Norway // The South //

Ibsen cuts his teeth in Grimstad

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Born in the hamlet of Skien, Henrik Ibsen (1828–1906) left his home at the tender age of sixteen, moving to Grimstad, where he worked as an apprentice pharmacist for the next six years. The ill-judged financial dealings of Ibsen’s father had impoverished the family, and Henrik’s already jaundiced view of Norway’s provincial bourgeoisie was confirmed here in the port, whose worthies Ibsen mocked in poems like Resignation, and The Corpse’s Ball. It was here too that Ibsen picked up first-hand news of the Paris Revolution of 1848, an event that radicalized him and inspired his paean to the insurrectionists of Budapest, To Hungary, written in 1849. Nonetheless, Ibsen’s stay on the south coast is more usually recalled as providing the setting for some of his better-known plays, especially his Pillars of Society.

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