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Theatre and Evolution from Ibsen to Beckett$
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Kirsten Shepherd-Barr

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231164702

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231164702.001.0001

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“On the Contrary!”

“On the Contrary!”

Ibsen’s Evolutionary Vision

(p.63) 3 “On the Contrary!”
Theatre and Evolution from Ibsen to Beckett

Kirsten Shepherd-Barr

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines Henrik Ibsen's exploration of evolutionary mechanisms such as extinction, sexual selection, and adaptation through close analysis of his writings. Ibsen's engagement with evolution is not limited to thematic motifs, but extends to structure, methodology, characterization, and staging. Both Jane Goodall and Tamsen Wolff notice the sense of “deep time” in Ibsen's dramaturgy—how he manages to stage the past in the present, “conveying the deep histories behind critical events in the present and...suggesting the atavistic elements in human personality.” This chapter also considers Charles Darwin's influence on Ibsen, particularly in conceptions of nature and the natural, and how Ibsen opened the way for so many playwrights to explore women's roles within the “natural order.” Finally, it discusses the theme of wildness versus domestication that underpins many of Ibsen's plays.

Keywords:   drama, Henrik Ibsen, extinction, evolution, Charles Darwin, nature, women, wildness, domestication

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