Henrik Ibsen - An Enemy of the People

As with seemingly all Ibsen plays, this one begins with a fairly pedestrian, middle-class problem and situation. It then delves into a land of opposing ideologies, tearing away at that middle-class comfort and challenging the ideas that drove society in Ibsen's time. Reading this play, with its argument for doing the right thing, regardless of the personal impact, to ensure the greater good, really highlighted to me how unfortunately little has changed with respect to political and business dealings. People in power continue to be influenced by people with money, and vice versa...and Ibsen's greatest argument; that the "liberal majority" are comfortable and stuck in their ways, so will never actually give up their comforts for that which they state they feel is important....is still as resonant today as it was more than 100 years ago.

Ibsen's characters here are a colourful embodiment of the types they symbolize, and come across with full three-dimensional life despite coming across on paper as a mere archetype; the crooked self-interested politician, the liberal journalist, the gutsy young student.

The only thing that I don't feel was fully in line was the ending (a problem I have with many other of Ibsen's plays). I often feel like he rallies against society, but stops just shy of full refusal to comply. Clearly this was a sign of the times; as they stand, Ibsen's plays caused riots when they were first produced, so perhaps he didn't have much choice. Although certainly Ibsen's famous Hedda does take the final step to leave her captivity.

image: Ian McKellen and Charlotte Cornwell