When We Dead Awaken by Henrik Ibsen

When We Dead Awaken

subjects: Plays, Playscripts

Description

Ibsen’s last work concludes the series of autobiographical dramas begun with The Master Builder which deal with the aging rebel, despairing of life and racked with guilt, who experiences an ambiguous victory at the moment of death. Plays for Performance Series.

Excerpt

An open, park-like place with a fountain, groups of fine old trees, and shrubbery. To the left, a little pavilion almost covered with ivy and Virginia creeper. A table and chair outside it. At the back a view over the fjord, right out to sea, with headlands and small islands in the distance. It is a calm, warm and sunny summer morning.

[PROFESSOR RUBEK and MRS. MAIA RUBEK are sitting in basket chairs beside a covered table on the lawn outside the hotel, having just breakfasted. They have champagne and seltzer water on the table, and each has a newspaper. PROFESSOR RUBEK is an elderly man of distinguished appearance, wearing a black velvet jacket, and otherwise in light summer attire. MAIA is quite young, with a vivacious expression and lively, mocking eyes, yet with a suggestion of fatigue. She wears an elegant travelling dress.

MAIA.

[Sits for some time as though waiting for the PROFESSOR to say something, then lets her paper drop with a deep sigh.] Oh dear, dear, dear–!

PROFESSOR RUBEK.

[Looks up from his paper.] Well, Maia? What is the matter with you?

MAIA.

Just listen how silent it is here.

PROFESSOR RUBEK.

[Smiles indulgently.] And you can hear that?

MAIA.

What?

PROFESSOR RUBEK.

The silence?

MAIA.

Yes, indeed I can.

PROFESSOR RUBEK.

Well, perhaps you are right, mein Kind. One can really hear the silence.

MAIA.

Heaven knows you can–when it’s so absolutely overpowering as it is here–

PROFESSOR RUBEK.

Here at the Baths, you mean?

MAIA.

Wherever you go at home here, it seems to me. Of course there was noise and bustle enough in the town. But I don’t know how it is–even the noise and bustle seemed to have something dead about it.

PROFESSOR RUBEK.

[With a searching glance.] You don’t seem particularly glad to be at home again, Maia?

MAIA.

[Looks at him.] Are you glad?

PROFESSOR RUBEK.

[Evasively.] I–?

MAIA.

Yes, you, who have been so much, much further away than I. Are you entirely happy, now that you are at home again?

PROFESSOR RUBEK.

No–to be quite candid–perhaps not entirely happy–

MAIA.

[With animation.] There, you see! Didn’t I know it!

PROFESSOR RUBEK.

I have been too long abroad. I have drifted quite away from all this–this home life.

MAIA.

[Eagerly, drawing her chair nearer him.] There, you see, Rubek! We had much better get away again! As quickly as ever we can.

PROFESSOR RUBEK.

[Somewhat impatiently.] Well, well, that is what we intend to do, my dear Maia. You know that.

MAIA.

But why not now–at once? Only think how cozy and comfortable we could be down there, in our lovely new house–

PROFESSOR RUBEK.

[Smiles indulgently.] We ought by rights to say: our lovely new home.

MAIA.

[Shortly.] I prefer to say house–let us keep to that.

PROFESSOR RUBEK.

[His eyes dwelling on her.] You are really a strange little person.

MAIA.

Am I so strange?

PROFESSOR RUBEK.

Yes, I think so.

MAIA.

But why, pray? Perhaps because I’m not desperately in love with mooning about up here–?

PROFESSOR RUBEK.

Which of us was it that was absolutely bent on our coming north this summer?

MAIA.

I admit, it was I.

PROFESSOR RUBEK.

It was certainly not I, at any rate.

MAIA.

But good heavens, who could have dreamt that everything would have altered so terribly at home here? And in so short a time, too! Why, it is only just four years since I went away–

PROFESSOR RUBEK.

Since you were married, yes.

MAIA.

Married? What has that to do with the matter?

PROFESSOR RUBEK.

[Continuing.] –since you became the Frau Professor, and found yourself mistress of a charming home–I beg your pardon–a very handsome house, I ought to say. And a villa on the Lake of Taunitz, just at the point that has become most fashionable, too–. In fact it is all very handsome and distinguished, Maia, there’s no denying that. And spacious too. We need not always be getting in each other’s way–

MAIA.

[Lightly.] No, no, no–there’s certainly no lack of house-room, and that sort of thing–

PROFESSOR RUBEK.

Remember, too, that you have been living in altogether more spacious and distinguished surroundings–in more polished society than you were accustomed to at home.

MAIA.

[Looking at him.] Ah, so you think it is I that have changed?

PROFESSOR RUBEK.

Indeed I do, Maia.

MAIA.

I alone? Not the people here?

PROFESSOR RUBEK.

Oh yes, they too–a little, perhaps. And not at all in the direction of amiability. That I readily admit.

MAIA.

I should think you must admit it, indeed.

PROFESSOR RUBEK.

[Changing the subject.] Do you know how it affects me when I look at the life of the people around us here?

MAIA.

No. Tell me.