Three Dramas Three Dramas

Three Dramas

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Publisher Description

The Editor (Redaktören) was written while Björnson was in Florence, and was published at Copenhagen in 1874. It was at first not accepted for performance at Christiania or Copenhagen, though an unauthorised performance of it was given at one of the lesser Christiania theatres in 1875, Meanwhile a Swedish version of it had been produced, authoritatively, at Stockholm in February of that year. The play eventually made its way on the Norwegian and Danish stage; but, before that, it had been seen in German dress at Munich and Hamburg. As an inevitable result of his recent activities as a political speaker and pamphleteer, Björnson had come in for a good deal of vituperation in the press, a fact which no doubt added some gall to the ink with which he drew the portrait of the journalist in this play. The Stockholm critics, indeed, had condemned The Editor as merely a pamphleteering attack on the editor of a well-known journal. In answer to this criticism Björnson wrote from Rome in March, 1875: "It is said that my play is a pamphleteering attack on a certain individual. That is a deliberate lie. I have studied the journalist type, which is here represented, in many other countries besides my own. The chief characteristic of this type is to be actuated by an inordinate egotism that is perpetually being inflamed by passion; that makes use of bogeys to frighten people, and does this in such a way that, while it makes all its honest contemporaries afraid of any freedom of thought, it also produces the same result on every single individual by means of reckless persecution. As I wished to portray that type, I naturally took a good deal of the portrait from the representative of the type that I knew best; but, like every artist who wishes to produce a complete creation, I had to build it up from separate revelations of itself. There can, therefore, be no question of any individual being represented in my play except in so far as he may partially agree with the type."

However much Björnson may have written The Editor with a "purpose," his vivid dramatic sense kept him from becoming merely didactic. The little tragedy that takes place amongst this homely group of people makes quite a moving play, thanks to the skill with which the types are depicted—the bourgeois father and mother, with their mixture of timidity and self-interest; the manly, straightforward young politician, resolute to carry on the work that has sapped his brother's life; the warped, de-humanised nature of the journalist; the sturdy common-sense of the yeoman farmer; and the doctor, the "family friend," as a sort of mocking chorus. Besides its plea for a higher regard for truth, the play also attacks the precept, preached by worldly wisdom, that we ought to harden our natures to make ourselves invulnerable; a proposition which was hateful to one of Björnson's persistently impressionable and ingenuous nature. The fact remains, as Brandes grimly admits, that "nowadays we have only a very qualified sympathy with public characters who succumb to the persecution of the press." Brandes sees in the play, besides its obvious motive, an allegory. Halvdan Rejn, the weary and dying politician, is (he says) meant for Henrik Wergeland, a Norwegian poet-politician who had similar struggles, sank under the weight of similar at tacks, died after a long illness, and was far higher reputed after his death than during his life. In Harald Rejn, with his honest enthusiasm and misjudged political endeavours Brandes sees Björnson himself; while the yeoman brother, Haakon, seems to him to typify the Norwegian people.

Fiction & Literature
February 18
Library of Alexandria
The Library of Alexandria

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