"Homes for human beings"
A Spatial Reading of Henrik Ibsen's The Master
The Master Builder is one of the enigmatic plays by
Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, often described
as one of the founders of modernism.
The play is an intricately woven web of imagery and its themes range from the battle between the generations to the problematics of language and the unreliability of memories.
This reading explores how spatiality ultimately pervades The Master Builder, not only by reflecting how modernity is experienced by its characters, but also in facilitating meaning through the scenery and stage directions.
Spatiality is essential to the theatre and by extension to the meta-dramatic nature of the play.
In addition, most of the images of The Master Builder are overtly spatial in nature since they stem from architecture or building.
Yet, the play refuses to fit into the mould of realism, despite its seemingly realistic setting.
The ultimately uncanny impact of the play’s spatiality is perhaps most clearly seen in the title character’s failure to build “houses for human beings”.
A close reading focussing on the spatiality of the play emphasises the complexities of The Master Builder and offers numerous opportunities for interpretation.