An Enemy of the People
Overview
An Enemy of the People is an 1882 play by Norwegian playwright
Playwright
A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...

 Henrik Ibsen
Henrik Ibsen
Henrik Ibsen was a major 19th-century Norwegian playwright, theatre director, and poet. He is often referred to as "the father of prose drama" and is one of the founders of Modernism in the theatre...

. Ibsen wrote it in response to the public outcry against his play Ghosts
Ghosts (play)
Ghosts is a play by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. It was written in 1881 and first staged in 1882.Like many of Ibsen's better-known plays, Ghosts is a scathing commentary on 19th century morality....

, which at that time was considered scandalous. Ghosts had challenged the hypocrisy of Victorian morality and was deemed indecent for its veiled references to syphilis
Syphilis
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the spirochete bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum. The primary route of transmission is through sexual contact; however, it may also be transmitted from mother to fetus during pregnancy or at birth, resulting in congenital syphilis...

.

An Enemy of the People addresses the irrational tendencies of the masses, and the hypocritical and corrupt nature of the political system that they support.
Encyclopedia
An Enemy of the People is an 1882 play by Norwegian playwright
Playwright
A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...

 Henrik Ibsen
Henrik Ibsen
Henrik Ibsen was a major 19th-century Norwegian playwright, theatre director, and poet. He is often referred to as "the father of prose drama" and is one of the founders of Modernism in the theatre...

. Ibsen wrote it in response to the public outcry against his play Ghosts
Ghosts (play)
Ghosts is a play by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. It was written in 1881 and first staged in 1882.Like many of Ibsen's better-known plays, Ghosts is a scathing commentary on 19th century morality....

, which at that time was considered scandalous. Ghosts had challenged the hypocrisy of Victorian morality and was deemed indecent for its veiled references to syphilis
Syphilis
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the spirochete bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum. The primary route of transmission is through sexual contact; however, it may also be transmitted from mother to fetus during pregnancy or at birth, resulting in congenital syphilis...

.

An Enemy of the People addresses the irrational tendencies of the masses, and the hypocritical and corrupt nature of the political system that they support. It is the story of one brave man's struggle to do the right thing and speak the truth in the face of extreme social intolerance. The play's protagonist, Dr Stockmann, represents the playwright's own voice. Upon completion of the play, Ibsen wrote to his publisher in Copenhagen
Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

 : "I am still uncertain as to whether I should call it a comedy or a straight drama. It may [have] many traits of comedy, but it also is based on a serious idea."

Plot

Dr. Thomas Stockmann is a popular citizen of a small coastal town in Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

. The town has recently invested a large amount of public and private money towards the development of baths, a project led by Dr. Stockmann and his brother, Peter Stockmann, the Mayor. The town is expecting a surge in tourism and prosperity from the new baths, said to be of great medicinal value, and as such, the baths are a source of great local pride. However, just as the baths are proving successful, Dr. Stockmann discovers that waste products from the town's tannery are contaminating
Contamination
Contamination is the presence of a minor and unwanted constituent in material, physical body, natural environment, at a workplace, etc.-Specifics:"Contamination" also has more specific meanings in science:...

 the waters, causing serious illness amongst the tourists. He expects this important discovery to be his greatest achievement, and promptly sends a detailed report to the Mayor, which includes a proposed solution which would come at a considerable cost to the town.

To his surprise, Dr. Stockmann finds it difficult to get through to the authorities. They seem unable to appreciate the seriousness of the issue and unwilling to publicly acknowledge and address the problem because it could mean financial ruin for the town. As the conflict develops, the Mayor warns his brother that he should "acquiesce in subordinating himself to the community." Dr. Stockmann refuses to accept this, and holds a town meeting at Captain Horster's house in order to persuade people that the baths must be closed.

The townspeople - eagerly anticipating the prosperity that the baths will bring - refuse to accept Dr. Stockmann's claims, and his friends and allies, who had explicitly given support for his campaign, turn against him en masse. He is taunted and denounced as a lunatic, an "Enemy of the People
Enemy of the people
The term enemy of the people is a fluid designation of political or class opponents of the group using the term. The term implies that the "enemies" in question are acting against society as a whole. It is similar to the notion of "enemy of the state". The term originated in Roman times as ,...

." In a scathing rebuttal of both the Victorian
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

 notion of community and the principles of democracy
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

, Dr. Stockmann proclaims that in matters of right and wrong, the individual is superior to the multitude, which is easily led by self-advancing demagogues
Demagogy
Demagogy or demagoguery is a strategy for gaining political power by appealing to the prejudices, emotions, fears, vanities and expectations of the public—typically via impassioned rhetoric and propaganda, and often using nationalist, populist or religious themes...

. Dr. Stockmann sums up Ibsen's denunciation of the masses, with the memorable quote "...the strongest man in the world is the man who stands most alone." He also says: "A minority may be right; a majority is always wrong."

List of characters

  • Dr. Thomas Stockmann.
  • Mrs. Stockmann, his wife.
  • Petra, their daughter, a teacher.
  • Ejlif & Morten, their sons.
  • Peter Stockmann, Dr. Stockmann's elder brother.
  • Morten Kiil, a tanner (Mrs. Stockmann's adoptive father), also known as the badger.
  • Hovstad, editor.
  • Billing, sub-editor.
  • Captain Horster.
  • Aslaksen, a publisher.
  • Men of various conditions and occupations, a few women, and a troop of schoolboys - the audience at a public meeting.

Themes

In An Enemy of the People, speaking the language of comic exaggeration through the mouth of his spokesman, the disillusioned idealist Dr. Thomas Stockmann, Ibsen puts into very literal terms the theme of the play: It is true that ideas grow stale and platitudinous, but one may go one step further and say flatly that truths die. According to Stockmann, there are no absolute principles of either wisdom
Wisdom
Wisdom is a deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgements and actions in keeping with this understanding. It often requires control of one's emotional reactions so that universal principles, reason and...

 or morality
Morality
Morality is the differentiation among intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good and bad . A moral code is a system of morality and a moral is any one practice or teaching within a moral code...

. In this Ibsen is referring indirectly to the reception of his previous plays. For example, the commandment "honor thy father and thy mother" referred to in Ghosts
Ghosts (play)
Ghosts is a play by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. It was written in 1881 and first staged in 1882.Like many of Ibsen's better-known plays, Ghosts is a scathing commentary on 19th century morality....

is not simply either true or false. It may have been a truth once and a falsehood today. As Stockmann puts it in his excited harangue to his political enemies: "Truths are by no means the wiry Methuselah
Methuselah
Methuselah is the oldest person whose age is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. Extra-biblical tradition maintains that he died on the 11th of Cheshvan of the year 1656 , at the age of 969, seven days before the beginning of the Great Flood...

s some people think them. A normally constituted truth lives—let us say—as a rule, seventeen or eighteen years; at the outside twenty; very seldom more. And truths so patriarchal as that are always shockingly emaciated."

Adaptations

This classic play was adapted by Arthur Miller
Arthur Miller
Arthur Asher Miller was an American playwright and essayist. He was a prominent figure in American theatre, writing dramas that include plays such as All My Sons , Death of a Salesman , The Crucible , and A View from the Bridge .Miller was often in the public eye,...

 in the 1950s in a production that opened at the Broadhurst Theater on December 28, 1950. It starred Academy Award winner Fredric March and his wife Florence Eldridge as well as Morris Carnovsky; future Oscar winner Rod Steiger was a "townsperson." Miller's adaptation was presented on National Educational Television
National Educational Television
National Educational Television was an American non-commercial educational public television network in the United States from May 16, 1954 to October 4, 1970...

 in 1966, in a production starring James Daly. It was also made into a movie of the same name in 1978, starring Steve McQueen. The BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 then cast Robert Urquhart
Robert Urquhart (actor)
Robert Urquhart was a Scottish character actor who mainly worked in British television during his career.He was born in Ullapool, Scotland on 16 October 1921, educated at George Heriot's School in Edinburgh and made his stage debut in 1947...

 as "Tom Stockman" in their 1980 TV version, adapting the story and the cast names to reflect it now being set in a Scottish
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 town.

Satyajit Ray
Satyajit Ray
Satyajit Ray was an Indian Bengali filmmaker. He is regarded as one of the greatest auteurs of 20th century cinema. Ray was born in the city of Kolkata into a Bengali family prominent in the world of arts and literature...

's 1989 film Ganashatru
Ganashatru
Ganashatru is a 1990 Indian film by Satyajit Ray. It is an adaption of Henrik Ibsen's play An Enemy of the People, and was released under that title in the UK. The cast includes Ray's favourite actor Soumitra Chatterjee, and veteran actors such as Dhritiman Chatterjee, Shubhendu Chatterjee, Manoj...

, was also based on this play.

An Enemy of the People (with the subtitle The strongest one is the one who stands alone) - a Norwegian film issued in 2004 and directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg
Erik Skjoldbjærg
Erik Skjoldbjærg is a Norwegian director and writer best known for co-writing and directing the film Insomnia and directing Prozac Nation-External links:...

- is an adaptation of Ibsen's play.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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