Translated by David H. Klein and adapted by Jean H. Klein, this political satire exposes business and governmental corruption.
Unlike other translations, it also reveals the off-centered obsession of the play’s hero, Dr. Thomas Stockmann.
Previous translators have presumed that Ibsen admired this champion of honesty and fairness, but Thomas is as zealous and blind as his adversaries.
Only his wife, Katherine, seems to understand the world of fools in which she lives and tries to maintain a sense of order and sanity.
From the Play
Play Excerpt: Cast List
Dr. Thomas Stockmann: Medical Officer of the Municipal Spa
Katherine Stockmann: His wife.
Petra: Their daughter
Peter Stockmann: Dr. Stockmann’s older brother; Mayor of the town; Chairman of the Spa Committee.
Morten Kiil: Mrs. Stockmann’s father, owner of a tannery.
Hovstad: Editor-in Chief of the People’s Voice.
Billing: An editor who reports to Hovstad
Captain Horster: A ship captain and friend of the Stockmann’s.
Aslaksen: A printer who publishes the People’s Voice.
NOTE: If a larger cast is desired, it is possible to expand the roles of the citizens and even to allow impromptu crowd responses.
Time: The 1800’s.
Place: A small town in Norway. Although there are several scenes specified, the play needs only a unit set. The dining room of scenes 1 and 2, for example, can become the printing office of the People’s Voice, as well as the front parlor of Captain Horster’s house.
Act I Scene 1: The parlor and dining room of the residence of Dr. Thomas Stockmann and his wife Katherine
Act I Scene 2: The same.
Act I Scene 3: The editorial offices of the People’s Voice . The dining room table is now a large desk, covered with books, newspapers, etc. Lamps and decorations have been removed. Chairs have been covered to change their look.
Act II Scene 1: A large room in Captain Horster’s house. Again the sofa covers have been changed and the furniture moved around. The lamps now have a nautical motif. On the right, there is a door leading to an anteroom with several chairs placed beside it. Other folding chairs line the stage. Down center is a large podium or lectern on a table with a bell sitting on it. The room has obviously been set up for a lecture. The audience in the theater is the audience for the lecture, with the exception of three Actors who are planted there and take the roles of Citizen 1, Citizen 2 and Citizen 3. Their comments are augmented by recorded crowd noises. . Citizen 1 has a horn and Citizen 2 has a whistle. They will encourage reActions from the audience as the meeting progresses.
Act 2 Scene 2: The Stockmann’s dining room and parlor. The parlor now seems more disheveled and several window panes are broken. There is a pile of stones on a table.
Excerpt From the Play
(Hovstad is sitting at the desk writing. Billing enters, Thomas’s voluminous manuscript in his hands. Billing places the copy on the desk.
Hovstad: (Talking while writing) So, you’ve read the Doctor’s manuscript? It’s very enlightening, even edifying, isn’t it?
Billing: Every word echoes like the ring of hammers.
Hovstad: Shhhh. Don’t let Aslaksen hear you.
Billing: Damned fool. He’s afraid of his own shadow. We’ve got the courage to print the truth.
Hovstad: That’s the obligation of the press. Besides, no matter what happens, our position is impregnable and unassailable. If the Mayor doesn’t back the doctor, the Householder’s Association and the small taxpayers will boot him out of office. And it he opposes his brother, his own Baths Committee will be out for his blood. And then we can make a clean sweep. The control of the whole town will finally be in the hands of the right people–us.
Billing: Oh, I can hear a revolution coming! The thudding of the cavalry . . .
(There is a knock at the door.)
Hovstad: Come in.
(Thomas bursts in.)
Thomas: Mr. Hovstad, print away! We’re going to fight!
Billing: We’ll get our knives to their throats.
Thomas: And this is just the beginning. I’ve got several more ideas for articles in my head.
Hovstad: About the Baths?
Thomas: Oh, no. But they all come from that source. Oh, I can’t stop the ideas from flowing, now. One thing leads to another. It’s like tearing down an old house.
Billing: That’s right. You have to pull down all the old rubbish . . .
(Aslaksen enters, as if he’d been listening.)
Aslaksen: What are we pulling down? Not the Baths?
Thomas: Certainly not.
Hovstad: Your article is a masterpiece. You don’t even have to understand it to know that right is on your side.
Aslaksen: So, we’re printing it tomorrow? (Assent all around.)
Thomas: Splendid! Mr. Aslaksen. Would you oversee the printing yourself?
Aslaksen: Of course. Such an important project! Everyone will read it . . .
Thomas: I can’t wait to see it burst upon the people . . .
Billing: Like a thunderstorm of protest . . .
Thomas: Let the people judge it. We’re all intelligent citizens here. In spite of what my brother thinks. He’s already threatened me today. Tried to talk me out of exercising my rights . . .
Hovstad: Well, it doesn’t surprise me. Men of that rank are often bullies.
Billing: Your rights are sacred.
Thomas: Thank God, I have The People’s Voice to protect me. Together, we’ll bombard the community with words like a fusillade. Smite down the Committee’s defenses . . .
Aslaksen: Absolutely. But with moderation.
Billing: Damned moderation! Bring on the dynamite!
Thomas: And it’s more than a question of the water supply, now. You were right, Hovstad. We have to disinfect the moral roots of our whole society. I don’t know exActly how, yet, but it’ll come to me.
Aslaksen: With moderation, we should be successful..
Thomas: Damn the risk.
Aslaksen: (Gasps) Dr. Stockmann! Please. That’s very inflammatory.
Thomas: And rightly so. We’re setting sail in the name of truth and conscience.
Hovstad: You deserve our support. You respect the ordinary man. Everyone in town will be grateful to you. I should add to your byline–Dr. Stockmann, a friend to his community.
Thomas (Grabbing their hands) My brother called me something much different this morning. Aslaksen, watch over my manuscript. Leave in all my exclamation points. (Pause) In fAct, add one or two more. (Pause, smiling) In moderation, of course.
(Good-bye’s all around. Thomas exits.)
Hovstad: We can use men like him.
Aslaksen: As long as he doesn’t go too far. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about half the time.
Hovstad: No one ever is. But it doesn’t matter as long as he agrees with us.
Aslaksen: I don’t like this business of tackling the local authorities. If you attack the national government, you don’t really hurt anyone. Those fellows just ignore you and go about their business. But local officials? You can get rid of them. And what do you get in their place? Bumbling, rabble-rousing ignoramuses who cost the householders money and do a lot of harm.