Readers and "misreadings" of Brand (1866)


  • Kamilla Aslaksen Ka forlag



Brand, reception, religious tragedy, play of transition, new readers, author autonomy, economic success, breakthrough, Laura Kieler


Scholars do not seem to come to terms with Brand’s role in Ibsen’s career as a playwright. While the importance of Brand is widely accepted, the play is at the same time said to be the most misunderstood of all Ibsen’s plays. The argument goes that Norway’s “heavy and provincial” intellectual atmosphere at the time created a barrier for Ibsen, and that only after being recognized outside Norway did the play get acceptance among Norwegians. Ibsen himself contributes to this conception in his famous letter to Brandes from 26 June 1869, where he complains about how Brand has been misunderstood.

This article challenges the impression that Brand was not accepted or understood by the Norwegians in the 1860s. We approach the subject via three different angles. Firstly, by reading the reviews of Brand from the 1860s, we see that the critics respected the play and its artistic qualities beyond doubt. Secondly, a look at how the play was received in the public shows that not only was Brand a great commercial success, it also became the prime subject of discussion, both in private and public settings. Finally, I read Ibsen’s letter in light of some dominating intellectual currents in Norway at the time, and ask: Are there alternative ways of interpreting Ibsen’s allegations about being misunderstood? Could it be that one should pay less attention to Ibsen’s break with Norway and more to how the authorship was connected to social, intellectual, religious and financial currents within the Norwegian community at the time?

Author Biography

Kamilla Aslaksen, Ka forlag

Kamilla Aslaksen, Cand. Philol. Publisher in Ka forlag. Independent book and manuscript expert.




How to Cite

Aslaksen, Kamilla. 2015. “Readers and ‘misreadings’ of Brand (1866)”. Nordlit, no. 34 (February):427–435.