When We Dead Awaken Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First produced: 1900

First published: Naar vi døde vaagner, 1899

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Psychological symbolism

Time of work: Nineteenth century

Locale: A coastal town of Norway

Characters DiscussedArnold Rubek

Arnold When We Dead AwakenRubek, a sculptor. At a mountain resort on the coast of Norway, Rubek and Maia, his wife, see Irene. In his youth, Rubek had found in Irene the perfect model, but he had turned away from her love. After leaving Irene, Rubek had stopped creating beautiful works in marble and made only concealed caricatures, with an animal’s face hidden behind the human one. Finding his life of ease with Maia intolerable, he goes with Irene in search of their lost love and finds death with her in the snow at the top of the mountain.

Irene von Satow

Irene von Satow, the inspiration for Rubek’s greatest work, Woman Awakening from the Dead on the Resurrection Day After the Sleep of Death. Irene tells Rubek that she is dead. She had meant to kill Rubek with a knife but decides to spare him when he tells her that he too has suffered. Although she tells him that he is already dead, she lures him to the mountaintop where they perish in the snow.

Maia Rubek

Maia Rubek, Rubek’s wife. She finds Ulfheim, a sportsman, intriguing and accompanies him on a hunting trip to the mountains.


Ulfheim, a wealthy sportsman known as a bear-killer. After he and Maia quarrel on the snow-covered mountain, they are reconciled and tell each other of their youthful disappointments. Returning from the mountain, they meet Rubek and Irene going up toward the icy heights. Ulfheim warns them of the approaching storm.

A Sister of Mercy

A Sister of Mercy, a symbolic character. She watches Irene in each critical scene. At the end, she appears on the mountain, makes the sign of the cross, and wishes Rubek and Irene peace as they lie buried in the snow.

BibliographyDurbach, Errol. “Ibsen the Romantic”: Analogoues of Paradise in the Later Plays. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1982. An exploration of the lingering presence of romantic elements in Ibsen’s later plays. Provides an interesting discussion of the relationship between man and woman in When We Dead Awaken.Holtan, Orley I. Mythic Patterns in Ibsen’s Last Plays. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1970. A study of the mythic content in Ibsen’s last seven plays, the book offers valuable insights to beginners and to more experienced readers. The chapter on When We Dead Awaken is focused on the resurrection myth.Lyons, Charles R. Henrik Ibsen: The Divided Consciousness. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1972. A study of how many of Ibsen’s protagonists are simultaneously drawn to a life of thought and one of sensuous experience. Good chapter on When We Dead Awaken.Meyer, Michael. Ibsen: A Biography. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971. A standard biography of Ibsen, it contains a chapter on When We Dead Awaken that is a good introduction to the play and a useful summary of various critical attitudes toward it.Weigand, Hermann J. The Modern Ibsen: A Reconsideration. New York: Henry Holt, 1925. Long a standard in Ibsen criticism, this volume covers each of the twelve last plays and presents a careful reading of Ibsen’s final drama.
Categories: Characters