A spectacle is an event that is memorable for the appearance it creates. The appearance in Henrik Ibsen’s play is created due to three factors: first, the idea of the play, second, the dramatic structure which imposes a clear order on human behavior and makes it understandable and predictable, and finally, the dramatic techniques used to convey the message. The idea of the play itself makes it spectacular since nothing can be more fascinating than the emergence of a new individuality and a new state of mind in front of the spectator’s eyes. The main character, Nora, lives in her husband’s doll house, leading the life of a doll wife.
When her husband falls ill, she borrows money illegally by forging her father’s signature to save her husband’s life, and consequently finds herself in an ambiguous position. Unfortunately, she cannot comprehend the severity of her decision to commit an illegal deed as well as to lie to her husband about it. This situation leads to her epiphany about the realities of the world, ruining the doll’s house. What makes this play fascinating is that contrary to audience’s expectations, Nora musters her energy to stop acting as a disobedient child and decides to discover and educate herself in order to find her individuality.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, she emerges as a new person from her false life in a doll’s house. What the audience remembers in “A Doll’s House” is the message of the play that was very controversial in the times of Ibsen. The message that a woman can go against societal morals and conventions in Ibsen’s times would be a very notorious topic to discuss, let alone put in a play to be performed in front of hundreds of people. The play was even banned for a long time. Another factor that makes the spectacle of the drama unforgettable is the clear dramatic structure that Ibsen imposes on the action and behavior of people in the play.
The structure of the play has a clear beginning, in which Ibsen creates an idyllic world in which the characters strive. The next stage is where the playwright creates suspense by inserting an information gap: we know of Nora’s illegal act, but her husband does not, and she does everything to keep it secret. This in its turn brings about a conflict, the third stage. When Nora’s husband discovers her faux pas, he humiliates her and makes her suffer. Nora is disillusioned, she, as a disobedient child, did not expect this and is unable to comprehend the reality, she still expects her husband to forgive and help her.
The final structural part of the play portrays the process of Nora coming of age, her transformation from a disobedient child and a flirting doll wife into an adult, serious person. This stage is shown by Nora’s unexpected departure from her idyllic past, which as she now understands was far from idyllic. The structure imposed on the events in the play, helps the audience organize the content and comprehend it. The last factor that may influence the audience’s perception of the play, and make it unforgettable, is the use of dramatic techniques such as subtle symbolism and visual effects.
One recurring symbol throughout the play is the Christmas tree which in the beginning of the play represents the playful mood and happiness of the season. Ibsen also creates an undeniable association between the tree and Nora, who, like the tree, is simply decorative in her family: we know that Nora does not make any crucial decisions in the family. The Christmas tree can also not be “unveiled” as Nora refuses to show her dress before she performs her dance. In the end of the play, a very different mood is created by the same tree which has “burnt down candle stubs on its red branches,” as stated in the stage directions.
The season of the play, Christmas, is also very symbolic because for many people the New Year symbolizes a new beginning, a chance to live their life in a better way. The title of the drama itself, “A Doll’s House” suggests a miniature model of a house inhabited by dolls. In this way Ibsen emphasizes that Nora’s home is a falsification of home and marriage. The pet names that Torvald uses on Nora, “little lark,” or “my squirrel” symbolize condescending attitude of men towards their wives in Ibsen’s times. Not less symbolic, are the three women characters in the drama. Apart from Nora, Mrs.
Linde and the Nurse both have unfortunate past without men to support them, which shows how dependent women were on men. All these symbolic elements contribute to the impression of the spectator and help him remember the play more than the words said by the characters. One of the visual effects, which I cannot forget, is Nora’s tarantella dance. When I read bout the origin of this dance, which in south Italy was once used as a cure from the tarantula venom, I understood why Ibsen chose the tarantella to amplify Nora’s uneasiness in her ambiguous position, performing to the frantic tempo of the tarantella for her master puppeteer, her husband.
By and large, Ibsen’s play produces a strong impression on the spectator, not only because of dialogues and monologues, but mostly by the controversial idea of female independence unthinkable in 1879, by the dramatic structure of Ibsen’s drama which organized the behavior and actions of the characters, and of course, by the subtle use of visual effects and symbols, all amounting to far more than the words spoken.