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“A Dolls House” by Henrik Ibsen

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  • Pages: 5
  • Word count: 1107
  • Category: Drama

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For this particular part of my A level drama coursework I have been studying as well as closely analysing the language spoken within the play “A Dolls House”, written by Henrik Ibsen back in the 19th century. But many children and students are still reading this well known play, now in this modern day and age, with most if not all of them probably enjoying it. For this coursework I will be mainly looking at the following:

* Sub-text

* The dialect

* The usage of questions

* Poetic or finely tuned idiom

* The natural/unnatural speech

* The employ of metaphors or symbolism

* The convolution/simplicity of the language

* Sentence lengths, pauses and vocabulary used

* Any use of characteristics, phrases or specific words in general

* As well as any other lingo linked with the language in the play or used in the play itself.

Ever since reading the text in my own time I have, in many of my past lessons been discussing, acting and re-reading parts of the play as well as researching many other aspects to the play. By doing this I discovered things like the play was firstly written in Norwegian and then translated into many languages along with many more complex things. Back in lessons I was doing tasks that specifically looked at the language in the play. For example before rein acting a scene from the play the whole class gathered in a circle to do a warm up exercise which evolved around the line; “What did you do to die today at a minute or two to two, a thing distinctly hard to say but a harder thing to do”. I had to say this line in many different accents and characters including a posh upper class character like Nora and Torvold Helmer from the play. The language used in the play not only creates the feel of the 19th century but it also reflects the way the characters are. It does this as the 19th century old English is very formal showing there middle to higher class and well educated. The language also shows the society that the characters live in and is significant as it reveals their inner thoughts, feelings relationships and situations. In one particular part of the play Torvold says:

“You can’t deny it, little Nora now can you? It’s a sweet little songbird but it gets through a terrible amount of money you wouldn’t believe how much it costs a man when he’s got a little songbird like you”

This rather poetic and metaphoric line compares Nora to a songbird which is petit and shows she can be sweet, innocent and chirpy. It also echo’s how Torvold belittles Nora and treats her like a child, which in them days was the done thing; men overpowering women and controlling the relationship in addition to this it perhaps shows how he has a fatherly figure and likes to take control over situations. Although in saying that Nora is or should I say acts rather childlike and naive herself but at the same time is manipulative, flirtatious and cunning as it proves on the opening line of the play;

“Hide that Christmas tree away, Helen. The children mustn’t see it before I’ve decorated it this evening”

As well as giving the audience a rough date and establishing shot it shows how Nora seems just as excited about Christmas as the children do. In most houses the children would be helping to set up the Christmas tree but not in the Helmer household Nora is setting up the tree and rather excited about it too.

There is some reference to poetry in the text although it is not the rhyming type, it’s more a usage of poetic words being exchanged. Like in the first quote I made there are countless uses of words like “songbird” and “squirrel” being used to describe Nora as well as Torvold (in some parts of the play). There is another quote in Act 1 on page 25 where Nora has just gone out and bought some new things for the family, which Torvold is unhappy about as she has spent so much money which makes Nora unhappy too, it says;

“Now, now! My little songbird mustn’t droop her wings. What’s this? Is little squirrel sulking? (takes out his purse) Nora; guess what I’ve got here!

This quote to me shows how he just keeps Nora sweet but does not go out of his reach to keep her happy. Also the use of poetic words is very creative and wise it is saying to Nora do not loose hope or become sad. But it says this in a metaphoric way as Nora does not really have wings but a songbird does and this is what Nora is often compared to by Torvold.

The majority of the speech used throughout the play is natural from all of the characters as the play itself is done rather realistically and flows well. There are very rare if any uses of Brectian techniques to break any language or any part of the play up for example; there are no placards to make a particular line stand out, this is probably as each line is just as important as the one before. Even though there is reference to use of poetic language I think it gives the play even more of a realistic effect as people do have little pet names for there husband and wife. In addition to this Henrik Ibsen goes that step further and creates for each character there own realm of speech as a quote from the Methuen Student notes verifies:

“Ibsen creates for each character a habit of speech appropriate to his or her own class and personality”

With Torvold he is spoken with a rather fatherly/paternal type of speech, Krogstad he always reflects to his training as a lawyer, Mrs Linde speaks direct and could appear a bit bitter and cold, Nora is excitable but finds resolve at the end of the play and Dr Rank speaks in riddles and fondness of using figures of speech. Over all this coursework has made me realise how important the lines actually are in a play and how important it is to deliver them correctly. As well as consistency when delivering the lines in a certain way the character must keep delivering them in that way. I personally believe that this may enhance my skills as a yr 12 drama student.

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