24 March 2007
Mrs. Alving, widow of Captain Alving, has built an orphanage in his memory, to be dedicated by Pastor Manders. Her son Osvald, an artist living in Paris, has returned for the ceremony. Captain Alving was dissolute and debauched; Regina, a servant in the household, is his daughter by a maid. Thus Mrs. Alving and Manders are horrified to hear Osvald speaking of love to Regina. Osvald tells his mother that he is suffering from a mental disorder; since he thinks his father was a virtuous man, Osvald has rejected a medical explanation that his illness is a result of his father’s venereal disease. Mrs. Alving decides to tell Regina and Osvald the truth about their father but she is interrupted by a fire that destroys the orphanage. Jakob Engstrand, Regina’s supposed father, cleverly persuades Manders that the fire was caused by a candle the Pastor threw away and offers to take the blame himself. When Osvald enters, exhausted from trying to fight the fire, Mrs. Alving tells him that her husband’s “joy of living” was frustrated by his life in provincial society and by her own puritanical attitudes. Learning that Osvald is ill, and that marriage to him would be incestuous, Regina leaves to start her own life. Oswald tells his mother that his brain will soon rot and forces her to promise to poison him when this happens. As the sun rises, Osvald’s mind suddenly unbalances. Mrs Alving is left in terror, unable to decide whether to comply with Osvald’s wishes.
This drama with some of the issue that it discusses, including out-of-wedlock children, venereal disease, incest, infidelity and euthanasia is one of Ibsen’s most powerful works, but also one of his most controversial. Its initial publication sold only a few copies, with most of those printed returned to the publisher. It was not performed in Ibsen’s native Norway for almost a decade after its world debut in Chicago. In 1898, at a dinner in Ibsen’s honour at the Royal Palace in Stockholm, King Oscar II expressed the opinion that Ghosts was not a good play, and that Ibsen should not have written it. After a moment of silence, the playwright replied, “Your majesty, I had to write Ghosts.
Marko Mandić – The Prešeren Fund Award for the roles in the last two years of Polybus in Svetin’s Oedipus at Corinth, Osvald in Ibsen’s Ghosts, Dr. Srnen in Cankar’s Romantic Souls, Count Strahlski in Kleist’s Ordeal by Fire, and Balthasar in Hieng’s The Conqueror.