English 371
Danika Rockett
University of Baltimore
Elements of Drama
Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House (1879)
A Doll’s House:
by Henrik Ibsen (1828 – 1906)
• “Godfather of modern drama”
• Ibsen’s father was reckless with
• At 16, Ibsen had an affair with a
housemaid 10 years his senior
– He suffered social humiliation because
of their illegitimate son
• Eventually met and married
Susannah, whose habits and
intimate life he portrayed on stage
• Wrote about one play per year
A Doll’s House:
Late Victorianism & the Rise of
the Middle Class
With so much change afoot, it is unsurprising
that the new middle class preferred its
entertainments to be either moral or
inconsequential. Didactic literature, meant to
train children and adults in the proper way to
behave, flourished, as did all manner of home
entertainments that allowed the middle class
to escape the bewildering world of their dirty,
slum-ridden cities.
A Doll’s House:
The New Woman
• "The New Woman sprang fully
armed from Ibsen's brain …”
• The New Woman pushed against
the limits set by male-dominated
• By the end of the 19th century, many
of the social limitations of the
Victorian period became
insufferable, especially for the
people who received the brunt of
social scrutiny: women and
minorities. They began to rebel and
demand equal rights.
Elements of Drama
What happens
in this play?
A Doll’s House:
Important Lines
• Nora: Pooh, we can always borrow until then (148).
• Nora: I mustn’t be selfish today – I’m not going to think
about anything but your troubles. I must just tell you one
thing, though . . . . (155).
• Mrs. Linde: Because you certainly couldn’t have
borrowed it (160).
• Nora: … It was almost like being a man (162).
• Helmer: I take it you’re a widow, Mrs. Linde? (167).
A Doll’s House:
Important Lines
• Nora: Why only mothers? (179).
• Nora: Do you think they’d forget their mamma if she went away
altogether? (182).
• Helmer: …suppose it were to get about that the new Manager
had let himself be influenced by his wife (188).
• Rank: Those who go away are quickly forgotten (192).
• Nora: …being with Torvald is very like being with Papa (196).
• Nora: I’ve been your doll-wife here … (226).
• I believe that before everything else, I am a human being (228)
A Doll’s House:
Important Lines
• Helmer: Nora, I’d gladly work night and day
for you, and endure poverty and sorrow for
your sake. But no man would sacrifice his
honour for the one he loves.
• Nora: Thousands of women have.
What does this exchange imply about their
perceived definitions of “honour”?
Elements of Drama:
• Protagonist – the main character (hero or heroine)
• Antagonist – the protagonist struggles against this character (this is often a
villain, but not necessarily)
• Foil – serves to illuminate a main character, usually through contradiction
(think of “good” Cinderella and her “evil” sisters)
• Confidante – someone in whom the central character confides, thus
revealing the main character’s personality, thoughts, and intentions
• Dynamic – a character who changes during the course of the story. The
change in outlook or character is permanent.
• Static – a character who remains primarily the same throughout a story.
Events in the story do not alter a static character’s outlook, personality,
motivation, perception, habits, etc.
The Language of
• Soliloquy
• Monologue
• Dialogue
The Language of
• A long speech by one character in which
the speaker communicates special
information only to the audience.
• “To be or not to be …”
The Language of
• Like a soliloquy, it is a relatively lengthy passage
spoken by one character
• Unlike a soliloquy, a monologue is addressed to
other characters as well as to the audience.
• It serves the same function as soliloquy: It
permits an extended discussion of information,
attitudes, or ideas of one character.
The Language of
Act III, p. 226
Nora: It’s true, Torvald. When I lived at home with Papa, he used to tell me
his opinion about everything, and so I had the same opinion. If I thought
differently, I had to hide it from him, or he wouldn’t have liked it. He
called me his little doll, and he used to play with me just as I played with
my dolls. Then I came to live in your house—
Helmer: That’s no way to talk about our marriage!
Nora [undisturbed]: I mean when I passed out of Papa’s hands into yours.
You arranged everything to suit your own tastes, and so I came to have
the same tastes as yours … or I pretended to. I’m not quite sure which
… perhaps it was a bit of both—sometimes one and sometimes the
other. Now that I come to look at it, I’ve lived here like a pauper—simply
from hand to mouth. I’ve lived by performing tricks for you, Torvald. That
was how you wanted it. You and Papa have committed a grievous sin
against me: It’s your fault I’ve made nothing of my life.
The Language of
• Most words in a play are spoken between two
• This exchange is called dialogue.
• Demonstrates agreements, conflicts, relationships,
differing or similar beliefs, and motives between
• Dialogue is the main element in a play for the
development of character, plot, and theme.
The Language of
• Consider the following lines from Act I:
Helmer: . . . Is that my little skylark twittering out there?
Nora: . . . It is.
Helmer: Scampering about like a little squirrel?
Nora: Yes.
Helmer: When did the squirrel come home?
Nora: Just this minute . . .
• How does this exchange reveal the dynamics of
this relationship?
Elements of Drama:
• The specific action is represented in [brackets]
• Every actor in a play not only speaks but also act and reacts to
other characters and events.
– Torvald’s “finger wagging” at Nora (151).
– Nora tosses her head as she walks away (158).
– Mrs. Linde’s reaction to Krogstad’s entrance (163).
• Inaction, or refusal to act, is also important
• In drama, the action is often complex
– Tension builds because of Krogstad’s veiled threats to Nora
and his speeches to Torvald, hinting at disaster.
Elements of Drama:
Nora’s struggle with Krogstad, who threatens to
tell her husband about her past crime, incites
Nora’s journey of self-discovery and provides
much of the play’s dramatic suspense.
Nora’s primary struggle, however, is against the
selfish, stifling, and oppressive attitudes of her
husband and of the Victorian society that he
Elements of Drama:
• The plot in a dramatic or narrative work is the
structure of its action, the main story.
• The plot is much more than a mere synopsis of
the story.
• The plot centers on the protagonist—the main
character (hero or heroine)
• The protagonist struggles against the antagonist,
which could be another character or perhaps an
idea or entity.
• The relationship between them becomes the
Elements of Drama: Plot
Freytag’s Pyramid
Elements of Drama:
In drama, setting differs greatly
from other forms of literature.
The stage allows the playwright
to avoid describing place (or
setting) in great detail.
Elements of Drama:
• Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or
colors used to represent abstract ideas or
concepts (Think: Torvald symbolizes society)
• In drama, symbols are often much more
overt—less subtle—than in other genres.
• In plays, symbols will sometimes appear on
the stage itself to remind the audience of
their presence.
Elements of Drama:
The Christmas tree
Torvald’s diminutive
nicknames for Nora
Nora’s dance
Nora’s change of clothing
Christmas and New Year
Elements of Drama:
• The theme is the central or fundamental
idea of a play (or a novel, a film, etc.).
• A literary work will have multiple themes
– Think about some of the themes we’ve
discussed in this class
A Doll’s House:
Nora Helmer
Torvald Helmer
Dr. Rank
Kristina Linde
Nils Krogstad
Anna-Maria (nurse)
A Doll’s House: Setting
• How does the setting function in relation
to the plot?
• What is significant about the title?
Reminders for Next Week
• Syllabus change for Monday: The Ledger
and Woolf readings are optional.
• We will quiz on the other assigned readings
• Mid-Term exam one week from today
– Multiple choice questions will come from Power
Point presentations and class readings

Elements of Drama Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House