The Master Builder by Henrik Ibsen

The Master Builder

subjects: Plays, Playscripts

Description

One of the Norwegian playwright’s most mysterious, symbolic, and lyrical dramas explores the life of architect Halvard Solness, once ruthlessly ambitious, but who, in his later years, not only feels threatened by the younger generation but also fears the decay of his own creativity. A tragic end for one of the most fascinating characters in modern drama.

Excerpt

A plainly-furnished work-room in the house of HALVARD SOLNESS. Folding doors on the left lead out to the hall. On the right is the door leading to the inner rooms of the house. At the back is an open door into the draughtsmen’s office. In front, on the left, a desk with books, papers and writing materials. Further back than the folding door, a stove. In the right- hand corner, a sofa, a table, and one or two chairs. On the table a water-bottle and glass. A smaller table, with a rocking-chair and arm-chair, in front on the right. Lighted lamps, with shades, on the table in the draughtmen’s office, on the table in the corner, and on the desk.

In the draughtsmen’s office sit KNUT BROVIK and his son RAGNAR, occupied with plans and calculations. At the desk in the outer office stands KAIA FOSLI, writing in the ledger. KNUT BROVICK is a spare old man with white hair and beard. He wears a rather threadbare but well-brushed black coat, with spectacles, and a somewhat discoloured white neckcloth. RAGNAR BROVIK is a well-dressed, light-haired man in his thirties, with a slight stoop. KAIA FOSLI is a slightly built girl, a little over twenty, carefully dressed, and delicate-looking. She has a green shade over her eyes.–All three go on working for some time in silence.

KNUT BROVIK.

[Rises suddenly, as if in distress, from the table; breathes heavily and laboriously as he comes forward into the doorway.] No, I can’t bear it much longer!

KAIA.

[Going up to him.] You are feeling very ill this evening, are you not, Uncle?

BROVIK.

Oh, I seem to get worse every day.

RAGNAR.

[Has risen and advances.] You ought to go home, father. Try to get a little sleep–

BROVIK.

[Impatiently.] Go to bed, I suppose? Would you have me stifled outright?

KAIA.

Then take a little walk.

RAGNAR.

Yes, do. I will come with you.

BROVIK.

[With warmth.] I will not go till he comes! I and determined to have it out this evening with–[in a tone of suppressed bitterness]–with him–with the chief.

KAIA.

[Anxiously.] Oh no, uncle,–do wait awhile before doing that!

RAGNAR.

Yes, better wait, father!

BROVIK.

[Draws is breath laboriously.] Ha–ha–! I haven’t much time for waiting.

KAIA.

[Listening.] Hush! I hear him on the stairs.

 [All three go back to their work.  A short silence.

HALVARD SOLNESS comes in through the hall door. He is a man no longer young, but healthy and vigorous, with close-cut curly hair, dark moustache and dark thick eyebrows. He wears a greyish-green buttoned jacket with an upstanding collar and broad lapels. On his head he wears a soft grey felt hat, and he has one or two light portfolios under his arm.

SOLNESS.

[Near the door, points towards the draughtsmen’s office, and asks in a whisper:] Are they gone?

KAIA.

[Softly, shaking her] No.

 [She takes the shade off her eyes.  SOLNESS crosses the room,
   throws his hat on a chair, places the portfolios on the table
   by the sofa, and approaches the desk again.  KAIA goes on
   writing without intermission, but seems nervous and uneasy.

SOLNESS.

[Aloud.] What is that you are entering, Miss Fosli?

KAIA.

[Starts.] Oh, it is only something that–

SOLNESS.

Let me look at it, Miss Fosli. [Bends over her, pretends to be looking into the ledger, and whispers:] Kaia!

KAIA.

[Softly, still writing.] Well?

SOLNESS.

Why do you always take that shade off when I come?

KAIA.

[As before.] I look so ugly with it on.

SOLNESS.

[Smiling.] Then you don’t like to look ugly, Kaia?

KAIA.

[Half glancing up at him.] Not for all the world. Not in your eyes.

SOLNESS.

[Strokes her hair gently.] Poor, poor little Kaia–

KAIA.

[Bending her head.] Hush–they can hear you!

 [SOLNESS strolls across the room to the right, turns and pauses
   at the door of the draughtsmen's office.

SOLNESS.

Has any one been here for me?