GHOST is on the move in European society," says Karl Marx in Manifest der
Kommunistischen Partei (The Declaration of Communism). By ghost, he does
not just mean the spirit of a dead person; he refers to an invincible force that
disrupts society. Although ghosts are never clearly perceived, the effect they
have on people is obvious. People can be disturbed by them eternally as they
cannot be caught, nor be clearly recognized, but yet lead an invisible
existence. The play Ghosts deals with that unclear existence that
affect several generations.
Masterpiece of Ibsen
Ghosts is a famous drama by Henrik Ibsen, the master of realism drama.
Published in 1892, it was first criticized for its shocking subjects such as
prostitution, euthanasia and incest. Today, Ghosts is evaluated as a masterpiece
of social drama with a keen insight into the corrupted European society of the
19th century. Commemorating the 100th anniversary of Ibsen's death, this play is
performed for the first time in Korea, directed by Im Yung-woong, with actors
Jeon Mu-song and Lee Hye-kyung in Sanwoolim Theater.
Stealing Over the Living Souls
|▲ Manders and
Mrs.Alving make subtle conflict between themselves|
The story of Ghosts deals with Mr. Alving's family. Mrs. Alving has
been suppressed throughout her life because of her late husband, who had an
affair with the maid and had a child. Mrs. Alving brings up the child, Regine as
a maid and sends her own son Oswald to Paris to keep him away from his father's
bad influence. Having pursued charitable work, Mrs. Alving is ready to hold a
ceremony for an orphanage's opening. Oswald and Manders, the priest who had once
loved Mrs. Alving, come to celebrate. As the story unfolds, Mrs. Alving finds
out that Oswald once had a relationship with Regine and she realizes that
"ghosts" are moving around the house. She believes it is the result of her
husband's bad behavior. Her thoughts are soon confirmed. When she unveils
Regine's identity, Regine is shocked and escapes from the house and the
orphanage is consumed by fire. To make matters worse, Oswald confesses that he
is suffering from syphilis, a legacy his father left him. In the last scene,
Oswald slowly approaches death. Mrs. Alving is depressed and enraged because she
realized she couldn't avoid her husband's consequences called "ghosts." The play
ends with Mrs. Alving's agony and whether she administers euthanasia to her son
or not is left unsaid.
"Maybe all of us will become ghosts.
Things from ancestors, old customs and prejudice. We are suppressed by
- Mrs Alving
How to Look into the Play
The play is receiving the spotlight not only because it is the 100th
Memorial of Ibsen's death, but also because famous and respectable actors
perform in the play. Jeon Mu-song plays the part of Manders and Lee Hye-kyung
performs as Mrs. Alving. "Manders tries to suppress his individual desire and
set his goal to live following the social law, rule and religion. Although he
also feels love for Mrs. Alving, he rejects it because of his identity as a
priest. However, throughout the play, he remains skeptic about whether he's
leading a happy or righteous life," says Jeon Mu-song. Lee Hye-kyung explains
her character as a "real ghost." "Mrs. Alving tries to avoid social rule, so she
sends her son to Paris to escape Mr. Alving's convention but finally she
realizes that she was the ghost herself because she accepts conventional rule
and bad habit. Even her son has the same illness as his father although she had
tried to avoid it." With each character's explanation, they advise the audience
to perceive the essential existence of "ghosts" and focus on social problems the
"All the country is full of ghosts. I
wish if all the ghosts would disappear and we can see the illumination."
Social and Philosophical
|▲ All the members
of the play suffer from invincible existence.|
The play may burden those who are familiar with stories following the
"introduction, development, climax and conclusion" pattern. Because the play
doesn't have a climax and many plots are mixed up, it is not even easy to grasp
the entire story. Also, the atmosphere of the play is heavy for young audiences
who like sensitive and trendy plays. However, it has a noticeable meaning
because it is not a common opportunity to relish a classic masterpiece play
without change. In addition, while A Doll's House is well known to Korean
audience, Ghosts is comparatively unknown and this is a good opportunity to
encounter another masterpiece by Ibsen. Also, the actors' performances are
outstanding, especially Lee Hye-kyung's dual appearance, expressing both
stability and fear, and Jeon Mu-song's performance showing the priest's
hypocrisy. Music, sound and the setting are also well expressed. It is sensible
to use Grieg's piano concerto as background music as Grieg is another Norwegian
artist along with Ibsen. The setting showing a garden with flowing water creates
an atmosphere of both apparent comfort and of internal fear.
Components of the Surroundings
Although Ibsen is famous for realism drama, the play Ghosts include
characteristics of Naturalism. Naturalists asserted that the people's minds,
behaviors are decided by the environment surrounding them. Accordingly,
characters in the drama are all affected by the dead father's influence although
they don't realize it clearly. The situations in the play can also be found in
modern society. In any modes, we are influenced by environment surrounding us
and sometimes we do not clearly realize because it steals over our unconscious
mind. This play is an opportunity to experience the dreadful, but true
appearance of life.
- Woo Mi-sung (Prof., Dept. of English Lang.
Q: What are the main characteristics of Ibsen's
A: Henrik Ibsen is called "The father of modern drama."
As the nickname tells us, he tried to reform drama. First, although not
from the middle class, he had the ability to look delicately into it and
describe it. Second, he dealt with very shocking topics such as
prostitution, women's resistant, and incest. Moreover, the common
characteristic of Ibsen's dramas is that the plot is complicated and
mysterious and the characters have conflict with the social surrounding.
His dramas are important for the research of modern drama because they
show a disturbing freshness compared to the old dramas.
Q: What do you think is the meaning of
A: In the play, Ghosts include everything
that suppresses people's mind such as social vice, religious conflict,
prostitution, and capital system. That is why the title of the drama is
not in singular, but in plural.
The play Ghosts
May 9, 2006 ~ July