Mythic Patterns in Ibsen's Last Plays was first published in 1970. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
Until recently critics have tended to regard Ibsen principally as a social dramatist, one who was concerned primarily with the political, social, and moral questions of his time. Radical though he was in the Victorian era, his ideas, with the passage o time, ceased to be avant garde,and for this reason many critics have dismissed him as outdated. Professor Holtan examines a major portion of Ibsen's work, his last eight plays, in a new perspective, however, and finds much that is of lasting significance and interest.
Ibsen's initial impact came with the publication in 1879 of A Doll's House,the play which seemingly advocates a woman's right to leave her husband and children. His reputation as a social dramatist was only furthered by the appearance of his next two plays, Ghosts and An Enemy of the People. But Professor Holtan's study of the plays which came after these identifies in the later plays values which transcend the social problems of their time, penetrating questions of the human spirit itself.
The eight last plays which Professor Holtan examines in this study are The Wild Duck, Rosmersholm, The Lady from the Sea, Hedda Gabler, The Master Builder, Little Eyolf, John Gabriel Borkman, and When We Dead Awaken. In these plays he identifies a mythic pattern and unity based in elements of symbolism and mysticism which have puzzled or annoyed readers and critics for years. In his mythic vision Ibsen's lasting contribution far exceeds that of his invention of the social-problem drama, Professor Holtan concludes.