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Significance of the Title in Henrik Ibsen’s Play ‘‘the Wild Duck’’

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Major Amjad Hussain Shaida

Mr Muhammad Shahid

M Phil English Literature

27th December, 2017




Title of a play is mostly chosen by the playwright with extreme care and after a literary thought process. The title of play ‘‘The Wild Duck’’ written by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Johan Ibsen is also one such most widely accepted example. This paper is an endeavour to discuss the significance of the title of the play. Main character (the protagonist) of the play is a teenage daughter of Hjalmar Ekdal and Gina namely Hedvig. The innocent girl’s most precious possession is the injured wild duck that she tends in her garret. Title of the play in identified with the protagonist.

Keywords: ‘The Wild Duck’, Hedvig, the Ekdals, garret

Major Amjad Hussain Shaida is an officer in Army Education Corps of Pakistan Army. He has done his Masters in English Literature from University of the Punjab. Currently, he is performing duties as the Head of Department in Military College Jhelum at Sarai Alamgir, District Gujrat. Besides, the writer is a scholar of Master of Philosophy in English Literature at University of Lahore, Gujrat Campus.



1. Introduction 3

1.1 About the Author 3

1.2 About the Play 3

1.3 Background 4

2. Significance of the Title – The Wild Duck 4

2.1 Etymology and Morphological Significance 4

2.2 Behavioural Identification of the Protagonist with Title 4

2.3 Similarities between ‘The Wild Duck’ and Hedvig in Events 5

of the Play

3. Conclusion 6

4. Works Cited 6

1. Introduction

1.1 About the Author

‘The Wild Duck’ is a play written by a Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. Henrik Johan Ibsen was born on 20th March 1828. Ibsen was the leading Norwegian playwright of 19th century. He was also a theatre director and a poet. In literary circles, he is regarded as ‘the father of realism’ and is one of the founders of modernism in theatre1. Ibsen authored master-pieces like Brand, Peer Gynt, Hedda Gabler, A Doll’s House, Ghosts, The Wild Duck and many more. After Shakespeare, he is the most frequently performed playwright of the world. One glaring example is the record time performance of his play A Doll’s House in the early 20th century2. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1902, 1903 and 1904. Ibsen’s son Sigurd Ibsen remained Prime Minister of Norway in the first decade of 20th century.

1.2 About the Play

‘The Wild Duck’ was originally written in Danish and its setting is in the Norwegian city Christiania (now Oslo) in 1880’s. Its first edition was published in 1884. The play revolves around two families – the Werles and the Ekdals. The elders of both families, Hakon Werle and the Old Ekdal, had been business partners in past. The old Ekdal was betrayed by Hakon. Resultantly, the former ended up behind the bars and remained imprisoned for almost a decade.

The curtain of the play opens with the return of Gregers Werle (son of Hakon Werle) from a ‘self-imposed exile’. He uncovers the secrets of illicit relations of his father with the Werles’ former maid Gina who is now married to Gregers’ class-fellow Hjalmar Ekdal. Gina and Hjalmar bear a teenage daughter named Hedvig. The daughter has a doubtful parentage. Gregers Werle is a cynical psychopath whose frantic search for the truth regarding the past of the Ekdals ruined their smoothly running life based on the ‘life-lie’. Without realizing the fatality of unveiling of the truth, Gregers keeps advancing despite clear cautions by his father as well as by Dr Relling. Gregers remains uneasy and restless till the time he has not opened all ‘the closets’ of the Ekdals’ house ‘full of skeletons’.

On the other hand, the Ekdals seem least bothered about their past. This is the house where everyone is satisfied living in his/ her self built dreamland. The old Ekdal, betrayed by Hakon Werle and after going bankrupt, has made garret of the house as his shooting place and seeks pleasure in shooting rabbits etc. He is accompanied in the attic (garret) by the innocent protagonist of the play, Hedvig, who remains most of the time busy in caring and curing the pet of the. In this self assumed forest in attic, the wild duck which is a present from Hakon Werle is her most ‘precious possession’. Her rest of the time is taken by reading/ seeing (pictures in the) books besides helping her mother in house-hold chores. Hedvig’s mother Gina Ekdal is deep lost in her meticulous house-keeping. Gina’s husband, Hjalmar Ekdal is a professional photographer who is given an idea of an ‘invention’ by Dr Relling about which he keeps thinking for most of the time. According to Hjalmar, if this idea of invention is materialized, it would help him get rid of all worries his family. In short, the life of the Ekdal would go unperturbed had Gregers Werle not entered the scene.

1.3 Background

Hedvig is the protagonist of the play. The character itself has been modelled by Henrik Ibsen on a German girl whom he met in 1884 at Gossensass while he was completing the play. In many of his plays, Ibsen not only inspires different characters from his own family. The play under discussion is also one good example. Name of the protagonist has been inspired from Ibsen’s own favourite younger sister Hedvig who in turn was named after their grand-mother Hedevig Paus3. Ibsen was allegedly maintaining an incestuous relationship with his sister Hedvig. Therefore, so many similarities exist between his sister and the protagonist of the play. The docile and welcoming nature of the teenage protagonist most eminently identifies her with Ibsen’s sister.

The character of the drunkard old Ekdal also has the echo



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