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Henrik Ibsen

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Ghosts is a play by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, first written in 1881 and first performed in 1882 in Chicago. A critical commentary on 19th-century morality, the play immediately generated strong controversy and negative criticism because of its subject matters, which includes religion, venereal disease, incest, and euthanasia. The title of the play in Danish is Gengangere, which could be more accurately translated as 'ones who return'; it has a double meaning of both 'ghosts' and 'events that repeat themselves', so the English title Ghosts fails to capture this double meaning.

№ 66 in Anne Haight's List of Banned Books.

This book has 58 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1881. This is a translation by William Archer.

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Excerpt from 'Ghosts'

[A spacious garden-room, with one door to the left, and two doors to the right. In the middle of the room a round table, with chairs about it. On the table lie books, periodicals, and newspapers. In the foreground to the left a window, and by it a small sofa, with a worktable in front of it. In the background, the room is continued into a somewhat narrower conservatory, the walls of which are formed by large panes of glass. In the right-hand wall of the conservatory is a door leading down into the garden. Through the glass wall a gloomy fjord landscape is faintly visible, veiled by steady rain.]

[Engstrand, the carpenter, stands by the garden door. His left leg is somewhat bent; he has a clump of wood under the sole of his boot. Regina, with an empty garden syringe in her hand, hinders him from advancing.]

REGINA: [In a low voice.] What do you want? Stop where you are. You're positively dripping.

ENGSTRAND: It's the Lord's own rain, my girl.

REGINA: It's the devil's rain, I say.

ENGSTRAND: Lord, how you talk, Regina. [Limps a step or two forward into the room.] It's just this as I wanted to say—

REGINA: Don't clatter so with that foot of yours, I tell you! The young master's asleep upstairs.

ENGSTRAND: Asleep? In the middle of the day?

REGINA: It's no business of yours.

ENGSTRAND: I was out on the loose last night—

REGINA: I can quite believe that.

ENGSTRAND: Yes, we're weak vessels, we poor mortals, my girl—

REGINA: So it seems.

ENGSTRAND:—and temptations are manifold in this world, you see. But all the same, I was hard at work, God knows, at half-past five this morning.

REGINA: Very well; only be off now. I won't stop here and have rendezvous's [Note: This and other French words by Regina are in that language in the original] with you.

ENGSTRAND: What do you say you won't have?

REGINA: I won't have any one find you here; so just you go about your business.

ENGSTRAND: [Advances a step or two.] Blest if I go before I've had a talk with you. This afternoon I shall have finished my work at the school house, and then I shall take to-night's boat and be off home to the town.

REGINA: [Mutters.] Pleasant journey to you!

ENGSTRAND: Thank you, my child. To-morrow the Orphanage is to be opened, and then there'll be fine doings, no doubt, and plenty of intoxicating drink going, you know. And nobody shall say of Jacob Engstrand that he can't keep out of temptation's way.


ENGSTRAND: You see, there's to be heaps of grand folks here to-morrow. Pastor Manders is expected from town, too.

REGINA: He's coming to-day.

ENGSTRAND: There, you see! And I should be cursedly sorry if he found out anything against me, don't you understand?

REGINA: Oho! is that your game?

ENGSTRAND: Is what my game?

REGINA: [Looking hard at him.] What are you going to fool Pastor Manders into doing, this time?

ENGSTRAND: Sh! sh! Are you crazy? Do I want to fool Pastor Manders? Oh no! Pastor Manders has been far too good a friend to me for that. But I just wanted to say, you know—that I mean to be off home again to-night.

REGINA: The sooner the better, say I.

ENGSTRAND: Yes, but I want you with me, Regina.

REGINA: [Open-mouthed.] You want me—? What are you talking about?

ENGSTRAND: I want you to come home with me, I say.

REGINA: [Scornfully.] Never in this world shall you get me home with you.

ENGSTRAND: Oh, we'll see about that.

REGINA: Yes, you may be sure we'll see about it! Me, that have been brought up by a lady like Mrs. Alving! Me, that am treated almost as a daughter here! Is it me you want to go home with you?—to a house like yours? For shame!

ENGSTRAND: What the devil do you mean? Do you set yourself up against your father, you hussy?

REGINA: [Mutters without looking at him.] You've said often enough I was no concern of yours.

ENGSTRAND: Pooh! Why should you bother about that—

REGINA: Haven't you many a time sworn at me and called me a—? Fi donc!

ENGSTRAND: Curse me, now, if ever I used such an ugly word.

REGINA: Oh, I remember very well what word you used.

ENGSTRAND: Well, but that was only when I was a bit on, don't you know? Temptations are manifold in this world, Regina.

Production notes: This edition of Ghosts was published by Global Grey ebooks on the 26th January 2021. The artwork used for the cover is 'Bowl of Goldfish' by Frederick Childe Hassam.

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