Today in Theatre History: MRS. IBSEN GIVES BIRTH TO HENRIK–March 20, 1828

Little Henrik.  Had he survived, he'd be 187 today.

Marichen’s little Henrik. Had he survived, he’d be 187 today.

On this very day (March 20) in 1828, Marichen Ibsen, wife of wealthy merchant, Knut Ibsen of Skien, Norway, gave birth to a healthy baby boy.  For some reason they decided to name him Henrik and eventually got him involved with the town’s league of youth, hoping to interest him in becoming a master builder and break his unsettling habit of sitting for hours in his sister’s doll’s house slamming the little front door.  Henrik’s other obsession–ghosts (that he swore he saw emanating from the burial mound in the basement)–became particularly worrisome for his parents, who felt it might brand him for life and stir up resentment from the local pillars of society, especially Olaf Liljekrans (who always fancied himself a bit of an armchair emperor and Galilean anyway).  But Henrik knew instinctively they were all pretenders–and so, like the Vikings of Helgeland, he began keeping company with the lady from the sea, who smelled of kelp and tended to visit every other Thursday as well as St. John’s Eve, despite the Vikings.  Sensing imminent raid and plunder, he quickly tired of kelp and soon love’s comedy overwhelmed Henrik.  In a fit of uncontrollable laughter he ran off to Rosmersholm with Lady Inger of Oestraat’s daughter, Cataline, and her odd little sister, Norma, cryptically declaring he’ll return only “when we dead awaken,” causing his mother to shout, “Stop it with the ghosts already!” as she stormed out of the house slamming the front door repeatedly for dramatic effect.  Multiple redundancies not withstanding, this amused Henrik to no end.  Shortly after, during the annual feast at Solhaug, Henrik got into a particularly bitter altercation with local enemy of the people, John Gabriel Borkman, who had drunkenly spewed a little eyolf on Henriks’s new saddle shoes while attempting to pluck a hedda gabler with his teeth.  Avoiding a roundhouse right, Borkman made a wild duck to his left, cuffing Henrik squarely on the eye .  From then on, whenever Henrik smiled, people noticed a slight peer gynt.

There.  I think that just about covers his entire dramatic canon.  You’re welcome.

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