Born in Skien, Norway, in 1828, Ibsen was apprenticed at the age of 15 to an apothecary, a situation he detested. He wrote poetry to escape his misery and at the age of 20 attended the university in Christiania (now Oslo).
Within a short time his plays were being published and produced at the Christiania Theatre. In 1851 he was appointed to the theater at Bergen, where he served as director, designer and resident playwright. After six years learning his craft in Bergen, Ibsen moved back to Christiania, again working as a theater manager and artistic advisor. Plays from this period, such as The Vikings at Helgeland (1858) and Loves Comedy (1862), demonstrated his mature voice for the first time and, like many of his later plays, stirred up controversy on their first appearances.
In 1864 Ibsen applied to the government for a poet's stipend; when it was refused he exiled himself from Norway. The injustice he felt at this denial helped propel his two early masterpieces, the verse dramas
Brand (1866) and Peer Gynt (1867). Ibsen spent most of his years of exile in Germany, mainly in Dresden and Munich, though he frequently spent months at a time in the sunnier climate of Italy. He returned briefly to Norway for the publication of his huge epic Emperor and Galilean (1873). He published A Doll's House at the end of 1879. After that, roughly every two years a new play would appear in print and on stage: Ghosts (1881), An Enemy of the People (1882), The Wild Duck (1884), Rosmersholm (1886), The Lady from the Sea (1888), Hedda Gabler (1890), The Master Builder (1892), Little Eyolf (1894) and John Gabriel Borkman (1896). When We Dead Awaken, Ibsen's last play and a grand culmination of his themes, appeared in 1900.
Ibsen had returned to Christiania in 1891 to live out his life. He died in 1906, four years after suffering a physical and mental breakdown. "To the contrary!" were his last words before his death on May 28.
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