramatist's own comment on his lifework and his renunciation of verse.
The plays in this volume focus on the family and how it struggles to stay together by telling lies - and exposing them. In "Ghosts", Osvald Alving returns home only to discover the truth about the father he always looked up to, and learns the horrific effect his father's debauchery has had on him. It was Ibsen's most provocative drama, stripping away the surface of a middle-class family to expose layers of hypocrisy and immorality. "A Public Enemy" sets two brothers against each other when one wishes to make public the facts about the polluted water in the public baths of their home town. And "When We Dead Wake" tells of an artist meeting an old lover by chance and rejecting his wife, in a symbolic exploration of Ibsen's own literary life and the sacrifices he made in his work.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
Henrik Ibsen was born at Skien in Norway in 1828. He was one of the earliest writers to dramatise the individual's alienation from society. Although never fully appreciated during his lifetime, he has since come to be recognised as one of the greatest dramatists and the 'Father of Modern Drama'.