Today is the birthday of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen (books by this author), born in Skien, Norway (1828). When he was eight, his father’s merchant business failed, thrusting the family into poverty. They moved to a rundown farm. Ibsen performed magic tricks to feel better. He became an apprentice to an apothecary at 15, and for the next six years, he wrote and painted on the side, writing his first great play, Catilina, in 1849.
It was in 1851, when Ibsen met Ole Bull, a violinist and theater manager, that he began to seriously consider life as a playwright. Bull offered him a position managing the Norwegian Theatre in Bergen, which gave Ibsen an opportunity to learn the theater from the inside out.
A youthful James Joyce was in such awe of Henrik Ibsen that he learned Danish just to read the plays in the original language and wrote Ibsen a letter that said, “I am a young Irishman, eighteen years old, and the words of Ibsen I shall keep in my heart all my life.”