A DOLL'S HOUSE
by Henrik Ibsen
translated by William Archer
NORA, his wife.
MRS. LINDEN. *
THE HELMERS' THREE CHILDREN.
ANNA, *(2) their nurse.
A MAID-SERVANT (ELLEN).
The action passes in Helmer's house (a flat) in Christiania.
* In the original "Fru Linde."
*(2) In the original "Anne-Marie."
A room, comfortably and tastefully, but not expensively, furnished.
In the back, on the right, a door leads to the hall; on the left another door leads to HELMER’s study. Between the two doors
a pianoforte. In the middle of the left wall a door, and nearer the front a window. Near the window a round table with armchairs and
a small sofa. In the right wall, somewhat to the back, a door, and against the same wall, further forward, a porcelain stove; in front
of it a couple of arm-chairs and a rocking-chair. Between the stove and the side-door a small table. Engravings on the walls. A whatnot with china and bric-a-brac. A small bookcase filled with handsomely bound books. Carpet. A fire in the stove. It is a winter day.
A bell rings in the hall outside. Presently the outer door of the flat is heard to open. Then NORA enters, humming gaily. She is
in outdoor dress, and carries several parcels, which she lays on the right-hand table. She leaves the door into the hall open, and a
PORTER is seen outside, carrying a Christmas-tree and a basket, which he gives to the MAID-SERVANT who has opened the door.
NORA. Hide the Christmas-tree carefully, Ellen; the children must
on no account see it before this evening, when it's lighted up.
[To the PORTER, taking out her purse.] How much?
PORTER. Fifty ore. *
* About sixpence. There are 100 ore in a krone or crown, which is
worth thirteenpence halfpenny.
NORA. There is a crown. No, keep the change.
[The PORTER thanks her and goes. NORA shuts the door. She
continues smiling in quiet glee as she takes off her
outdoor things. Taking from her pocket a bag of
macaroons, she eats one or two. Then she goes on tip-toe
to her husband's door and listens.
NORA. Yes; he is at home.
[She begins humming again, crossing to the table on the
HELMER. [In his room.] Is that my lark twittering there?
NORA. [Busy opening some of her parcels.] Yes, it is.
HELMER. Is it the squirrel frisking around?
HELMER When did the squirrel get home?
NORA. Just this minute. [Hides the bag of macaroons in her pocket
and wipes her mouth.] Come here, Torvald, and see what I've been
HELMER. Don't interrupt me. [A little later he opens the door and
looks in, pen in hand.] Buying, did you say? What! All that? Has
my little spendthrift been making the money fly again?
NORA. Why, Torvald, surely we can afford to launch out a little
now. It's the first Christmas we haven't had to pinch.
HELMER. Come come; we can't afford to squander money.
NORA. Oh yes, Torvald, do let us squander a little, now- just the
least little bit! You know you'll soon be earning heaps of money.
HELMER. Yes, from New Year's Day. But there's a whole quarter
before my first salary is due.
NORA. Never mind; we can borrow in the meantime.
HELMER. Nora! [He goes up to her and takes her playfully by the
ear.] Still my little featherbrain! Supposing I borrowed a
thousand crowns to-day, and you made ducks and drakes of them
during Christmas week, and then on New Year's Eve a tile blew off
the roof and knocked my brains outNORA. [Laying her hand on his mouth.] Hush! How can you talk so
HELMER. But supposing it were to happen- what then?
NORA. If anything so dreadful happened, it would be all the same to
me whether I was in debt or not.
HELMER. But what about the creditors?
NORA. They! Who cares for them? They're only strangers.
HELMER. Nora, Nora! What a woman you are! But seriously, Nora, you
know my principles on these points. No debts! No borrowing! Home
life ceases to be free and beautiful as soon as it is founded on
borrowing and debt. We two have held out bravely till now, and we
are not going to give in at the last.
NORA. [Going to the fireplace.] Very well- as you please, Torvald.
HELMER. [Following her.] Come come; my little lark mustn't droop
her wings like that. What? Is my squirrel in the sulks? [Takes
out his purse.] Nora, what do you think I have here?
NORA. [Turning round quickly.] Money!
HELMER. There! [Gives her some notes.] Of course I know all sorts
of things are wanted at Christmas.
NORA. [Counting.] Ten, twenty, thirty, forty. Oh, thank you, thank
you, Torvald! This will go a long way.
HELMER. I should hope so.
NORA. Yes, indeed; a long way! But come here, and let me show
you all I've been buying. And so cheap! Look, here's a new suit
for Ivar, and a little sword. Here are a horse and a trumpet for
Bob. And here are a doll and a cradle for Emmy. They're only
common; but they're good enough for her to pull to pieces. And
dress-stuffs and kerchiefs for the servants. I ought to have got
something better for old Anna.
HELMER. And what's in that other parcel?
NORA. [Crying out.] No, Torvald, you're not to see that until this
HELMER. Oh! Ah! But now tell me, you little spendthrift, have you
thought of anything for yourself?
NORA. For myself! Oh, I don't want anything.
HELMER. Nonsense! Just tell me something sensible you would like to
NORA. No, really I don't know of anything- Well, listen, TorvaldHELMER. Well?
NORA. [Playing with his coat-buttons, without looking him in the
face.] If you really want to give me something, you might, you
know- you mightHELMER. Well? Out with it!
NORA. [Quickly.] You might give me money, Torvald. Only just what
you think you can spare; then I can buy something with it later
HELMER. But, NoraNORA. Oh, please do, dear Torvald, please do! I should hang the
money in lovely gilt paper on the Christmas-tree. Wouldn't that
HELMER. What do they call the birds that are always making the
NORA. Yes, I know- spendthrifts, * of course. But please do as I
ask you, Torvald. Then I shall have time to think what I want
most. Isn't that very sensible, now?
* "Spillefugl," literally "playbird," means a gambler.
HELMER. [Smiling.] Certainly; that is to say, if you really kept
the money I gave you, and really spent it on something for
yourself. But it all goes in housekeeping, and for all manner of
useless things, and then I have to pay up again.
NORA. But, TorvaldHELMER. Can you deny it, Nora dear? [He puts his arm round her.]
It's a sweet little lark, but it gets through a lot of money. No
one would believe how much it costs a man to keep such a little
bird as you.
NORA. For shame! How can you say so? Why, I save as much as ever I
HELMER. [Laughing.] Very true- as much as you can- but that's
NORA. [Hums and smiles with covert glee.] H'm! If you only knew,
Torvald, what expenses we larks and squirrels have.
HELMER. You're a strange little being! Just like your fatheralways on the look-out for all the money you can lay your hands
on; but the moment you have it, it seems to slip through your
fingers; you never know what becomes of it. Well, one must take
you as you are. It's in the blood. Yes, Nora, that sort of thing
NORA. I wish I had inherited many of papa's qualities.
HELMER. And I don't wish you anything but just what you are- my
own, sweet little song-bird. But I say- it strikes me you look
so- so- what shall I call it?- so suspicious to-dayNORA. Do I?
HELMER. You do, indeed. Look me full in the face.
NORA. [Looking at him.] Well?
HELMER. [Threatening with his finger.] Hasn't the little
sweet-tooth been playing pranks to-day?
NORA. No; how can you think such a thing!
HELMER. Didn't she just look in at the confectioner's?
NORA. No, Torvald; reallyHELMER. Not to sip a little jelly?
NORA. No; certainly not.
HELMER. Hasn't she even nibbled a macaroon or two?
NORA. No, Torvald, indeed, indeed!
HELMER. Well, well, well; of course I'm only joking.
NORA. [Goes to the table on the right.] I shouldn't think of
doing what you disapprove of.
HELMER. No, I'm sure of that; and, besides, you've given me your
word- [Going towards her.] Well, keep your little Christmas
secrets to yourself, Nora darling. The Christmas-tree will bring
them all to light, I daresay.
NORA. Have you remembered to invite Doctor Rank?
HELMER. No. But it's not necessary; he'll come as a matter of
course. Besides, I shall ask him when he looks in to-day. I've
ordered some capital wine. Nora, you can't think how I look
forward to this evening.
NORA. And I too. How the children will enjoy themselves, Torvald!
HELMER. Ah, it's glorious to feel that one has an assured position
and ample means. Isn't it delightful to think of?
NORA. Oh, it's wonderful!
HELMER. Do you remember last Christmas? For three whole weeks
beforehand you shut yourself up every evening till long past
midnight to make flowers for the Christmas-tree, and all sorts
of other marvels that were to have astonished us. I was never
so bored in my life.
NORA. I didn't bore myself at all.
HELMER. [Smiling.] But it came to little enough in the end, Nora.
NORA. Oh, are you going to tease me about that again? How could I
help the cat getting in and pulling it all to pieces?
HELMER. To be sure you couldn't, my poor little Nora. You did your
best to give us all pleasure, and that's the main point. But, all
the same, it's a good thing the hard times are over.
NORA. Oh, isn't it wonderful?
HELMER. Now I needn't sit here boring myself all alone; and you
needn't tire your blessed eyes and your delicate little fingersNORA. [Clapping her hands.] No, I needn't, need I, Torvald? Oh, how
wonderful it is to think of? [Takes his arm.] And now I'll tell
you how I think we ought to manage, Torvald. As soon as Christmas
is over- [The hall-door bell rings.] Oh, there's a ring!
[Arranging the room.] That's somebody come to call. How tiresome!
HELMER. I'm "not at home" to callers; remember that.
ELLEN. [In the doorway.] A lady to see you, ma'am.
NORA. Show her in.
ELLEN. [To HELMER.] And the doctor has just come, sir.
HELMER. Has he gone into my study?
ELLEN. Yes, sir.
[HELMER goes into his study. ELLEN ushers in MRS. LINDEN,
in travelling costume, and goes out, closing the door.
MRS. LINDEN. [Embarrassed and hesitating.] How do you do, Nora?
NORA. [Doubtfully.] How do you do?
MRS. LINDEN. I see you don't recognise me!
NORA. No, I don't think- oh yes!- I believe- [Suddenly
brightening.] What, Christina! Is it really you?
MRS. LINDEN. Yes; really I!
NORA. Christina! And to think I didn't know you! But how could I[More softly.] How changed you are; Christina!
MRS. LINDEN. Yes, no doubt. In nine or ten yearsNORA. Is it really so long since we met? Yes, so it is. Oh, the
last eight years have been a happy time, I can tell you. And now
you have come to town? All that long journey in mid-winter! How
brave of you!
MRS. LINDEN. I arrived by this morning's steamer.
NORA. To have a merry Christmas, of course. Oh, how delightful!
Yes, we will have a merry Christmas. Do take your things off.
Aren't you frozen? [Helping her.] There; now we'll sit cosily by
the fire. No, you take the arm-chair; I shall sit in this
rocking-chair. [Seizes her hands.] Yes, now I can see the dear
old face again. It was only at the first glance- But you're a
little paler, Christina- and perhaps a little thinner.
MRS. LINDEN. And much, much older, Nora.
NORA. Yes, perhaps a little older- not much- ever so little.
[She suddenly checks herself; seriously.] Oh, what a thoughtless
wretch I am! Here I sit chattering on, and- Dear, dear Christina,
can you forgive me!
MRS. LINDEN. What do you mean, Nora?
NORA. [Softly.] Poor Christina! I forgot: you are a widow.
MRS. LINDEN. Yes; my husband died three years ago.
NORA. I know, I know; I saw it in the papers. Oh, believe me,
Christina, I did mean to write to you; but I kept putting it off,
and something always came in the way.
MRS. LINDEN. I can quite understand that, Nora dear.
NORA. No, Christina; it was horrid of me. Oh, you poor darling! how
much you must have gone through!- And he left you nothing?
MRS. LINDEN. Nothing.
NORA. And no children?
MRS. LINDEN. None.
NORA. Nothing, nothing at all?
MRS. LINDEN. Not even a sorrow or a longing to dwell upon.
NORA. [Looking at her incredulously.] My dear Christina, how is
MRS. LINDEN. [Smiling sadly and stroking her hair.] Oh, it happens
so sometimes, Nora.
NORA. So utterly alone! How dreadful that must be! I have three of
the loveliest children. I can't show them to you just now;
they're out with their nurse. But now you must tell me
MRS. LINDEN. No, no; I want you to tell meNORA. No, you must begin; I won't be egotistical to-day. To-day
I'll think only of you. Oh! but I must tell you one thingperhaps you've heard of our great stroke of fortune?
MRS. LINDEN. No. What is it?
NORA. Only think! my husband has been made manager of the Joint
MRS. LINDEN. Your husband! Oh, how fortunate!
NORA. Yes; isn't it? A lawyer's position is so uncertain, you see,
especially when he won't touch any business that's the least bit
shady, as of course Torvald never would; and there I quite agree
with him. Oh! you can imagine how glad we are. He is to enter on
his new position at the New Year, and then he'll have a large
salary, and percentages. In future we shall be able to live quite
differently- just as we please, in fact. Oh, Christina, I feel so
lighthearted and happy! It's delightful to have lots of money,
and no need to worry about things, isn't it?
MRS. LINDEN. Yes; at any rate it must be delightful to have what
NORA. No, not only what you need, but heaps of money- heaps!
MRS. LINDEN. [Smiling.] Nora, Nora, haven't you learnt reason yet?
In our school days you were a shocking little spendthrift.
NORA. [Quietly smiling.] Yes; that's what Torvald says I am still.
[Holding up her forefinger.] But "Nora, Nora" is not so silly as
you all think. Oh! I haven't had the chance to be much of a
spendthrift. We have both had to work.
MRS. LINDEN. You too?
NORA. Yes, light fancy work: crochet, and embroidery, and things of
that sort; [Carelessly] and other work too. You know, of course,
that Torvald left the Government service when we were married. He
had little chance of promotion, and of course he required to make
more money. But in the first year after our marriage he
overworked himself terribly. He had to undertake all sorts of
extra work, you know, and to slave early and late. He couldn't
stand it, and fell dangerously ill. Then the doctors declared he
must go to the South.
MRS. LINDEN. You spent a whole year in Italy, didn't you?
NORA. Yes, we did. It wasn't easy to manage, I can tell you. It was
just after Ivar's birth. But of course we had to go. Oh, it was a
wonderful, delicious journey! And it saved Torvald's life. But it
cost a frightful lot of money, Christina.
MRS. LINDEN. So I should think.
NORA. Twelve hundred dollars! Four thousand eight hundred crowns! *
Isn't that a lot of money?
* The dollar (4s. 6d.) was the old unit of currency in Norway.
The crown was substituted for it shortly before the date of this play.
MRS. LINDEN. How lucky you had the money to spend!
NORA. We got it from father, you must know.
MRS. LINDEN. Ah, I see. He died just about that time, didn't he?
NORA. Yes, Christina, just then. And only think! I couldn't go and
nurse him! I was expecting little Ivar's birth daily; and then I
had my poor sick Torvald to attend to. Dear, kind old father! I
never saw him again, Christina. Oh! that's the hardest thing I
have had to bear since my marriage.
MRS. LINDEN. I know how fond you were of him. But then you went to
NORA. Yes; you see, we had the money, and the doctors said we must
lose no time. We started a month later.
MRS. LINDEN. And your husband came back completely cured.
NORA. Sound as a bell.
MRS. LINDEN. But- the doctor?
NORA. What do you mean?
MRS. LINDEN. I thought as I came in your servant announced the
doctorNORA. Oh, yes; Doctor Rank. But he doesn't come professionally. He
is our best friend, and never lets a day pass without looking in.
No, Torvald hasn't had an hour's illness since that time. And the
children are so healthy and well, and so am I. [Jumps up and
claps her hands.] Oh, Christina, Christina, what a wonderful
thing it is to live and to be happy!- Oh, but it's really too
horrid of me! Here am I talking about nothing but my own
concerns. [Seats herself upon a footstool close to CHRISTINA, and
lays her arms on her friend's lap.] Oh. don't be angry with me!
Now tell me, is it really true that you didn't love your husband?
What made you marry him, then?
MRS. LINDEN. My mother was still alive, you see, bedridden and
helpless; and then I had my two younger brothers to think of.
I didn't think it would be right for me to refuse him.
NORA. Perhaps it wouldn't have been. I suppose he was rich then?
MRS. LINDEN. Very well off, I believe. But his business was
uncertain. It fell to pieces at his death, and there was
NORA. And then-?
MRS. LINDEN. Then I had to fight my way by keeping a shop, a little
school, anything I could turn my hand to. The last three years
have been one long struggle for me. But now it is over, Nora. My
poor mother no longer needs me; she is at rest. And the boys are
in business, and can look after themselves.
NORA. How free your life must feel!
MRS. LINDEN. No, Nora; only inexpressibly empty. No one to live
for! [Stands up restlessly.] That's why I could not bear to stay
any longer in that out-of-the-way corner. Here it must be easier
to find something to take one up- to occupy one's thoughts. If I
could only get some settled employment- some office work.
NORA. But, Christina, that's such drudgery, and you look worn out
already. It would be ever so much better for you to go to some
watering-place and rest.
MRS. LINDEN [Going to the window.] I have no father to give me the
NORA. [Rising.] Oh, don't be vexed with me.
MRS. LINDEN. [Going to her.] My dear Nora, don't you be vexed with
me. The worst of a position like mine is that it makes one so
bitter. You have no one to work for, yet you have to be always on
the strain. You must live; and so you become selfish. When I
heard of the happy change in your fortunes- can you believe it?I was glad for my own sake more than for yours.
NORA. How do you mean? Ah, I see! You think Torvald can perhaps do
something for you.
MRS. LINDEN. Yes; I thought so.
NORA. And so he shall, Christina. Just you leave it all to me. I
shall lead up to it beautifully!- I shall think of some
delightful plan to put him in a good humour! Oh, I should so love
to help you.
MRS. LINDEN. How good of you, Nora, to stand by me so warmly!
Doubly good in you, who knows so little of the troubles and
burdens of life.
NORA. I? I know so little of-?
MRS. LINDEN. [Smiling.] Oh, well- a little fancy-work, and so
forth.- You're a child, Nora.
NORA. [Tosses her head and paces the room.] Oh, come, you mustn't
be so patronising!
MRS. LINDEN. No?
NORA. You're like the rest. You all think I'm fit for nothing
really seriousMRS. LINDEN. Well, wellNORA. You think I've had no troubles in this weary world.
MRS. LINDEN. My dear Nora, you've just told me all your troubles.
NORA. Pooh- those trifles! [Softly.] I haven't told you the great
MRS. LINDEN. The great thing? What do you mean?
NORA. I know you look down upon me, Christina; but you have no
right to. You are proud of having worked so hard and so long for
MRS. LINDEN. I am sure I don't look down upon any one; but it's
true I am both proud and glad when I remember that I was able to
keep my mother's last days free from care.
NORA. And you're proud to think of what you have done for your
MRS. LINDEN. Have I not the right to be?
NORA. Yes indeed. But now let me tell you, Christina- I, too, have
something to be proud and glad of.
MRS. LINDEN. I don't doubt it. But what do ...
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