Considered the father of dramatic realism, Henrik Ibsen revolutionized modern theatre. After the works of William Shakespeare, Ibsen’s plays are the most frequently performed in the world: A Doll’s House (1879), his best-known play, became the world’s most performed play in 2006.
While previously, plays often reinforced the morals and social conventions of the time or to entertain, Ibsen’s plays offered a powerful vehicle for dynamic debate and philosophical musings, confronting the darker realities of his society’s ills through close and unflinching examination. Unafraid to confront the raw realities of his characters, Ibsen also pushed the limits of controversy. His plays focused on the effect of contemporary problems on his characters. Ibsen’s plays inspired 19th- and 20th-century playwrights like George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Arthur Miller, and Eugene O’Neill to highlight the social issues of their time through their characters.
In the mid-19th century, drama was in decline as the novel genre flourished. Ibsen sought to revitalize theatre for the intelligentsia. His works draw from novelistic modes of realism and naturalism to inspect internal psychological states and social commentary about the moral hypocrisies of his time. To accomplish this, Ibsen relied on colloquial and relatable dialogue and characters that were recognizably everyday people.