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Modern Literature and the Tragic$
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K. M. Newton

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780748636730

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748636730.001.0001

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Ibsen's Ghosts and the Rejection of the Tragic

Ibsen's Ghosts and the Rejection of the Tragic

(p.9) Chapter 1 Ibsen's Ghosts and the Rejection of the Tragic
Modern Literature and the Tragic

K. M. Newton

Edinburgh University Press

Ibsen clearly has classical tragedy in mind in Ghosts, particularly Sophocles' Oedipus the King, which is held by Aristotle in his Poetics to be the exemplary tragedy. Ibsen, before he turned to social realism, had written plays in verse, and one of the best known of these plays is Brand. Ghosts suggests that Ibsen was well aware that a move to social realism had major implications for tragedy. Like Oedipus, it is very much about the relationship between past and present. Its ending is almost as catastrophic as any in classical tragedy, with Oswald's mind being destroyed by congenital syphilis, inherited from his father but transmitted to him through his mother, and Mrs Alving finally being faced with the dilemma of whether or not to agree to his demand to kill him and thus put him out of his misery when his mind gives way.

Keywords:   classical tragedy, Ibsen, Ghosts, Oedipus the King, Oswald, Mrs Alving, Brand, social realism

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