In his various social plays, Ibsen had repeatedly explored how far individual responses were shaped or fettered by social determinism, how far social existence could be seen to determine consciousness. However, beginning with The Wild Duck in 1884, Ibsen wrote a series of plays in the 1880s and 1890s in which there is a subtle but distinct shift of emphasis from the social to the personal. In Rosmersholm (1886), The Master Builder (1892), Little Eyolf (1894) and When we dead awaken (1899), complex personal relationships are explored within an overall framework of symbolism or myth. In these symbolist plays, the various characters are still carefully located within a specific social environment that shapes their pattern of living and, to some extent, their attitudes. But the author’s major concern is no longer the relationship between the characters and their environment but rather the intensity and complexity of their inter-personal relationships. In these plays, the pain or suffering of the characters is not fully intelligible because it is seen in its social and historical context.
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