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Wild Duck

Henrik Ibsen

Key Facts

Important Quotations Explained

Study Questions and Essay Topics

full title ·  The Wild Duck

author · Henrik Ibsen

type of work · Drama

genre · Tragedy

language · Norwegian

time and place written · Written in Rome, Munich, and Dresden, early 1880s

date of first publication · 1884

publisher · Jacob Hegel

narrator · None

point of view · Not applicable

tone · Tragicomic

tense · The play unfolds in the time of the present

setting (time) · 1880s

setting (place) · Hakon Werle and Hialmar Ekdal's homes.

protagonists · Hialmar Ekdal, Gregers Werle

major conflict · Gregers Werle has returned home from a self-imposed exile to avenge his father's ancient crimes and demystify the "life-illusion" that sustains his friend Hialmar Ekdal's household.

rising action · The rising action for the first climax involves Hialmar and Gina's confrontation of her past, the progressive revelation of Hedvig's uncertain parentage, and the arrival of Hedvig's birthday gift that ultimately precipitates this revelation in its explicit form. The second climax involves a more complex structure of suspense. Hialmar's repudiation of Hedvig sends her into the attic with the gun. This component of the action is momentarily held in expectancy as Hialmar grudgingly returns home. Hialmar then ironically denounces Hedvig to Gregers as a traitor. Hedvig's suicide violently intrudes into the playing space anew with the gunshot that interrupts their dialogue.

climax ·  The Wild Duck features two immediately discernable climaxes: Hialmar's exit from his home and Hedvig's suicide.

falling action · Falling action in the wake of Hedvig's suicide consists of the discovery and the display of her body as well as the final dialogue between Relling and Gregers. This dialogue leaves Gregers utterly disillusioned and precipitates his exit from the world.

themes · The "claim of the ideal" and the "life-illusion," the romantic hero, the myth of the fathers

motifs · Light/dark, the garret, the tableau

symbols · The wild duck

foreshadowing · Foreshadowing occurs throughout this superstitious play. The shot in Act III foreshadows Hedvig's death and Ekdal's enigmatic reference to the revenge of the woods.

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