Part 1 out of 2
E-text scanned by Martin Adamson
A Domestic Tragedy in Three Acts
by Henrik Ibsen
Translated by R. Farquharson Sharp
Mrs. Alving (a widow).
Oswald Alving (her son, an artist).
Manders (the Pastor of the parish).
Engstrand (a carpenter).
Regina Engstrand (his daughter, in Mrs Alving's service).
The action takes place at Mrs Alving's house on one of the larger
fjords of Western Norway.)
(SCENE.--A large room looking upon a garden door in the left-hand
wall, and two in the right. In the middle of the room, a round
table with chairs set about it, and books, magazines and
newspapers upon it. In the foreground on the left, a window, by
which is a small sofa with a work-table in front of it. At the
back the room opens into a conservatory rather smaller than the
room. From the right-hand side of this, a door leads to the
garden. Through the large panes of glass that form the outer wall
of the conservatory, a gloomy fjord landscape can be discerned,
half-obscured by steady rain.
ENGSTRAND is standing close to the garden door. His left leg
is slightly deformed, and he wears a boot with a clump of wood
under the sole. REGINA, with an empty garden-syringe in her hand,
is trying to prevent his coming in.)
Regina (below her breath). What is it you want? Stay where you
are. The rain is dripping off you,
Engstrand. God's good rain, my girl.
Regina. The Devil's own rain, that's what it is!
Engstrand. Lord, how you talk, Regina. (Takes a few limping steps
forward.) What I wanted to tell you was this--
Regina. Don't clump about like that, stupid! The young master is
lying asleep upstairs.
Engstrand. Asleep still? In the middle of the day?
Regina. Well, it's no business of yours.
Engstrand. I was out on a spree last night--
Regina. I don't doubt it.
Engstrand. Yes, we are poor weak mortals, my girl--
Regina. We are indeed.
Engstrand. --and the temptations of the world are manifold, you
know--but, for all that, here I was at my work at half-past five
Regina. Yes, yes, but make yourself scarce now. I am not going to
stand here as if I had a rendezvous with you.
Engstrand. As if you had a what?
Regina. I am not going to have anyone find you here; so now you
know, and you can go.
Engstrand (coming a few steps nearer). Not a bit of it! Not
before we have had a little chat. This afternoon I shall have
finished my job down at the school house, and I shall be off home
to town by tonight's boat.
Regina (mutters). Pleasant journey to you!
Engstrand. Thanks, my girl. Tomorrow is the opening of the
Orphanage, and I expect there will be a fine kick-up here and
plenty of good strong drink, don't you know. And no one shall say
of Jacob Engstrand that be can't hold off when temptation comes
in his way.
Engstrand. Yes, because there will be a lot of fine folk here
tomorrow. Parson Manders is expected from town, too.
Regina: What's more, he's coming today.
Engstrand. There you are! And I'm going to be precious careful he
doesn't have anything to say against me, do you see?
Regina. Oh, that's your game, is it?
Engstrand. What do you mean?
Regina (with a significant look at him). What is it you want to
humbug Mr. Manders out of this time?
Engstrand. Sh! Sh! Are you crazy? Do you suppose I would want to
humbug Mr. Manders? No, no--Mr. Manders has always been too kind
a friend for me to do that. But what I wanted to talk to you
about, was my going back home tonight.
Regina. The sooner you go, the better I shall be pleased.
Engstrand. Yes, only I want to take you with me, Regina.
Regina (open-mouthed). You want to take me--? What did you say?
Engstrand. I want to take you home with me, I said.
Regina (contemptuously). You will never get me home with you.
Engstrand. Ah, we shall see about that.
Regina. Yes, you can be quite certain we shall see about that. I,
who have been brought up by a lady like Mrs. Alving?--I, who have
been treated almost as if I were her own child?--do you suppose I
am going home with you?--to such a house as yours? Not likely!
Engstrand. What the devil do you mean? Are you setting yourself
up against your father, you hussy?
Regina (mutters, without looking at him). You have often told me
I was none of yours.
Engstrand. Bah!--why do you want to pay any attention to that?
Regina. Haven't you many and many a time abused me and called me
a --? For shame?
Engstrand. I'll swear I never used such an ugly word.
Regina. Oh, it doesn't matter what word you used.
Engstrand. Besides, that was only when I was a bit fuddled...hm!
Temptations are manifold in this world, Regina.
Engstrand. And it was when your mother was in a nasty temper. I
had to find some way of getting my knife into her, my girl. She
was always so precious gentile. (Mimicking her.) "Let go, Jacob!
Let me be! Please to remember that I was three years with the
Alvings at Rosenvold, and they were people who went to Court!
(Laughs.) Bless my soul, she never could forget that Captain
Alving got a Court appointment while she was in service here.
Regina. Poor mother--you worried her into her grave pretty soon.
Engstrand (shrugging his shoulders). Of course, of course; I have
got to take the blame for everything.
Regina (beneath her breath, as she turns away). Ugh--that leg,
Engstrand. What are you saying, my girl?
Regina. Pied de mouton.
Engstrand. Is that English?
Engstrand. You have had a good education out here, and no
mistake; and it may stand you in good stead now, Regina.
Regina (after a short silence). And what was it you wanted me to
come to town for?
Engstrand. Need you ask why a father wants his only child? Ain't
I a poor lonely widower?
Regina. Oh, don't come to me with that tale. Why do you want me to
Engstrand. Well, I must tell you I am thinking of taking up a new
Regina (whistles). You have tried that so often--but it has
always proved a fool's errand.
Engstrand. Ah, but this time you will just see, Regina! Strike me
Regina (stamping her foot). Stop swearing!
Engstrand. Sh! Sh!--you're quite right, my girl, quite right!
What I wanted to say was only this, that I have put by a tidy
penny out of what I have made by working at this new Orphanage up
Regina. Have you? All the better for you.
Engstrand. What is there for a man to spend his money on, out
here in the country?
Regina. Well, what then?
Engstrand. Well, you see, I thought of putting the money into
something that would pay. I thought of some kind of an eating-
house for seafaring folk--
Engstrand. Oh, a high-class eating-house, of course--not a
pigsty for common sailors. Damn it, no; it would be a place
ships' captains and first mates would come to; really good sort
of people, you know.
Regina. And what should I--?
Engstrand. You would help there: But only to make show, you know.
You wouldn't find it hard work, I can promise you, my girl. You
should do exactly as you liked.
Regina. Oh, yes, quite so!
Engstrand. But we must have some women in the house; that is as
clear as daylight. Because in the evening we must make the place
a little attractive-- some singing and dancing, and that sort of
thing. Remember they are seafolk-- wayfarers on the waters of
life! (Coming nearer to her.) Now don't be a fool and stand in
your own way, Regina. What good are you going to do here? Will
this education, that your mistress has paid for, be of any use?
You are to look after the children in the new Home, I hear. Is
that the sort of work for you? Are you so frightfully anxious to
go and wear out your health and strength for the sake of these
Regina. No, if things were to go as I want them to, then--. Well,
it may happen; who knows? It may happen!
Engstrand. What may happen?
Regina. Never you mind. Is it much that you have put by, up here?
Engstrand. Taking it all round, I should say about forty or fifty
Regina. That's not so bad.
Engstrand. It's enough to make a start with, my girl.
Regina. Don't you mean to give me any of the money?
Engstrand. No, I'm hanged if I do.
Regina. Don't you mean to send me as much as a dress-length of
stuff, just for once?
Engstrand. Come and live in the town with me and you shall have
plenty of dresses.
Regina: Pooh!--I can get that much for myself, if I have a mind
Engstrand. But it's far better to have a father's guiding hand,
Regina. Just now I can get a nice house in Little Harbour Street.
They don't want much money down for it-- and we could make it like
a sort of seamen's home, don't you know.
Regina. But I have no intention of living with you! I'll have
nothing whatever to do with you: So now, be off!
Engstrand. You wouldn't be living with me long, my girl. No such
luck-- not if you knew how to play your cards. Such a fine wench
as you have grown this last year or two...
Engstrand. It wouldn't be very long before some first mate came
along-- or perhaps a captain.
Regina. I don't mean to marry a man of that sort. Sailors have no
Engstrand. What haven't they got?
Regina. I know what sailors are, I tell you. They aren't the sort
of people to marry.
Engstrand. Well, don't bother about marrying them. You can make
it pay just as well. (More confidentially.) That fellow--the
Englishman--the one with the yacht--he gave seventy pounds, he
did; and she wasn't a bit prettier than you.
Regina (advancing towards him). Get out!
Engstrand (stepping back). Here! here!--you're not going to hit
me, I suppose?
Regina. Yes! If you talk like that of mother, I will hit you. Get
out, I tell. You! (Pushes him up to the garden door.) And don't
bang the doors. Young Mr. Alving--
Engstrand. Is asleep--I know. It's funny how anxious you are
about young Mr. Alving. (In a lower tone.) Oho! is it possible
that it is he that--?
Regina. Get out, and be quick about it! Your wits are wandering,
my good man. No, don't go that way; Mr. Manders is just coming
along. Be off down the kitchen stairs.
Engstrand (moving towards the right). Yes, yes--all right. But
have a bit of a chat with him that's coming along. He's the chap
to tell you what a child owes to its father. For I am your
father, anyway, you know, I can prove it by the Register. (He
goes out through the farther door which REGINA has opened. She
shuts it after him, looks hastily at herself in the mirror, fans
herself with her handkerchief and sets her collar straight; then
busies herself with the flowers. MANDERS enters the conservatory
through the garden door. He wears an overcoat, carries an
umbrella, and has a small travelling-bag slung over his shoulder
on a strap.)
Manders. Good morning, Miss Engstrand.
Regina (turning round with a look of pleased surprise), Oh, Mr.
Manders, good morning. The boat is in, then?
Manders. Just in. (Comes into the room.) It is most tiresome,
this rain every day.
Regina (following him in). It's a splendid rain for the farmers,
Manders. Yes, you are quite right. We townfolk think so little
about that. (Begins to take off his overcoat.)
Regina. Oh, let me help you. That's it. Why, how wet it is! I
will hang it up in the hall. Give me your umbrella, too; I will
leave it open, so that it will dry.
(She goes out with the things by the farther door on the right.
MANDERS lays his bag and his hat down on a chair. REGINA re-
Manders. Ah, it's very pleasant to get indoors. Well, is
everything going on well here?
Regina. Yes, thanks.
Manders. Properly busy, though, I expect, getting ready for
Regina. Oh, yes, there is plenty to do.
Manders. And Mrs. Alving is at home, I hope?
Regina. Yes, she is. She has just gone upstairs to take the young
master his chocolate.
Manders. Tell me--I heard down at the pier that Oswald had come
Regina. Yes, he came the day before yesterday. We didn't expect
him until today.
Manders. Strong and well, I hope?
Regina. Yes, thank you, well enough. But dreadfully tired after
his journey. He came straight from Paris without a stop--I mean,
he came all the way without breaking his journey. I fancy he is
having a sleep now, so we must talk a little bit more quietly, if
you don't mind.
Manders. All right, we will be very quiet.
Regina (while she moves an armchair up to the table), Please sit
down, Mr. Manders, and make yourself at home. (He sits down; she
puts a footstool under his feet.) There! Is that comfortable?
Manders. Thank you, thank you. That is most comfortable; (Looks
at her.) I'll tell you what, Miss Engstrand, I certainly think
you have grown since I saw you last.
Regina. Do you think so? Mrs. Alving says, too-- that I have
Manders. Developed? Well, perhaps a little--just suitably. (A
Regina. Shall I tell Mrs. Alving you are here?
Manders. Thanks, there is no hurry, my dear child. Now tell me,
Regina my dear, how has your father been getting on here?
Regina. Thank you, Mr. Manders, he is getting on pretty well.
Manders. He came to see me the last time he was in town.
Regina. Did he? He is always so glad when he can have a chat with
Manders. And I suppose you have seen him pretty regularly every
Regina. I? Oh, yes, I do--whenever I have time, that is to say.
Manders. Your father has not a very strong character, Miss
Engstrand. He sadly needs a guiding hand.
Regina. Yes, I can quite believe that.
Manders. He needs someone with him that he can cling to, someone
whose judgment he can rely on. He acknowledged that freely
himself, the last time he came up to see me.
Regina. Yes, he has said something of the same sort to me. But I
don't know whether Mrs. Alving could do without me--most of all
just now, when we have the new Orphanage to see about. And I
should be dreadfully unwilling to leave Mrs. Alving, too; she has
always been so good to me.
Manders. But a daughter's duty, my good child--. Naturally we
should have to get your mistress' consent first.
Regina. Still I don't know whether it would be quite the thing,
at my age, to keep house for a single man.
Manders. What! My dear Miss Engstrand, it is your own father we
are speaking of!
Regina. Yes, I dare say, but still--. Now, if it were in a good
house and with a real gentleman--
Manders. But, my dear Regina!
Regina. --one whom I could feel an affection for, and really feel
in the position of a daughter to...
Manders. Come, come--my dear good child--
Regina. I should like very much to live in town. Out here it is
terribly lonely; and you know yourself, Mr. Manders, what it is
to be alone in the world. And, though I say it, I really am both
capable and willing. Don't you know any place that would be
suitable for me, Mr. Manders?
Manders. I? No, indeed I don't.
Regina. But, dear Mr. Manders--at any rate don't forget me, in
Manders (getting up). No, I won't forget you, Miss Engstrand.
Regina. Because, if I--
Manders. Perhaps you will be so kind as to let Mrs, Alving know I
Regina. I will fetch her at once, Mr. Manders. (Goes out to the
left. MANDERS walks up and down the room once or twice, stands
for a moment at the farther end of the room with his hands behind
his back and looks out into the garden. Then he comes back to the
table, takes up a book and looks at the title page, gives a
start, and looks at some of the others.)
(MRS. ALVING comes in by the door on the left. She is followed by
REGINA, who goes out again at once through the nearer door on the
Mrs. Alving (holding out her hand). I am very glad to see you,
Manders. How do you do, Mrs. Alving. Here I am, as I promised.
Mrs. Alving. Always punctual!
Manders. Indeed, I was hard put to it to get away. What with
vestry meetings and committees.
Mrs. Alving. It was all the kinder of you to come in such good
time; we can settle our business before dinner. But where is your
Manders (quickly). My things are down at the village shop. I am
going to sleep there tonight.
Mrs. Alving (repressing a smile). Can't I really persuade you to
stay the night here this time?
Manders. No, no; many thanks all the same; I will put up there,
as usual. It is so handy for getting on board the boat again.
Mrs. Alving. Of course, you shall do as you please. But it seems
to me quite another thing, now we are two old people--
Manders. Ha! ha! You will have your joke! And it's natural you
should be in high spirits today--first of all there is the great
event tomorrow, and also you have got Oswald home.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, am I not a lucky woman! It is more than two
years since he was home last, and he has promised to stay the
whole winter with me.
Manders, Has he, really? That is very nice and filial of him;
because there must be many more attractions in his life in Rome
or in Paris, I should think.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, but he has his mother here, you see. Bless the
dear boy, he has got a corner in his heart for his mother still.
Manders. Oh, it would be very sad if absence and preoccupation
with such a thing as Art were to dull the natural affections.
Mrs. Alving. It would, indeed. But there is no fear of that with
him, I am glad to say. I am quite curious to see if you recognise
him again. He will be down directly; he is just lying down for a
little on the sofa upstairs. But do sit down, my dear friend.
Manders. Thank you. You are sure I am not disturbing you?
Mrs. Alving. Of course not. (She sits down at the table.)
Manders. Good. Then I will show you--. (He goes to the chair
where his bag is lying and takes a packet of papers from it; then
sits down at the opposite side of the table and looks for a clear
space to put the papers down.) Now first of all, here is--(breaks
off). Tell me, Mrs. Alving, what are these books doing here?
Mrs. Alving. These books? I am reading them,
Manders. Do you read this sort of thing?
Mrs, Alving. Certainly I do.
Manders. Do you feel any the better or the happier for reading
books of this kind?
Mrs. Alving. I think it makes me, as it were, more self-reliant.
Manders. That is remarkable. But why?
Mrs. Alving. Well, they give me an explanation or a confirmation
of lots of different ideas that have come into my own mind. But
what surprises me, Mr. Manders, is that, properly speaking, there
is nothing at all new in these books. There is nothing more in
them than what most people think and believe. The only thing is,
that most people either take no account of it or won't admit it
Manders. But, good heavens, do you seriously think that most
Mrs. Alving. Yes, indeed, I do.
Manders. But not here in the country at any rate? Not here
amongst people like ourselves?
Mrs. Alving. Yes, amongst people like ourselves too.
Manders. Well, really, I must say--!
Mrs. Alving. But what is the particular objection that you have
to these books?
Manders. What objection? You surely don't suppose that I take any
particular interest in such productions?
Mrs. Alving. In fact, you don't know anything about what you are
Manders. I have read quite enough about these books to disapprove
Mrs. Alving. Yes, but your own opinion--
Manders. My dear Mrs. Alving, there are many occasions in life
when one has to rely on the opinion of others. That is the way in
this world, and it is quite right that it should be so. What
would become of society, otherwise?
Mrs. Alving. Well, you may be right.
Manders. Apart from that, naturally I don't deny that literature
of this kind may have a considerable attraction. And I cannot
blame you, either, for wishing to make yourself acquainted with
the intellectual tendencies which I am told are at work in the
wider world in which you have allowed your son to wander for so
Mrs. Alving. But--?
Manders (lowering his voice). But one doesn't talk about it, Mrs.
Alving. One certainly is not called upon to account to everyone
for what one reads or thinks in the privacy of one's own room.
Mrs. Alving. Certainly not. I quite agree with you.
Manders. Just think of the consideration you owe to this
Orphanage, which you decided to build at a time when your
thoughts on such subjects were very different from what they are
now--as far as I am able to judge.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, I freely admit that. But it was about the
Manders. It was about the Orphanage we were going to talk; quite
so. Well--walk warily, dear Mrs. Alving! And now let us turn to
the business in hand. (Opens an envelope and takes out some
papers.) You see these?
Mrs. Alving. The deeds?
Manders. Yes, the whole lot--and everything in order; I can tell
you it has been no easy matter to get them in time. I had
positively to put pressure on the authorities; they are almost
painfully conscientious when it is a question of settling
property. But here they are at last. (Turns over the papers.)
Here is the deed of conveyance of that part of the Rosenvold
estate known as the Solvik property, together with the buildings
newly erected thereon-- the school, the masters' houses and the
chapel. And here is the legal sanction for the statutes of the
institution. Here, you see--(reads) "Statutes for the Captain
Mrs. Alving (after a long look at the papers). That seems all in
Manders. I thought "Captain" was the better title to use, rather
than your husband's Court title of "Chamberlain." "Captain"
seems less ostentatious.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, yes; just as you think best.
Manders. And here is the certificate for the investment of the
capital in the bank, the interest being earmarked for the current
expenses of the Orphanage.
Mrs. Alving. Many thanks; but I think it will be most convenient
if you will kindly take charge of them.
Manders. With pleasure. I think it will be best to leave the
money in the bank for the present. The interest is not very high,
it is true; four per cent at six months' call; later on, if we
can find some good mortgage--of course it must be a first mortgage
and on unexceptionable security--we can consider the matter
Mrs. Alving. Yes, yes, my dear Mr. Manders, you know best about
Manders. I will keep my eye on it, anyway. But there is one thing
in connection with it that I have often meant to ask you about.
Mrs. Alving. What is that?
Manders. Shall we insure the buildings, or not?
Mrs. Alving. Of course we must insure them.
Manders. Ah, but wait a moment, dear lady. Let us look into the
matter a little more closely.
Mrs. Alving. Everything of mine is insured--the house and its
contents, my livestock--everything.
Manders. Naturally. They are your own property. I do exactly the
same, of course. But this, you see, is quite a different case.
The Orphanage is, so to speak, dedicated to higher uses.
Mrs. Alving. Certainly, but--
Manders. As far as I am personally concerned, I can
conscientiously say that I don't see the smallest objection to
our insuring ourselves against all risks.
Mrs. Alving. That is exactly what I think.
Manders. But what about the opinion of the people hereabouts?
Mrs. Alving. Their opinion--?
Manders. Is there any considerable body of opinion here--opinion
of some account, I mean--that might take exception to it?
Mrs. Alving. What, exactly, do you mean by opinion of some
Manders. Well, I was thinking particularly of persons of such
independent and influential position that one could hardly refuse
to attach weight to their opinion.
Mrs. Alving. There are a certain number of such people here, who
might perhaps take exception to it if we--
Manders. That's just it, you see. In town there are lots of them.
All my fellow-clergymen's congregations, for instance! It would
be so extremely easy for them to interpret it as meaning that
neither you nor I had a proper reliance on Divine protection.
Mrs. Alving. But as far as you are concerned, my dear friend, you
have at all events the consciousness that--
Manders. Yes I know I know; my own mind is quite easy about it,
it is true. But we should not be able to prevent a wrong and
injurious interpretation of our action. And that sort of thing,
moreover, might very easily end in exercising a hampering
influence on the work of the Orphanage.
Mrs. Alving. Oh, well, if that is likely to be the effect of it--
Manders. Nor can I entirely overlook the difficult--indeed, I may
say, painful--position I might possibly be placed in. In the best
circles in town the matter of this Orphanage is attracting a
great deal of attention. Indeed the Orphanage is to some extent
built for the benefit of the town too, and it is to be hoped that
it may result in the lowering of our poor-rate by a considerable
amount. But as I have been your adviser in the matter and have
taken charge of the business side of it, I should be afraid that
it would be I that spiteful persons would attack first of all.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, you ought not to expose yourself to that.
Manders. Not to mention the attacks that would undoubtedly be
made upon me in certain newspapers and reviews.
Mrs. Alving. Say no more about it, dear Mr. Manders; that quite
Manders. Then you don't wish it to be insured?
Mrs. Alving. No, we will give up the idea.
Manders (leaning back in his chair). But suppose, now, that some
accident happened?--one can never tell--would you be prepared to
make good the damage?
Mrs. Alving. No; I tell you quite plainly I would not do so under
Manders. Still, you know, Mrs. Alving--after all, it is a serious
responsibility that we are taking upon ourselves.
Mrs. Alving. But do you think we can do otherwise?
Manders. No, that's just it. We really can't do otherwise. We
ought not to expose ourselves to a mistaken judgment; and we have
no right to do anything that will scandalise the community.
Mrs. Alving. You ought not to, as a clergyman, at any rate.
Manders. And, what is more, I certainly think that we may count
upon our enterprise being attended by good fortune--indeed, that
it will be under a special protection.
Mrs. Alving. Let us hope so, Mr. Manders.
Manders. Then we will leave it alone?
Mrs. Alving. Certainly.
Manders. Very good. As you wish. (Makes a note.) No insurance,
Mrs. Alving. It's a funny thing that you should just have
happened to speak about that today--
Manders. I have often meant to ask you about it.
Mrs. Alving. --because yesterday we very nearly had a fire up
Manders. Do you mean it!
Mrs. Alving. Oh, as a matter of fact it was nothing of any
consequence. Some shavings in the carpenter's shop caught fire.
Manders. Where Engstrand works?
Mrs. Alving. Yes. They say he is often so careless with matches.
Manders. He has so many things on his mind, poor fellow--so many
anxieties. Heaven be thanked, I am told he is really making an
effort to live a blameless life,
Mrs. Alving. Really? Who told you so?
Manders. He assured me himself that it is so. He's good workman,
Mrs. Alving. Oh, yes, when he is sober.
Manders. Ah, that sad weakness of his! But the pain in his poor
leg often drives him to it, he tells me. The last time he was in
town, I was really quite touched by him. He came to my house and
thanked me so gratefully for getting him work here, where he
could have the chance of being with Regina.
Mrs. Alving. He doesn't see very much of her.
Manders. But he assured me that he saw her every day.
Mrs. Alving. Oh well, perhaps he does.
Manders. He feels so strongly that he needs someone who can keep
a hold on him when temptations assail him. That is the most
winning thing about Jacob Engstrand; he comes to one like a
helpless child and accuses himself and confesses his frailty. The
last time he came and had a talk with me... Suppose now, Mrs.
Alving, that it were really a necessity of his existence to have
Regina at home with him again--
Mrs. Alving (standing up suddenly). Regina!
Manders. --you ought not to set yourself against him.
Mrs. Alving. Indeed, I set myself very definitely against that.
And, besides, you know Regina is to have a post in the Orphanage.
Manders. But consider, after all he is her father--
Mrs. Alving. I know best what sort of a father he has been to
her. No, she shall never go to him with my consent.
Manders (getting up). My dear lady, don't judge so hastily. It is
very sad how you misjudge poor Engstrand. One would really think
you were afraid...
Mrs. Alving (more calmly). That is not the question. I have taken
Regina into my charge, and in my charge she remains. (Listens.)
Hush, dear Mr. Manders, don't say any more about it. (Her face
brightens with pleasure.) Listen! Oswald is coming downstairs. We
will only think about him now.
(OSWALD ALVING, in a light overcoat, hat in hand and smoking a
big meerschaum pipe, comes in by the door on the left.)
Oswald (standing in the doorway). Oh, I beg your pardon, I
thought you were in the office. (Comes in.) Good morning, Mr.
Manders (staring at him). Well! It's most extraordinary.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, what do you think of him, Mr. Manders?
Manders. I-I-no, can it possibly be--?
Oswald. Yes, it really is the prodigal son, Mr. Manders.
Manders. Oh, my dear young friend--
Oswald. Well, the son came home, then.
Mrs. Alving. Oswald is thinking of the time when you were so
opposed to the idea of his being a painter.
Manders. We are only fallible, and many steps seem to us
hazardous at first, that afterwards--(grasps his hand). Welcome,
welcome! Really, my dear Oswald--may I still call you Oswald?
Oswald. What else would you think of calling me?
Manders. Thank you. What I mean, my dear Oswald, is that you must
not imagine that I have any unqualified disapproval of the
artist's life. I admit that there are many who, even in that
career, can keep the inner man free from harm.
Oswald. Let us hope so.
Mrs. Alving (beaming with pleasure). I know one who has kept both
the inner and the outer man free from harm. Just take a look at
him, Mr. Manders.
Oswald (walks across the room). Yes, yes, mother dear, of course.
Manders. Undoubtedly--no one can deny it. And I hear you have
begun to make a name for yourself. I have often seen mention of
you in the papers--and extremely favourable mention, too.
Although, I must admit, lately I have not seen your name so
Oswald (going towards the conservatory). I haven't done so much
painting just lately.
Mrs. Alving. An artist must take a rest sometimes, like other
Manders. Of course, of course. At those times the artist is
preparing and strengthening himself for a greater effort.
Oswald. Yes. Mother, will dinner soon be ready?
Mrs. Alving. In half an hour. He has a fine appetite, thank
Manders. And a liking for tobacco too.
Oswald. I found father's pipe in the room upstairs, and--
Manders. Ah, that is what it was!
Mrs. Alving. What?
Manders. When Oswald came in at that door with the pipe in his
mouth, I thought for the moment it was his father in the flesh.
Mrs. Alving. How can you say so! Oswald takes after me.
Manders. Yes, but there is an expression about the corners of his
mouth--something about the lips--that reminds me so exactly of
Mr. Alving--especially when he smokes.
Mrs. Alving. I don't think so at all. To my mind, Oswald has much
more of a clergyman's mouth.
Menders. Well, yes--a good many of my colleagues in the church
have a similar expression.
Mrs. Alving. But put your pipe down, my dear boy. I don't allow
any smoking in here.
Oswald (puts down his pipe). All right, I only wanted to try it,
because I smoked it once when I was a child.
Mrs. Alving. You?
Oswald. Yes; it was when I was quite a little chap. And I can
remember going upstairs to father's room one evening when he was
in very good spirits.
Mrs. Alving. Oh, you can't remember anything about those days.
Oswald. Yes, I remember plainly that he took me on his knee and
let me smoke his pipe. "Smoke, my boy," he said, "have a good
smoke, boy!" And I smoked as hard as I could, until I felt I was
turning quite pale and the perspiration was standing in great
drops on my forehead. Then he laughed--such a hearty laugh.
Manders. It was an extremely odd thing to do.
Mrs. Alving. Dear Mr. Manders, Oswald only dreamt it.
Oswald. No indeed, mother, it was no dream. Because--don't you
remember--you came into the room and carried me off to the
nursery, where I was sick, and I saw that you were crying. Did
father often play such tricks?
Manders. In his young days he was full of fun--
Oswald. And, for all that, he did so much with his life--so much
that was good and useful, I mean--short as his life was.
Manders. Yes, my dear Oswald Alving, you have inherited the name
of a man who undoubtedly was both energetic and worthy. Let us
hope it will be a spur to your energies.
Oswald. It ought to be, certainly.
Manders. In any case it was nice of you to come home for the day
that is to honour his memory.
Oswald. I could do no less for my father.
Mrs. Alving. And to let me keep him so long here--that's the
nicest part of what he has done.
Manders. Yes, I hear you are going to spend the winter at home.
Oswald. I am here for an indefinite time, Mr. Manders.--Oh, it's
good to be at home again!
Mrs. Alving (beaming). Yes, isn't it?
Manders (looking sympathetically at him). You went out into the
world very young, my dear Oswald.
Oswald. I did. Sometimes I wonder if I wasn't too young.
Mrs. Alving. Not a bit of it. It is the best thing for an active
boy, and especially for an only child. It's a pity when they are
kept at home with their parents and get spoiled.
Manders. That is a very debatable question, Mrs, Alving. A
child's own home is, and always must be, his proper place.
Oswald. There I agree entirely with Mr. Manders.
Manders. Take the case of your own son. Oh yes, we can talk about
it before him. What has the result been in his case? He is six or
seven and twenty, and has never yet had the opportunity of
learning what a well-regulated home means.
Oswald. Excuse me, Mr. Manders, you are quite wrong there.
Manders. Indeed? I imagined that your life abroad had practically
been spent entirely in artistic circles.
Oswald. So it has.
Manders. And chiefly amongst the younger artists.
Manders. But I imagined that those gentry, as a rule, had not the
means necessary for family life and the support of a home.
Oswald. There are a considerable number of them who have not the
means to marry, Mr. Manders.
Manders. That is exactly my point.
Oswald. But they can have a home of their own, all the same; a
good many of them have. And they are very well-regulated and very
comfortable homes, too.
(MRS. ALVING, who has listened to him attentively, nods assent,
but says nothing.)
Manders. Oh, but I am not talking of bachelor establishments. By
a home I mean family life--the life a man lives with his wife and
Oswald. Exactly, or with his children and his children's mother.
Manders (starts and clasps his hands). Good heavens!
Oswald. What is the matter?
Manders. Lives with-with-his children's mother.
Oswald. Well, would you rather he should repudiate his children's
Manders. Then what you are speaking of are those unprincipled
conditions known as irregular unions!
Oswald. I have never noticed anything particularly unprincipled
about these people's lives.
Manders. But do you mean to say that it is possible for a man of
any sort of bringing up, and a young woman, to reconcile
themselves to such a way of living--and to make no secret of it,
Oswald. What else are they to do? A poor artist, and a poor girl--
it costs a good deal to get married. What else are they to do?
Manders. What are they to do? Well, Mr. Alving, I will tell you
what they ought to do. They ought to keep away from each other
from the very beginning--that is what they ought to do!
Oswald. That advice wouldn't have much effect upon hot-blooded
young folk who are in love.
Mrs. Alving. No, indeed it wouldn't.
Manders (persistently). And to think that the authorities
tolerate such things! That they are allowed to go on, openly!
(Turns to MRS. ALVING.) Had I so little reason, then, to be sadly
concerned about your son? In circles where open immorality is
rampant--where, one may say, it is honoured--
Oswald. Let me tell you this, Mr. Manders. I have been a constant
Sunday guest at one or two of these "irregular" households.
Manders. On Sunday, too!
Oswald. Yes, that is the day of leisure. But never have I heard
one objectionable word there, still less have I ever seen
anything that could be called immoral. No; but do you know when
and where I have met with immorality in artists' circles?
Manders. No, thank heaven, I don't!
Oswald. Well, then, I shall have the pleasure of telling you. I
have met with it when someone or other of your model husbands
and fathers have come out there to have a bit of a look round on
their own account, and have done the artists the honour of
looking them up in their humble quarters. Then we had a chance of
learning something, I can tell you. These gentlemen were able to
instruct us about places and things that we had never so much as
Manders. What? Do you want me to believe that honourable men when
they get away from home will--
Oswald. Have you never, when these same honourable men come home
again, heard them deliver themselves on the subject of the
prevalence of immorality abroad?
Manders. Yes, of course, but--
Mrs. Alving. I have heard them, too.
Oswald. Well, you can take their word for it, unhesitatingly.
Some of them are experts in the matter. (Putting his hands to his
head.) To think that the glorious freedom of the beautiful life
over there should be so besmirched!
Mrs. Alving. You mustn't get too heated, Oswald; you gain nothing
Oswald. No, you are quite right, mother. Besides, it isn't good
for me. It's because I am so infernally tired, you know. I will
go out and take a turn before dinner. I beg your pardon, Mr.
Manders. It is impossible for you to realise the feeling; but it
takes me that way (Goes out by the farther door on the right.)
Mrs. Alving. My poor boy!
Manders. You may well say so. This is what it has brought him to!
(MRS. ALVING looks at him, but does not speak.) He called himself
the prodigal son. It's only too true, alas--only too true! (MRS.
ALVING looks steadily at him.) And what do you say to all this?
Mrs. Alving. I say that Oswald was right in every single word he
Manders. Right? Right? To hold such principles as that?
Mrs. Alving. In my loneliness here I have come to just the same
opinions as he, Mr. Manders. But I have never presumed to venture
upon such topics in conversation. Now there is no need; my boy
shall speak for me.
Manders. You deserve the deepest pity, Mrs. Alving. It is my duty
to say an earnest word to you. It is no longer your businessman
and adviser, no longer your old friend and your dead husband's
old friend, that stands before you now. It is your priest that
stands before you, just as he did once at the most critical
moment of your life.
Mrs. Alving. And what is it that my priest has to say to me?
Manders. First of all I must stir your memory. The moment is well
chosen. Tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of your husband's
death; tomorrow the memorial to the departed will be unveiled;
tomorrow I shall speak to the whole assembly that will be met
together, But today I want to speak to you alone.
Mrs. Alving, Very well, Mr. Manders, speak!
Manders. Have you forgotten that after barely a year of married
life you were standing at the very edge of a precipice?--that you
forsook your house and home? that you ran away from your husband--
yes, Mrs. Alving, ran away, ran away-=and refused to return to
him in spite of his requests and entreaties?
Mrs. Alving. Have you forgotten how unspeakably unhappy I was
during that first year?
Manders. To crave for happiness in this world is simply to be
possessed by a spirit of revolt. What right have we to happiness?
No! we must do our duty, Mrs. Alving. And your duty was to cleave
to the man you had chosen and to whom you were bound by a sacred
Mrs. Alving. You know quite well what sort of a life my husband
was living at that time--what excesses he was guilty of.
Menders. I know only too well what rumour used to say of him; and
I should be the last person to approve of his conduct as a young
man, supposing that rumour spoke the truth. But it is not a
wife's part to be her husband's judge. You should have considered
it your bounden duty humbly to have borne the cross that a higher
will had laid upon you. But, instead of that, you rebelliously
cast off your cross, you deserted the man whose stumbling
footsteps you should have supported, you did what was bound to
imperil your good name and reputation, and came very near to
imperilling the reputation of others into the bargain.
Mrs. Alving. Of others? Of one other, you mean.
Manders. It was the height of imprudence, your seeking refuge
Mrs. Alving. With our priest? With our intimate friend?
Manders. All the more on that account; you should thank God that
I possessed the necessary strength of mind--that I was able to
turn you from your outrageous intention, and that it was
vouchsafed to me to succeed in leading you back into the path of
duty, and back to your lawful husband.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, Mr. Manders, that certainly was your doing.
Manders. I was but the humble instrument of a higher power. And
is it not true that my having been able to bring you again under
the yoke of duty and obedience sowed the seeds of a rich blessing
on all the rest of your life? Did things not turn out as I
foretold to you? Did not your husband turn from straying in the
wrong path, as a man should? Did he not, after that, live a life
of love and good report with you all his days? Did he not become
a benefactor to the neighbourhood? Did he not so raise you up to
his level, so that by degree you became his fellow-worker in all
his undertakings--and a noble fellow-worker, too. I know, Mrs.
Alving; that praise I will give you. But now I come to the second
serious false step in your life.
Mrs. Alving. What do you mean?
Manders, Just as once you forsook your duty as a wife, so, since
then, you have forsaken your duty as a mother.
Mrs. Alving. Oh--!
Manders. You have been overmastered all your life by a disastrous
spirit of willfulness. All your impulses have led you towards what
is undisciplined and lawless. You have never been willing to
submit to any restraint. Anything in life that has seemed irksome
to you, you have thrown aside recklessly and unscrupulously, as
if it were a burden that you were free to rid yourself of if you
would. It did not please you to be a wife any longer, and so you
left your husband. Your duties as a mother were irksome to you,
so you sent your child away among strangers.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, that is true; I did that.
Menders. And that is why you have become a stranger to him.
Mrs. Alving. No, no, I am not that!
Manders. You are; you must be. And what sort of a son is it that
you have got back? Think over it seriously, Mrs. Alving. You
erred grievously in your husband's case--you acknowledge as much,
by erecting this memorial to him. Now you are bound to
acknowledge how much you have erred in your son's case; possibly
there may still be time to reclaim him from the path of
wickedness. Turn over a new leaf, and set yourself to reform what
there may still be that is capable of reformation in him. Because
(with uplifted forefinger) in very truth, Mrs. Alving, you are a
guilty mother!--That is what I have thought it my duty to say to
(A short silence.)
Mrs. Alving (speaking slowly and with self-control). You have had
your say, Mr. Manders, and tomorrow you will be making a public
speech in memory of my husband. I shall not speak tomorrow. But
now I wish to speak to you for a little, just as you have been
speaking to me.
Manders. By all means; no doubt you wish to bring forward some
excuses for your behaviour.
Mrs. Alving. No. I only want to tell you something--
Mrs. Alving. In all that you said just now about me and my
husband, and about our life together after you had, as you put
it, led me back into the path of duty--there was nothing that you
knew at first hand. From that moment you never again set foot in
our house--you, who had been our daily companion before that.
Manders. Remember that you and your husband moved out of town
Mrs. Alving. Yes, and you never once came out here to see us in
my husband's lifetime. It was only the business in connection
with the Orphanage that obliged you to come and see me.
Manders (in a low and uncertain voice). Helen--if that is a
reproach, I can only beg you to consider--
Mrs. Alving. --the respect you owed by your calling?--yes. All
the more as I was a wife who had tried to run away from her
husband. One can never be too careful to have nothing to do with
such reckless women.
Manders. My dear--Mrs. Alving, you are exaggerating dreadfully.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, yes,--very well. What I mean is this, that when
you condemn my conduct as a wife you have nothing more to go upon
than ordinary public opinion.
Manders. I admit it. What then?
Mrs. Alving. Well now, Mr. Manders, now I am going to tell you
the truth. I had sworn to myself that you should know it one day--
you, and you only!
Manders. And what may the truth be?
Mrs. Alving. The truth is this, that my husband died just as
great a profligate as he had been all his life.
Manders (feeling for a chair). What are you saying?
Mrs. Alving. After nineteen years of married life, just as
profligate--in his desires at all events--as he was before you
Manders. And can you talk of his youthful indiscretions--his
irregularities--his excesses, if you like--as a profligate life!
Mrs. Alving. That was what the doctor who attended him called it.
Manders. I don't understand what you mean.
Mrs. Alving. It is not necessary that you should.
Manders. It makes my brain reel. To think that your marriage--all
the years of wedded life you spent with your husband--were
nothing but a hidden abyss of misery.
Mrs. Alving. That and nothing else. Now you know.
Manders. This--this bewilders me. I can't understand it! I can't
grasp it! How in the world was it possible? How could such a
state of things remain concealed?
Mrs. Alving. That was just what I had to fight for incessantly,
day after day. When Oswald was born, I thought I saw a slight
improvement. But it didn't last long. And after that I had to
fight doubly hard--fight a desperate fight so that no one should
know what sort of a man my child's father was. You know quite
well what an attractive manner he had; it seemed as if people
could believe nothing but good of him. He was one of those men
whose mode of life seems to have no effect upon their
reputations. But at last, Mr. Manders--you must hear this too--at
last something happened more abominable than everything else.
Manders. More abominable than what you have told me!
Mrs. Alving. I had borne with it all, though I knew only too well
what he indulged in in secret, when he was out of the house. But
when it came to the point of the scandal coming within our four
Manders. Can you mean it! Here?
Mrs. Alving. Yes, here, in our own home. It was in there
(pointing to the nearer door on the right) in the dining-room
that I got the first hint of it. I had something to do in there
and the door was standing ajar. I heard our maid come up from the
garden with water for the flowers in the conservatory.
Mrs. Alving. Shortly afterwards I heard my husband come in too. I
heard him say something to her in a low voice. And then I heard--
(with a short laugh)--oh, it rings in my ears still, with its
mixture of what was heartbreaking and what was so ridiculous--I
heard my own servant whisper: "Let me go, Mr. Alving! Let me be!"
Manders. What unseemly levity on his part! But surely nothing
more than levity, Mrs. Alving, believe me.
Mrs. Alving. I soon knew what to believe. My husband had his will
of the girl--and that intimacy had consequences, Mr. Manders.
Manders (as if turned to stone). And all that in this house! In
Mrs. Alving. I have suffered a good deal in this house. To keep
him at home in the evening--and at night--I have had to play the
part of boon companion in his secret drinking-bouts in his room
up there. I have had to sit there alone with him, have had to
hobnob and drink with him, have had to listen to his ribald
senseless talk, have had to fight with brute force to get him to
Manders (trembling). And you were able to endure all this!
Mrs. Alving. I had my little boy, and endured it for his sake.
But when the crowning insult came--when my own servant--then I
made up my mind that there should be an end of it. I took the
upper hand in the house, absolutely--both with him and all the
others. I had a weapon to use against him, you see; he didn't
dare to speak. It was then that Oswald was sent away. He was
about seven then, and was beginning to notice things and ask
questions as children will. I could endure all that, my friend.
It seemed to me that the child would be poisoned if he breathed
the air of this polluted house. That was why I sent him away. And
now you understand, too, why he never set foot here as long as
his father was alive. No one knows what it meant to me.
Manders. You have indeed had a pitiable experience.
Mrs. Alving. I could never have gone through with it, if I had
not had my work. Indeed, I can boast that I have worked. All the
increase in the value of the property, all the improvements, all
the useful arrangements that my husband got the honour and glory
of--do you suppose that he troubled himself about any of them?
He, who used to lie the whole day on the sofa reading old
official lists! No, you may as well know that too. It was I that
kept him up to the mark when he had his lucid intervals; it was I
that had to bear the whole burden of it when he began his
excesses again or took to whining about his miserable condition.
Manders. And this is the man you are building a memorial to!
Mrs. Alving. There you see the power of an uneasy conscience.
Manders. An uneasy conscience? What do you mean?
Mrs. Alving. I had always before me the fear that it was
impossible that the truth should not come out and be believed.
That is why the Orphanage is to exist, to silence all rumours and
clear away all doubt.
Manders. You certainly have not fallen short of the mark in that,
Mrs. Alving. I had another very good reason. I did not wish
Oswald, my own son, to inherit a penny that belonged to his
Manders. Then it is with Mr. Alving's property.
Mrs. Alving. Yes. The sums of money that, year after year, I have
given towards this Orphanage, make up the amount of property--I
have reckoned it carefully--which in the old days made Lieutenant
Alving a catch.
Manders. I understand.
Mrs. Alving. That was my purchase money. I don't wish it to pass
into Oswald's hands. My son shall have everything from me, I am
(OSWALD comes in by the farther door on the right. He has left
his hat and coat outside.)
Mrs. Alving. Back again, my own dear boy?
Oswald. Yes, what can one do outside in this everlasting rain? I
hear dinner is nearly ready. That's good!
(REGINA comes in front the dining-room, carrying a parcel.)
Regina. This parcel has come for you, ma'am. (Gives it to her.)
Mrs. Alving (glancing at MANDERS). The ode to be sung tomorrow, I
Regina. And dinner is ready.
Mrs. Alving. Good. We will come in a moment. I will just--(begins
to open the parcel).
Regina (to OSWALD). Will you drink white or red wine, sir?
Oswald. Both, Miss Engstrand.
Regina. Bien--very good, Mr. Alving. (Goes into the dining-room.)
Oswald. I may as well help you to uncork it--. (Follows her into
the dining-room, leaving the door ajar after him.)
Mrs. Alving. Yes, I thought so. Here is the ode, Mr Manders.
Manders (clasping his hands). How shall I ever have the courage
tomorrow to speak the address that--
Mrs. Alving. Oh, you will get through it.
Manders (in a low voice, fearing to be heard in the dining room).
Yes, we must raise no suspicions.
Mrs. Alving (quietly but firmly). No; and then this long dreadful
comedy will be at an end. After tomorrow, I shall feel as if my
dead husband had never lived in this house. There will be no one
else here then but my boy and his mother.
(From the dining-room is heard the noise of a chair falling;
then REGINA'S voice is heard in a loud whisper: Oswald! Are you
mad? Let me go!)
Mrs. Alving (starting in horror). Oh--!
(She stares wildly at the half-open door. OSWALD is heard
coughing and humming, then the sound of a bottle being uncorked.)
Manders (in an agitated manner). What's the matter? What is it,
Mrs. Alving (hoarsely). Ghosts. The couple in the conservatory--
Manders. What are you saying! Regina--? Is SHE--!
Mrs. Alving. Yes, Come. Not a word--!
(Grips MANDERS by the arm and walks unsteadily with him into the
(The same scene. The landscape is still obscured by Mist. MANDERS
and MRS. ALVING come in from the dining-room.)
Mrs. Alving (calls into the dining-room from the doorway). Aren't
you coming in here, Oswald?
Oswald. No, thanks; I think I will go out for a bit.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, do; the weather is clearing a little. (She
shuts the dining-room door, then goes to the hall door and
Regina (from without). Yes, ma'am?
Mrs. Alving. Go down into the laundry and help with the garlands.
Regina. Yes, ma'am.
(MRS. ALVING satisfies herself that she has gone, then shuts the
Manders. I suppose he can't hear us?
Mrs. Alving. Not when the door is shut. Besides, he is going out.
Manders. I am still quite bewildered. I don't know how I managed
to swallow a mouthful of your excellent dinner.
Mrs. Alving (walking up and down, and trying to control her
agitation). Nor I. But, what are we to do?
Manders. Yes, what are we to do? Upon my word I don't know; I am
so completely unaccustomed to things of this kind.
Mrs. Alving. I am convinced that nothing serious has happened
Manders. Heaven forbid! But it is most unseemly behaviour, for
Mrs. Alving. It is nothing more than a foolish jest of Oswald's,
you may be sure.
Manders. Well, of course, as I said, I am quite inexperienced in
such matters; but it certainly seems to me--
Mrs. Alving. Out of the house she shall go--and at once. That
part of it is as clear as daylight--
Manders. Yes, that is quite clear.
Mrs. Alving. But where is she to go? We should not be justified
Manders. Where to? Home to her father, of course.
Mrs. Alving. To whom, did you say?
Manders. To her--. No, of course Engstrand isn't--. But, great
heavens, Mrs. Alving, how is such a thing possible? You surely
may have been mistaken, in spite of everything.
Mrs. Alving. There was no chance of mistake, more's the pity.
Joanna was obliged to confess it to me--and my husband couldn't
deny it. So there was nothing else to do but to hush it up.
Manders. No, that was the only thing to do.
Mrs. Alving. The girl was sent away at once, and was given a
tolerably liberal sum to hold her tongue. She looked after the
rest herself when she got to town. She renewed an old
acquaintance with the carpenter Engstrand; gave him a hint, I
suppose, of how much money she had got, and told him some fairy
tale about a foreigner who had been here in his yacht in the
summer. So she and Engstrand were married in a great hurry. Why,
you married them yourself!
Manders. I can't understand it--, I remember clearly Engstrand's
coming to arrange about the marriage. He was full of contrition,
and accused himself bitterly for the light conduct he and his
fiancee had been guilty of.
Mrs. Alving. Of course he had to take the blame on himself.
Manders. But the deceitfulness of it! And with me, too! I
positively would not have believed it of Jacob Engstrand. I shall
most certainly give him a serious talking to. And the immorality
of such a marriage! Simply for the sake of the money--! What sum
was it that the girl had?
Mrs. Alving. It was seventy pounds.
Manders. Just think of it--for a paltry seventy pounds to let
yourself be bound in marriage to a fallen woman!
Mrs. Alving. What about myself, then?--I let myself be bound in
marriage to a fallen man.
Manders. Heaven forgive you! What are you saying? A fallen man?
Mrs. Alving. Do you suppose my husband was any purer, when I went
with him to the altar, than Joanna was when Engstrand agreed to
Manders. The two cases are as different as day from night.
Mrs. Alving. Not so very different, after all. It is true there
was a great difference in the price paid, between a paltry
seventy pounds and a whole fortune.
Manders. How can you compare such totally different things! I
presume you consulted your own heart--and your relations.
Mrs. Alving (looking away from him). I thought you understood
where what you call my heart had strayed to at that time.
Manders (in a constrained voice). If I had understood anything of
the kind, I would not have been a daily guest in your husband's
Mrs. Alving. Well, at any rate this much is certain-- I
didn't consult myself in the matter at all.
Manders. Still you consulted those nearest to you, as was only
right--your mother, your two aunts.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, that is true. The three of them settled the
whole matter for me. It seems incredible to me now, how clearly
they made out that it would be sheer folly to reject such an
offer. If my mother could only see what all that fine prospect
has led to!
Manders. No one can be responsible for the result of it. Anyway
there is this to be said, that the match was made in complete
conformity with law and order.
Mrs. Alving (going to the window). Oh, law and order! I often
think it is that that is at the bottom of all the misery in the
Manders. Mrs. Alving, it is very wicked of you to say that.
Mrs. Alving. That may be so; but I don't attach importance to
those obligations and considerations any longer. I cannot! I must
struggle for my freedom.
Manders. What do you mean?
Mrs. Alving (taping on the window panes). I ought never to have
concealed what sort of a life my husband led. But I had not the
courage to do otherwise then--for my own sake, either. I was too
much of a coward.
Manders. A coward?
Mrs. Alving. If others had known anything of what happened, they
would have said: "Poor man, it is natural enough that he should
go astray, when he has a wife that has run away from him."
Manders. They would have had a certain amount of justification
for saying so.
Mrs. Alving (looking fixedly at him). If I had been the woman I
ought, I would have taken Oswald into my confidence and said to
him: "Listen, my son, your father was a dissolute man"--
Manders. Miserable woman.
Mrs. Alving. --and I would have told him all I have told you,
from beginning to end.
Manders. I am almost shocked at you, Mrs. Alving.
Mrs. Alving. I know. I know quite well! I am shocked at myself
when I think of it. (Comes away from the window.) I am coward
enough for that.
Manders. Can you call it cowardice that you simply did your duty?
Have you forgotten that a child should love and honour his father
Mrs. Alving. Don't let us talk in such general terms. Suppose we
say: "Ought Oswald to love and honour Mr. Alving?"
Manders. You are a mother--isn't there a voice in your heart that
forbids you to shatter your son's ideals?
Mrs. Alving. And what about the truth?
Manders. What about his ideals?
Mrs: Alving. Oh--ideals, ideals! If only I were not such a coward
as I am!
Manders. Do not spurn ideals, Mrs. Alving--they have a way of
avenging themselves cruelly. Take Oswald's own case, now. He
hasn't many ideals, more's the pity. But this much I have seen,
that his father is something of an ideal to him.
Mrs. Alving. You are right there.
Manders. And his conception of his father is what you inspired
and encouraged by your letters.
Mrs: Alving. Yes, I was swayed by duty and consideration for
others; that was why I lied to my son, year in and year out. Oh,
what a coward--what a coward I have been!
Manders. You have built up a happy illusion in your son's mind,
Mrs. Alving--and that is a thing you certainly ought not to
Mrs. Alving. Ah, who knows if that is such a desirable thing
after all!--But anyway I don't intend to put up with any goings
on with Regina. I am not going to let him get the poor girl into
Manders. Good heavens, no--that would be a frightful thing!
Mrs. Alving. If only I knew whether he meant it seriously, and
whether it would mean happiness for him.
Manders. In what way? I don't understand.
Mrs. Alving. But that is impossible; Regina is not equal to it,
Manders, I don't understand: What do you mean?
Mrs. Alving. If I were not such a miserable coward, I would say
to him: "Marry her, or make any arrangement you like with her--
only let there be no deceit in the matter."
Manders. Heaven forgive you! Are you actually suggesting anything
so abominable, so unheard of, as a marriage between them!
Mrs. Alving. Unheard of, do you call it? Tell me honestly, Mr.
Manders, don't you suppose there are plenty of married couples
out here in the country that are just as nearly related as they
Manders. I am sure I don't understand you.
Mrs. Alving. Indeed you do.
Manders. I suppose you are thinking of cases where possibly--. It
is only too true, unfortunately, that family life is not always
as stainless as it should be. But as for the sort of thing you
hint at--well, it's impossible to tell, at all events, with any
certainty. Here on the other hand--for you, a mother, to be
willing to allow your--
Mrs. Alving. But I am not willing to allow it; I would not allow
it for anything in the world; that is just what I was saying.
Manders. No, because you are a coward, as you put it. But,
supposing you were not a coward--! Great heavens--such a
Mrs. Alving. Well, for the matter of that, we are all descended
from a union of that description, so we are told. And who was it
that was responsible for this state of things, Mr. Manders?
Manders. I can't discuss such questions with you, Mrs. Alving;
you are by no means in the right frame of mind for that. But for
you to dare to say that it is cowardly of you--!
Mrs. Alving. I will tell you what I mean by that. I am frightened
and timid, because I am obsessed by the presence of ghosts that I
never can get rid of,
Manders. The presence of what?
Mrs. Alving. Ghosts. When I heard Regina and Oswald in there, it
was just like seeing ghosts before my eyes. I am half inclined to
think we are all ghosts, Mr. Manders. It is not only what we have
inherited from our fathers and mothers that exists again in us,
but all sorts of old dead ideas and all kinds of old dead beliefs
and things of that kind. They are not actually alive in us; but
there they are dormant, all the same, and we can never be rid of
them. Whenever I take up a newspaper and read it, I fancy I see
ghosts creeping between the lines. There must be ghosts all over
the world. They must be as countless as the grains of the sands,
it seems to me. And we are so miserably afraid of the light, all
Manders. Ah!--there we have the outcome of your reading. Fine
fruit it has borne--this abominable, subversive, free-thinking
Mrs. Alving. You are wrong there, my friend. You are the one who
made me begin to think; and I owe you my best thanks for it.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, by forcing me to submit to what you called my
duty and my obligations; by praising as right and lust what my
whole soul revolted against, as it would against something
abominable. That was what led me to examine your teachings
critically. I only wanted to unravel one point in them; but as
soon as I had got that unravelled, the whole fabric came to
pieces. And then I realised that it was only machine-made.
Manders (softly, and with emotion). Is that all I accomplished by
the hardest struggle of my life?
Mrs. Alving. Call it rather the most ignominious defeat of your
Manders. It was the greatest victory of my life, Helen; victory
Mrs. Alving. It was a wrong done to both of us.
Manders. A wrong?--wrong for me to entreat you as a wife to go
back to your lawful husband, when you came to me half distracted
and crying: "Here I am, take me!" Was that a wrong?
Mrs. Alving. I think it was.
Menders. We two do not understand one another.
Mrs. Alving. Not now, at all events.
Manders. Never--even in my most secret thoughts--have I for a
moment regarded you as anything but the wife of another.
Mrs. Alving. Do you believe what you say?
Mrs. Alving. One so easily forgets one's own feelings. Manders.
Not I. I am the same as I always was.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, yes--don't let us talk any more about the old
days. You are buried up to your eyes now in committees and all
sorts of business; and I am here, fighting with ghosts both
without and within me.
Manders. I can at all events help you to get the better of those
without you. After all that I have been horrified to hear you
from today, I cannot conscientiously allow a young defenceless
girl to remain in your house.
Mrs. Alving. Don't you think it would be best if we could get her
settled?--by some suitable marriage, I mean.
Manders. Undoubtedly. I think, in any case, it would have been
desirable for her. Regina is at an age now that--well, I don't
know much about these things, but--
Mrs. Alving. Regina developed very early.
Manders. Yes, didn't she. I fancy I remember thinking she was
remarkably well developed, bodily, at the time I prepared her for
Confirmation. But, for the time being, she must in any case go
home. Under her father's care--no, but of course Engstrand is
not. To think that he, of all men, could so conceal the truth
from me! (A knock is heard at the hall door.)
Mrs. Alving. Who can that be? Come in!
(ENGSTRAND, dressed in his Sunday clothes, appears in the
Engstrand. I humbly beg pardon, but--
Manders. Aha! Hm!
Mrs. Alving. Oh, it's you, Engstrand!
Engstrand. There were none of the maids about, so I took the
great liberty of knocking.
Mrs. Alving. That's all right. Come in. Do you want to speak to
Engstrand (coming in). No, thank you very much, ma'am. It was Mr.
Menders I wanted to speak to for a moment.
Manders (walking up and down). Hm!--do you. You want to speak to
me, do you?
Engstrand. Yes, sir, I wanted so very much to--
Manders (stopping in front of him). Well, may I ask what it is
Engstrand. It's this way, Mr. Manders. We are being paid off now.
And many thanks to you, Mrs. Alving. And now the work is quite
finished, I thought it would be so nice and suitable if all of
us, who have worked so honestly together all this time, were to
finish up with a few prayers this evening.
Manders. Prayers? Up at the Orphanage?
Engstrand. Yes, sir, but if it isn't agreeable to you, then--
Manders. Oh, certainly--but--hm!--
Engstrand. I have made a practice of saying a few prayers there
myself each evening.
Mrs: Alving. Have you?
Engstrand. Yes, ma'am, now-- and then--just as a little
edification, so to speak. But I am only a poor common man, and
haven't rightly the gift, alas--and so I thought that as Mr,
Manders happened to be here, perhaps--
Manders. Look here, Engstrand! First of all I must ask you a
question. Are you in a proper frame of mind for such a thing? Is
your conscience free and untroubled?
Engstrand. Heaven have mercy on me a sinner! My conscience isn't
worth our speaking about, Mr. Manders.
Manders. But it is just what we must speak about. What do you say
to my question?
Engstrand. My conscience? Well--it's uneasy sometimes, of course.
Manders. Ah, you admit that at all events. Now will you tell me,
without any concealment-- what is your relationship to Regina?
Mrs. Alving (hastily). Mr. Manders!
Manders (calming her).--Leave it to me!
Engstrand. With Regina? Good Lord, how you frightened me! (Looks
at MRS ALVING.) There is nothing wrong with Regina, is there?
Manders. Let us hope not. What I want to know is, what is your
relationship to her? You pass as her father, don't you?
Engstrand (unsteadily): Well--hm!--you know, sir, what happened
between me and my poor Joanna.
Manders. No more distortion of the truth! Your late wife made a
full confession to Mrs. Alving, before she left her service...
Engstrand. What!--do you mean to say--? Did she do that after
Manders. You see it has all come out, Engstrand.
Engstrand. Do you mean to say that she, who gave me her promise
and solemn oath--
Manders. Did she take an oath?
Engstrand. Well, no--she only gave me her word, but as seriously
as a woman could.
Manders. And all these years you have been hiding the truth from
me--from me, who have had such complete and absolute faith in you.
Engstrand. I am sorry to say I have, sir.
Manders. Did I deserve that from you, Engstrand? Haven't I been
always ready to help you in word and deed as far as lay in my
power? Answer me! Is it not so?
Engstrand. Indeed there's many a time I should have been very
badly off without you, sir.
Manders. And this is the way you repay me--by causing me to make
false entries in the church registers, and afterwards keeping
back from me for years the information which you owed it both to
me and to your sense of the truth to divulge. Your conduct has
been absolutely inexcusable, Engstrand, and from today everything
is at an end between us.
Engstrand (with a sigh). Yes, I can see that's what it means.
Manders. Yes, because how can you possibly justify what you did?
Engstrand. Was the poor girl to go and increase her load of shame
by talking about it? Just suppose, sir, for a moment that your
reverence was in the same predicament as my poor Joanna.
Engstrand. Good Lord, sir, I don't mean the same predicament. I
mean, suppose there were something your reverence was ashamed of
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