Places: The Lady from the Sea

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Fruen fra havet, 1888 (English translation, 1890)

First produced: 1889

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: Nineteenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedWangel’s house

Wangel’s Lady from the Sea, Thehouse. Home of the prominent Dr. Wangel. Stage directions introduce the house, which is situated in a sleepy Norwegian town that has been kept from the wilder sea by protective fjords. Almost all the action of the play takes place not in the house proper but in the various corners of the garden, from which one can see a road with trees on either side along the water’s edge. Between the trees can be seen the fjord and the high mountain peaks in the distance. The fact that the open sea can never be directly seen strongly affects Wangel’s wife Ellida, who cannot adjust to the domestic world represented by her husband’s garden.


*Fjords (fee-yohrds). Long, narrow inlets of the sea along Norway’s coast that can be seen from Dr. Wangel’s house. The stage directions constantly reinforce the fact that while the open sea itself cannot be seen, its proximity is indicated by the fjords. Ellida is only well and happy when she is bathing in the fjords’ waters, although she complains that they are brackish and tepid. Instead, she yearns for the greater sea, the reality of which is indicated by a shadowy figure known as Friman, who materializes in Wangel’s garden to tempt her to a new and dangerous life at sea, beyond the secure Norwegian villages and fjords.

BibliographyDurbach, Errol. “Ibsen the Romantic”: Analogues of Paradise in the Later Plays. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1982. Durbach argues that the marriage depicted in The Lady from the Sea is a positive counterpart to those of A Doll’s House (1879) and Hedda Gabler (1890).Haugen, Einar. Ibsen’s Drama: Author to Audience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1979. Written by a master teacher and scholar, this is a superb general introduction to Ibsen’s works and their place in European cultural history. Comments on The Lady from the Sea are found throughout the book.Holtan, Orley I. Mythic Patterns in Ibsen’s Last Plays. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1970. An overview of the mythic content in Ibsen’s later plays. Presents a thorough discussion of the psychological, philosophical, and mythic aspects of the drama, which Holtan argues ought to be regarded from the perspective of myth or allegory.Jacobsen, Per Schelde, and Barbara Fass Leavy. Ibsen’s Forsaken Merman: Folklore in the Late Plays. New York: New York University Press, 1988. An overview of Ibsen’s use of folklore motifs. Discusses the similarities between Ellida and such mythological creatures as mermaids and seal maidens.Weigand, Herman J. The Modern Ibsen: A Reconsideration. New York: Holt, 1925. An excellent introduction to Ibsen’s later plays. Contains a good discussion of The Lady from the Sea. Praises the subtlety of the psychological portrayal of the main character, but he lacks understanding of the importance of the subplots.
Categories: Places