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It is important to note how literal a judgment it is to refer to Henrik Ibsen as the "Father of English Modern Drama."

The Norwegian playwright did not only experiment with dramatic form as part of a new wave of writers, nor did he create incremental advancements that were expanded upon by successors. Instead, Ibsen himself had a vision for how the theater should develop and, despite immense odds, brought that vision to life.

According to Ibsen expert Brian Johnston, "the theater's reputation was at its lowest in the 1850s, both in Europe and the United States." "Richard Brinsley Sheridan's The School for Scandal was the last significant new play to debut in Britain before A Doll's House appeared in London in 1889. (1777). Not a single drama of significant importance was produced during one of the most productive eras of English-language literature, which witnessed the full blooming of the Romantic movement in poetry and the arts as well as the emergence of the realistic novel as a prominent literary form. It was a time when Austen, the Bronte sisters, Dickens, George Eliot, Hawthorne, Melville, James, and Wharton wrote fiction; Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Byron wrote poetry.It was a time when Austen, the Bronte sisters, Dickens, George Eliot, Hawthorne, Melville, James, and Edith Wharton wrote fiction; Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson, Browning, and Walt Whitman wrote poetry. No other time has been both so rich in literature and so lacking in drama at the same time. The fact that Ibsen came from Norway, a nation with essentially little dramatic heritage of its own, added to the difficulties. Since Denmark had dominated Norway for the previous 500 years, Danish companies performed the majority of the theater.

Ibsen's refusal to adhere to the established conventions of theatre at the time contributed significantly to his rise to fame. He was determined to create his own unique kind of drama at a time when the emerging intelligentsia was increasingly demanding serious "thinking" theater as an alternative to the lighthearted shows performed on mainstream stages. When Ibsen's realist plays like A Doll's House, Ghosts, and An Enemy of the People were first published, this segment of society embraced them.

Since no commercially successful mainstream theater would even consider producing Ibsen's plays, new theaters were founded in Berlin, Paris, and London with the express aim of doing so. According to Johnston, "the theatre, through Ibsen, had shook off its insignificance and contempt to become a major, and very contentious, force in modern culture within an incredibly short time."

According to historian Michael Mayer, the author broke from conventional theater practices in a number of ways, but most significantly by fusing the three major innovations of "colloquial dialogue, objectivity, and tightness of narrative." A significant innovation was his development of familiar and approachable settings, people, and stories for his audiences. The "Realism"-style plays played on the intellectuals' dissatisfaction with the inconsistency between traditional moral principles and the tenets and effects of a post-Darwin, industrial-capitalist society. It may be questioned whether any man has held such a solid a dominion over the thinking world in modern times, as James Joyce put it in his famous quote.

The year before he began writing Hedda Gabler, Ibsen had a significant success in the English-speaking world. The dramatist gained widespread recognition when A Doll's House, starring Janet Achurch as Nora, was performed in June 1889 at London's Novelty Theatre. The play was panned by London reviewers, but the audience response was so strong that the run had to be prolonged. The famous London actor-manager Harley Granville Barker said of the play, "The play was spoken about and written about—mainly abusively, it is true—as no other play had been for years." Harley Granville Barker would go on to direct and star in several of Bernard Shaw's plays.

Even though A Doll's House was brand-new to the English-speaking populace, it had already been on the stage for ten years when it was presented in London in 1889. As a result, audiences were shocked to see how Ibsen's playwriting had changed in what seemed like such a short period of time when Hedda Gabler premiered at London's Vaudeville Theatre in April 1891, only two years later. The dramatist completed two plays that were similar to A Doll's House in the intervening years (Ghosts in 1881 and An Enemy of the People in 1882). Ghosts was heavily condemned for its portrayal of incestuous connections and venereal illness. Ibsen then started to explore images that were darker and more psychologically nuanced. The Wild Duck (1884), Rosmersholm (1887), and The Lady from the Sea (1888) had mixed reviews when they were initially released, but praise for Ibsen and his work kept growing. This pattern would be continued by Hedda Gabler. The Wild Duck (1884), Rosmersholm (1887), and The Lady from the Sea (1888) had mixed reviews when they were initially released, but praise for Ibsen and his work kept growing. This pattern would be continued by Hedda Gabler.

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