Rhyme and Reason in Ibsen's Norma


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Norma eller En Politikens Kjaerlighed: Musik-Tragedie i Tre Akter (Norma or a Politician's Love: A Musical Tragedy in Three Acts) appeared in two June issues of the satirical student journal Manden (The Man) in 1851, with Ibsen on the staff principally as a theater critic. Even the title itself is satirical in nature, for this reaction to the Bellini opera by the same name, translated for the Christiania stage by Adam Oehlenschläger, was present in a May critique of the opera: "Denne herlige Musiktragedie, som Oehlenschlaeger naivt har kaldet Stykket, uagtet det ikke er nogen Tragedie, er noksom bekjendt." ("This splendid musical tragedy, as Oehlenschläger naively has called the piece, despite the fact that it is no tragedy, is rather well known" (XV.68).1 Harold Clurman has called the eight page play "one long joke,"2 and the obvious political overtones outlined in Ibsen's preface define it for James McFarlane as a "modest exercise in political satire"3 far removed from tragedy. However, there is more to Ibsen's political analogy than meets the ear.

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