Theatre / Brand
is a dramatic/epic play written by Henrik Ibsen
and published in 1866. The play tells the story of a young and idealistic priest
, who more than anything else wishes to make society better. His uncompromising attitude alienates him from his parish over time, and he ends up alone in the wild mountains, wondering what went wrong.
The cast, for the convenience of the reader:
- Brand, The proverbial title character, and the hero of the play. Priest by profession.
- Agnes, his wife. Married to him after the end of the second act.
- Einar, a painter and childhood friend of Brand. Something of a light hearted fellow from the start. Formerly engaged to Agnes, who left him for Brand.
- Gerd, a beggar girl with a fatal effect on Brand.
- Brand`s mother, no name given. A hard hearted old woman of some wealth.
- The Bailiff, main antagonist. Keeper of law and order in the community.
- The provost, superior of Brand. Tries to keep him in check just barely.
- The bellringer
- The Schoolmaster, both close up to the work of the priest in different ways.
- Other unnamed officials present in the fifth act, there for the sake of a speech and a good meal.
- a farmer and his son, people Brand meets in the mountains at the beginning of the play.
- A beggarwoman and her child.
- People of the parish, farmers and their wives. The congregation and everybody else.
Present off stage:
- The beggar band. Only spoken of, but of great importance. Gerd and the unnamed mother belongs to this band.
Dying off stage:
- A man killing his child because he isn`t able to feed him, and then committing suicide. Brand`s mother, Brand`s infant son Alf, between the third and the fourth act. Agnes between the fourth and the fifth.
This play, or rather, book, marks an early example of fandom queue
, making the trope older than television
. At the sole expectation of the new play of Ibsen coming into print, people massed at the quay to see the boat coming in and loading off the bookstacks. The first edition was sold out soon after, and people were seen discussing the text on every street the following days.
This play contains examples of these tropes:
- Action Girl: Gerd is a good shot with stones, and later, she has that rifle of her's.
- Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Brand fits, although he is a male version. The "epic Brand" states that he has "black, rather long hair".
- All or Nothing: Brand´s favorite catch phrase. He is arguably an early trope namer here.
- Altum Videtur: This is the only play of Ibsen featuring That much latin. The actual Aesop of the play comes in latin, much to the arguable annoyance of scholars.
- Always on Duty: Brand chooses to stay on because of this. He reasons that he was a priest before he became a father, so the has obligations.
- The Bailiff also counts, being so into his job that he almost sacrificed himself to help save his archives. Not so different after all?
- Angrish: Brand towards the Bailiff in the fifth act, when he loses his temper, spitting out to him the essential "you have not the faintest clue what I am trying to say here, do you?" and ending in a total loss of words.
- The Antagonist: Mainly the Bailiff, playing the role of obstructive bureaucrat from the second act. In the fifth act, he is coupled with the provost, representing the church, and other unnamed officials. This bunch gets the greater lot of Brand`s anger, and is paired with satan himself. The provost even gives Brand a lesser temptation early in the fifth act, to counter with the more "spiritual" one later. For the more untangible antagonism Brand is up against, see the dark side trope.
- Author Avatar: Brand himself. Ibsen said that the character was "himself in his finest moments". He was quite fond of this guy.
- For the record: Ibsen himself enjoyed posing as the lonely, brooding and heroic type. One of the reasons he rarely smiled on photographs.
- Consider the physical description of Brand in the "epic Brand": Pale skin and raven hair. Ibsen himself was known for his paleness, and his hair and beard was black in his youth (as described by fellow poet Bjørnson: "with a deadly white complexion and a big beard black as coal").
- To top this: Ibsen, like Brand, was a loner at school, who rarely hung with the other kids.
- Author Filibuster: Very likely.
- Battle in the Center of the Mind: All the time. This is a non-action play, of course, but a lot of hero and warrior tropes are invoked. The battles in the play are battles of ideas and the will.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: When Brand tries to get things straight, he begs God for help. Immediately afterwards, someone turns up only to set events off in the wrong direction. Even though that was not what Brand meant. Crapsack God indeed.
- The beggar woman coming for clothes on Christmas Eve should be a good example, since Brand actually asked God to intervene. Tragedy follows.
- The second time Brand prays for guidance in this way, Einar shows up turned into the fundamentalist. The revelation coming over Brand after that encounter leads directly into open rebellion.
- Bigger Is Better: Brand tries to convince the officials (the bailiff) that the church is too small. He needs a bigger one. The bailiff disagrees, but gives in, completely missing the point though. At the beginning of the fifth act, the new church is ready for use, only for Brand to discard it. Total havoc ensues, and Brand goes haywire in the process.
- Reality Subtext: Ibsen got inspired while visiting the Church of st Peter in Rome. The dome of that church is the greatest in Europe, hence the vision of a "bigger church" in the fourth act.
- Big "NO!": Brand when realizing his wife is leaving him. Though not said literally, it is clearly the implied meaning.
- Blatant Lies: Brand´s mother tells him she has toiled for her money with sweat and tears her entire life. Brand tells her quite clearly she didn´t - she robbed her father for the entire fortune on his deathbed.
- On a symbolical level, she did give her life away to this man (sweat, tears and everything), but that did not imply the literal fortune, which she, as a married woman, had no right to own while he lived.
- Bookends: the play begins and ends in the mountains, close by the glacier.
- Breaking Speech: Brand gives this to a couple of farmers trying to make him stay as a priest in the second act. He clearly doesn´t want to.
- Brutal Honesty: Brand towards Agnes after their son is dead. He refers to "the body" lying in the churchyard, while Agnes still refers to the child as a person, in the churchyard. From a Christian point of view, the child is not there anymore, leaving only a body behind.
- Buy Them Off: To get the community coming back, the bailiff comes up with a story of a great steam of Herring coming in the fjord, which will make them all rich. This may be a case of counterfeit cash, but it actually works, and the people go heel face turn on Brand in seconds, and makes themselves ungrateful bastards in the process.
- A case of truth in television: Herring was the greatest possible mean of getting wealth for any Norwegian living in the western parts of Norway before the discovery of oil in the north sea.
- Byronic Hero: Brand up to eleven. Coupled with the tragic hero trope.
- Call Back: Brand is called out in his own principles at least twice. The first time is when a couple of farmers insist he should become their priest, and he denies it because his calling is more dear to him than his life. "Then stay", the farmers respond, arguing that he himself has said that giving up life for a cause is the ultimate sacrifice. Two acts later, Agnes reminds him that he, who had put her to a hard choice, now must prepare himself to give up on his principles if he wishes to keep her alive. She also uses his words against him. Of course, Brand relents in both cases.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Brand actually calls his mother out on her greed. She initially wavers, but stiffens herself up. They never meet again.
- Catch Phrase: "All or Nothing" - Brand´s slogan. Also "Brand, you are stern", heard many times. "If you gave it all except your life, then know you have given nothing." One might also count in the bailiff´s "always inside my jurisdiction" statement. In time, the practical follow-up of the "all or nothing" slogan, kills Agnes.
- Cataclysm Climax: The avalanche at the end of the play, set off by a gunshot from Gerd. Described to have swallowed the whole valley (and everyone in it).
- Character Development: Agnes. She starts out as Mani C Pixie Dream Girl who is taken by the speech of Brand, going by Action Girl to Dutiful Wife, ending with a Heroic Sacrifice and Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. Brand`s cravings of a serious view of life turns her into a lancer for his cause, and braves the harsh seas with him in complete trust of God, only to save a man´s soul. After getting married, he confides in her, and she gives him the strength to choose in the direst situations. In the end, after her son is dead, Brand puts her to the test when a frozen child needs clothes, and she reluctantly gives away what she got left from her own dead child. When she finally admits freedom from this mortal coil, she accepts death as a rise to a higher plane of existence. During the course of the play, she has passed from pixie girl to a near saint.
- Einar the painter goes the opposite path (off-stage). After loosing Agnes, he turns sick, and gets saved, only to turn into an even darker and edgier version of Brand himself.
- Brand starts out idealistic, but a sense of world-weariness grows in him during the play. Actually, he seems to be sick of the world from the very beginning, and keeps himself in check until the fifth act, when he snaps because he can´t take it anymore. Sliding scale of idealism versus cynicism could actually fit Brand´s development trope. His rebellion in the fifth act is, in fact just as much a over the edge moment for him as a social uprising.
- The Cassandra: Gerd warns Brand against going down to the fjord. She is right, of course.
- Catch-22 Dilemma: Agnes presents Brand with one at the end of the fourth act. He can recall the clothes of his dead son from the beggar mother (who definitely needs them for her freezing child), and thus break with his own principles. Alternatively, he and Agnes can follow the path they are on, but then, Agnes will die. Brand has to choose between his principles or the life of Agnes (a breach on his principles may possibly kill another child). He is quick to cross the Despair Event Horizon.
- The Champion: Agnes thinks Brand is the man. She also obviously champions him. Brand, of course, is a champion of God, nontheless.
- Chekhov's Gun: The phrase All or nothing. This leads to him never giving his mother absolvation (because she never gave up everything), and later causes the death of Agnes, because he insists she gives the beggar woman all the leftover clothes from their dead son. The final straw that breaks her, is when she is forced to give up the very last piece of clothing. Had he relented a little in both cases, all of them would have been happier.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Gerd. She solves the play with a gunshot, after five acts of pressing Brand into it.
- Chew Toy: Brand.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Gerd, the beggar girl. She is also troped as the wild one. Tends to turn up when Brand is troubled, and has a fatal effect on him, several times. She is also the only one left to tend to him in the end.
- Comically Missing the Point: The provost. He seems to have comically missed the point of the whole bible, and one cannot help but wonder how the man ended up in such a high clerical position. Brand gets quite impatient with him.
- Corrupt Church: Played straight on the provost in the fifth act. At least Brand blows the accusation wide open in his rousing speech. The provost does not find it amusing.
- The Corruption: Brand works really hard to avoid this. He firmly believes that the road to corruption goes through compromise, but screws up fatally because he equates this with The Power of Love. His fear of The Corruption leads him to a Holier Than Thou solution, and Brand ends up Screwed By Destiny anyway - although he essentially stays uncorrupted, he did not count for the fact that he may have been corrupted from the very beginning (because of his Freudian Excuse).
- Cosmic Plaything: Brand qualifies.
- Cradle of Loneliness: When Agnes comforts herself with the clothes of her dead son. Brand, quite correctly, tells her to move on. She does, but it breaks her heart.
- Crapsack World: The entire community, set in a narrow west Norwegian fjord under a glacier and a possible avalanche, set off at the very end. The people tend to be narrow minded, but seem to see Brand as "the right kind of priest". The glacier also keeps the sun from warming the area, and the result is that Brand´s son dies. Brand himself grew up in the coldest part of the area with an uncaring mother.
- Dawson Casting: Brand has often been played by actors way beyond the age of fourty. One of the latest productions cast an actor who was seventy years old, or close. This makes Einar`s youth, and his pinpointing that they went to school together, rather odd. Brand is seemingly a man in his twenties.
- The Dividual: The schoolmaster and the bellringer in the fifth act, doing the work of mr exposition.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: The Beggarwoman when afforded shelter. She also refuses on the grounds that the priest is an official, and she may get arrested there.
- Dramatically Missing the Point: Brand invokes the trope in the fifth act, only to have the bailiff walking off and still completely...
- All the male characters seem to miss something through the play.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Brand´s childhood, which was far from happy. He grew up alone in the coldest part of the valley with a widowed mother who clearly did not love his dead father. Actually, she robbed him on his deathbed, and Brand hints that he was as greedy as she was. None of them would share their wealth, seemingly. Brand grew up a moody boy who hardly played with other kids, as his childhood mate Einar points out to him.
- No wonder, when push came to show, that Brand did not care for his mother´s estate, and denied her a priest at her deathbed (yep, it was himself) because she never wanted to part with her money.
- Darker and Edgier: The tone of the play: Cold and callous. Probably the most dark and edgy play in the entire corpus of Ibsen.
- The Dark Side: The not so easy defeated entity Brand is up against. He defines it as "the spirit of compromise", and will not yield at any cost. In time, he comes to see it incarnated in the officials, and he defines the being he meets in the final temptation scene as this.
- Deadpan Snarker: Brand again. Lots of times during the play. Many of the snarks could have been Ibsen´s, as he also was fond of the trope in real life. Considering Ibsen´s innate anger at the time of writing, the entire play can be considered a snark.
- Despair Event Horizon: The agony of Agnes when asked to give up the clothes of her dead son. Brand in a similar agony when he first learns that his son is ill.
- Despair Speech: Agnes has a long one in the fourth act, lamenting that everything is closed off, later that everything is taken from her. Brand has a similar one in the fifth act, concerning almost the same things.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Brand all the way. From the outstart, when he literally wavers in the fog, only sure of one thing, he will follow the will of God, whatever that is. A number of times during the play (at least one time pr act, possibly twice in the fifth), Brand has a lesser realization on how things are supposed to be. Every time, it goes from bad to worse, until he finally realizes that he left the power of love out of his equation.
- Determinator: Subverted in the third act when Brand actually (almost) decides to leave on the spot for the sake of his sick son. A stirring speech from Gerd makes him determined to carry on.
- Deus ex Machina: Number 2 or 3, to be precise. Only featured by a booming voice crying an aesop through the massive avalanche. This is also the very last words of the play:
He is Deus Caritatis! ("He is the god of love/charity...")
- Disappears into Light: Played on Agnes in her I die free speech. When she goes off stage, her "goodbye" could as well be played as a symbolical death, and Brand`s reaction may imply that she is dead already.
- The Ditz: The bailiff has this in spades.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: A mother and her child seeking shelter and clothes on Christmas eve? Could you possibly have dropped a bigger anvil, Ibsen?
- Doomed Hometown: The community is placed under a glacier that is doomed to crack at some point. Lampshaded in the first act, when Brand is reminded of an old story, telling that a loud sound, like the shot of a rifle, is enough to break it. And in the end, Gerd fires the shot...
- Doomed Moral Victor: Brand to the last breath. He clearly represents the "theory of courage" à la Tolkien. But it is not exactly Christian, though. And he is an ordained priest... Brand even lampshades this early on in his "God is a hero" speech to Einar. He is not exactly sure if he can call himself "christian", but he knows he is a man.
- Failure Is the Only Option: Brand's "quest".
- Dramatic Thunder: in the final temptation when Brand counters with the concept of longing. The being then disappears in a burst of thunder with a scream of horror:
Die, the world does not need you!
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Gerd, when she eventually shoots the entity with a rifle. The whole set collapses instantly.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Up to Eleven: Ibsen drops a glacier on the entire set!
- Eldritch Abomination: The "something" that Gerd is constantly shooting at. It goes by various names, and resides inside or on the glacier. She eventually gets the better of it at the time of Brand`s final epiphany. Cataclysm climax ensues.
- To be realistic, it is probably a hawk. On a symbolical level, it is not...
- When Brand resists The Final Temptation, and the being in question leaves with a scream, Gerd shows up immediately afterwards, and asks him if he "saw the hawk", and Brand states that he just saw it flee. Moments before that, Brand stated that "it" left like a hawk. Lampshade Hanging if ever there was one.
- Eldritch Location: The "Ice Church" where Brand and Gerd finally end up.
- Evil Counterpart: The impersonation of Agnes in the final temptation scene at the end of the play. "She" tells him that it was all a dream, and everything is allright, or will be, if only he gives in and renounces his principles. It almost works.
- The temptator is always cast as the same actor who plays Agnes. This is often done to confuse both Brand and the audience. In the written play, the being is somewhat undefinable, and only recognized by Brand when it presents itself as Agnes.
- Face–Heel Turn: The community, when abandoning Brand to struggle alone for the last part of the play.
- Fatal Flaw: see the power of love.
- Feathered Fiend: The entity Gerd is tracking, which turn out to be the Eldritch Abomination constantly pestering Brand.
- The Fettered: definitely.
- The Final Temptation: Brand alone in the wilderness, struggling with his actions and their dire consequences, is tempted by a being who presents itself as his dead wife. The being craves that he gives up his cause, and his slogan "all or nothing." He defeats the being when he brings up the concept of longing, which the being cannot overrule. In a recent production, the being was actually cast as Agnes, and the producer stated that it/she was right.
- Follow the Leader: The TV series Angel may or may not owe some points or two to Brand when presenting the main character of the show. One actual line uttered by Darla to Angel (season 2) can be taken as a shout out to Brand:
"God doesn`t want you. But I still do."
- One can also consider The first Evil, as presented in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who does the mind screw by making evil counterparts of dearly loved but deceased persons. Darla`s role in Angel is an inversion of this, though.
- Also the character of The Sandman by Neil Gaiman, next to Brand in stuffiness, and a principles zealot of the same order. Brand himself is often clad in black, no wonder (black was actually the official colour of priest`s garments at the time of the play, to underline the point). As is Sandman and Angel...
- Freudian Excuse: Essentially a basic plot point. Brand has a Freudian Excuse of a magnitude that would have made Sigmund Freud weep with joy.
- Freudian Trio: The women of the play: Brand´s mother (Superego), Agnes (Ego), Gerd (Id). Of course everything goes off the scale when both the mother and Agnes are gone.
- The Fundamentalist: Einar the painter in the fifth act, after loosing all his vigour. At this point, he is on the verge of knight templar to the point that even Brand shivers at it.
- Genki Girl: Gerd, also working as a foil to Agnes` Manic Pixie Dream Girl qualities.
- Fridge Logic: When a genki turns up in an Ibsen play, it seldom bodes well for the titular character.
- Genre Deconstruction: Brand is arguably the hero, and even lampshades his own heroic efforts. His view of God is also a rather heroic one (Hercules lookalike and old testament badass). But Ibsen would not have been Ibsen if he did not at least try to deconstruct the hero tropes. And seemingly Brand does not fit his actual environment at all, and his larger than life visions is almost, but not quite, lost on his fellow men. If not, someone with actual power is there to stop him. Hence, tragedy ensues.
- Girls with Guns: Gerd gets her hands on a rifle come the fifth act. Up til then, she had to throw stones - and when she eventually gets that rifle, things get nasty.
- Give Me a Sign: Invoked by Brand in the fourth act, because he knows he has to make Agnes snap out of her depression, but hasn´t the heart to do it himself. The beggar woman comes knocking soon after, and Brand interprets her as the sign he prayed for. Tragedy ensues.
- Grandpa God: Subverted and spoofed. Brand spoofs the trope heavily in the first act, preferring a young, heroic divine being for the visionings of the painter Einar, who painted God that way, earning a long snark from Brand (covering two pages).
- Hates Being Touched: Brand`s mother warns him off with a staff when he comes too close to her. Their only meeting in the play is setting them at least tree yards apart.
- Hearing Voices: Brand alone on the mountain. The voices call to him that he "is not worthy" and will never be more than a nobody. They come as a prelude to the final temptation.
- The Heart: Agnes is the heart to Brand (or his "link to humanity"). With her gone, he feels shut off, both from himself and the people around him.
- The Hecate Sisters: The female trio of the play: Brand`s mother (Crone), Agnes (mother), and Gerd (maiden). Doubling with the Freudian Trio.
- Heel–Face Door-Slam: Brand is taken by an avalanche at the very moment of realization.
- The Hero: Brand. And a good tragic one too.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: Brand in the fifth act after the death of his wife Agnes. Also Agnes in the fourth after the death of her son. The third act has Brand considering a face heel turn for the sake of his sick son, but decides not to, so the BSOD moment can be said to start from there.
- Heroic Resolve: Brand`s pledge at the end of the first act: to go to war against the three bad seeds(see the rule of three below.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Brand when choosing to stay on in the third act, Agnes upon giving away the clothes of her son to he freezing child. Brand when realizing that Agnes probably dies shortly after.
- Heroic Willpower. Brand calls on this, and argues with it, time and again. His moment of awesome draws on this in the second act. His last question to God at the end of the play is if the willpower really was worth it. The answer comes in the form of a Deus ex Machina.
- Historical Villain Upgrade. Most of the producers after 1950, at least in Norway, tend to cast Brand as a tragic, unsympathetic character, sarcasm set aside.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Brand has to accept that people around him use his own principles against him. If they are to follow them, he has to follow them as well (if not, he would be called out on hypocrisy). Of course, this makes up most of the tragic outcome of the play.
- Hope Spot: Brand was just about to pack his things and rush his wife and sick son out of the door... Then Gerd arrived on scene with another what the hell hero speech. He chose to stay after all.
- Horny Vikings: The Bailiff is prone to remind Brand of past national glory, when the area was ruled by a sentient viking king. All was better in the glory days. And this he rants to the local priest.
- How the Mighty Have Fallen: Coupled with the humans are flawed trope and the horny vikings.
- Humans Are Flawed: Alas. Brand is not exactly a philantropist, and the world is crapsack anyway.
- I Choose to Stay: Brand for the sake of his mother, Agnes for the sake of Brand, Brand at the expense of his son`s life.
- I Die Free: Agnes plays this trope fairly straight when she has given away all her belongings. When nothing binds her, she is free, and earth has no hold on her anymore.
- Ignored Epiphany: Brand gets epiphany proper when reaching the "Ice Church" with Gerd. Tears of remorse quickly follows, as he understands what his fatal flaw was. He doesn't come around to make amends because of the avalanche, not because he ignored his epiphany. The true meaning of the final Deus ex Machina has been debated for decades.
- I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Brand had to let go of Agnes. And his son. And mother.
- Ill Girl: Actually a boy. Alf, the son of Brand, succumbing to pneunomia in the third act.
- Info Dump: The bailiff has an essential one come the fourth act, telling the backstory of Gerd, only hinted on by Brand`s mother. The Schoolmaster and the Bellringer likewise in the fifth, to get the audience up to speed on what has happened between the fourth and the fifth act. A good half year has passed since the death of Agnes.
- It Sucks to Be the Chosen One: Justified several times. Brand feels the burden, but he doesn`t neccesarily enjoy it. Nope.
- In the End, You Are on Your Own: Brand is left alone in the mountains, to cope with The Dark Side all by himself. He actually pisses it off, and is left alone, to eventually be comforted by Gerd.
- Intrinsic Vow: Brand takes this on in the first act, setting off his "good fight".
- Ironic Echo: The reception of the play, echoing the way Brand himself gets trashed in the fifth act, by the very elite Ibsen tried to rail against (In Norway, who was the butt of Ibsen`s ironic treatment).
- Kill the Cutie: Agnes, finished off at the end of the fourth act. She has been a case of breaking the cutie up to that point.
- Knight Templar: Brand can arguably be seen as one, though not a conscious one. He is often interpreted in this way, though.
- The Lancer: Agnes. Coupled with the champion trope.
- Large Ham: Brand, of course. He is often played that way, or casted to be played by a natural ham.
- Literal-Minded: The bailiff. Many times.
- Mangst. A lot.
- Manly Tears: Brand bursts out when entering the "ice church" with Gerd, and finally realizing where he is. So far, frustration, anger and possible mangst has tortured him. A cataclysm climax is right around the bend, though. Can also be troped as tears of remorse.
- Meaningful Name. Brand, meaning "Sword". Agnes even lamshades this in the fourth act. The name also connects with the Norwegian word for "fire". Agnes, of course, means "chaste" (Greek) and "lamb" (Latin). Einar means "lone warrior" (for all those that thinks he is not connected to Brand), while Gerd means "fence".
- Brand, Einar and Gerd all have norse names. Agnes does not. Some intended fridge logic here?
- Men Don't Cry: Brand for most of the time, until he bursts out in tears of remorse right before the end.
- Mental World: actually a pivotal point in the play, invoked and played straight by Agnes, and resulting in an Eureka Moment for Brand. Agnes has a soliloqui in the second act, staring "inwards" to a new world, which she herself has the responsibility for, to cultivate and to populate. Brand follows suit, and concludes that this "inward path" has to be the right one.
- Messianic Archetype: Gerd finding Brand alone on the mountain, claims that he is the messiah. Brand fiercely denies it as another temptation. Up to this point, the trope has been played straight on Brand time and again, but Gerd is the only one that actually says it. But she is quite far out, though.
- Miles to Go Before I Sleep: From the very first scene.
- Mind Screw: Possibly the entire play, and a rather brilliant one at that.
- Misplaced Retribution: Because his mother never gave up everything, Brand forces Agnes to do it in her place. He effectively punishes her for his mother`s actions, and it kills her.
- The Morlocks: How Brand sees the development of humans, Norwegians especially.
Fouler featured men are grown ;
Dropping water s humming drone
Echoes through the mine s recesses :
Bustling, smug, a pigmy pack
Plucks its prey from ore s embraces,
Glares like dwarfs with greedy eyes
Speechless souls with lips unsmiling,
Hearts that fall of brothers rends not,
Nor their own to fury frets,
Hammer- wielding, coining, filing ;
Light s last gleam forlornly flies ;
That the need of willing ends not
When the power of willing dies !
- Money, Dear Boy: The provost actually tries to tell Brand that this is the point of being an official, clergy or not. Brand does not buy it.
- Brand`s mother came up with the same argument. She got to live for her collected treasure. It is implied that she in turn had the trope invoked by her father.
- Mr. Exposition: The Bailiff, who tells Brand, and the audience, some chunky pieces of background plot during the play. Also the Schoolmaster and the Bellringer. They have a long scene at the beginning of the fifth act, with a main purpose in bringing the audience up to date on recent events. And also some philosophical outlooks in the process.
- Moral Dilemma: Stay as a priest for The Needs of the Many or save my sick son? Pointed out up to eleven in the third act. For Brand, there is apparently no Third Option.
- Mordor: Brand`s Nightmare Fuel soliloqui in the fifth act clearly has some envisionings of this.
- Mr. Vice Guy: For Brand: pride. For his mother: greed.
- Muggles: The greater lot of the cast. Notably, Brand gets their attention when he goes badass in the second act. They end up useful idiots in the fifth act, and then become canon fodder at the end of the play because the author willed it so...
- The Needs of the Many: Brand`s motivation, or also the motivation of the parish people, who time and again argues this way to make him stay.
- Subverted from the start, but played straight in the third act. Brand originally chose to stay for the sake of his mother.
- Straw Nihilist: Brand has shades of it.
- Nominal Importance: To a degree. Brand, Agnes, Einar and Gerd all have their names. The others are either names by designation, like the bailiff, or "voices in the crowd". We have of course the outstanding mother of Brand, who is only that at nothing else. One possible exception is Nils Snemyr, a mauve shirt who actually gets his name addressed during the famine scene in the second act.
- Not Afraid to Die: As long as it is the purpose of God.
- Not Blood Siblings: Brand and Gerd. Gerds father, a poor young man, loved Brand´s mother, who discarded him. She married the wealthy man who became the father of Brand, while the boy went to live with the local stragglers (actually romani stock), and became the father of Gerd...
- Not Listening to Me, Are You?: After their first meeting with Brand, Agnes reacts with Stunned Silence, while Einar tries to shrug it off. He tries to direct her attention towards the sea and the skyline, and their further plans, in a short, but quite beautiful monologue. At the end of it, he tries to adress her more directly, asking her if she saw anything at all. She answers with a distracted "yes, but did you notice..." clearly lost in the words of Brand. The first sign that Einar is about to lose her forever.
- Not So Different: Brand and Gerd over the course of the play.
- Only Sane Man: Brand, at several occasions, thinks he is... Thank God for Agnes.
- The doctor, who argues that the family should leave the area for the sake of their son´s ailment, also counts. He is the first to point out to Brand that his ability to love is somewhat barren.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: The local bailiff, who dislikes Brand, but plays along until Brand "shows his true colours". He is often played as a comic relief, but is in truth a callous opportunist who doesn´t give a toss about people outside his jurisdiction. In the famine scene in the second act, he is cold against everyone who can´t consider themselves "registered".
- The Power of Love: The Aesop of the play, and played straight with Agnes. Also pointed out by the local doctor. Arguably Brand`s greatest flaw, as he insists on the Heroic Willpower alone. The man is in for a serious screw up from The Powers That Be.
- Powderkeg Crowd: The common folk, turning and heel face turning during the course of the play. In the second act, the come close to lynching Brand when he arrives on the scene, then to turn 180 degrees when he braves the unpassable fjord. Later, Brand stirs up the crowd to open rebellion, only to lose them completely to the rumors of a quick income.
- Principles Zealot: Brand most of the time. Much of the criticism in-play and outside of it, stems from the fact that he is such a hardliner on his basic principles.
- Quit Your Whining: In a rather kind way, as Brand actually tries to make Agnes come over her sorrow for her dead child. He knows she has to, but looking into the despair event horizon himself, he prays for someone to intervene. Cue the beggar woman.
- Rage Breaking Point: The Crowd scene in the fifth act, when Brand finally has it. Up to this point, he has played nice, but with an occasional snark. Have in mind that he is severely traumatized by now, and has endured a lengthy speech by the provost, only interrupted by more snarks. The theologial/political views of the provost may have been an unintended Berserk Button as well. He is supposed to formally open the new church, but instead rebels and throws the key into the fjord, and basically says Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!.
- Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Brand (according the "epic Brand).
- Rebel Leader: Brand in the fifth act, when he finally snaps and lets the officials have it all. The crowd follows him for some time, but not overly long. The Bailiff is actually trying to read the "rebel act" to stop him, but is pushed away by the crowd.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Gerd (red) vs Brand (blue). Or Agnes (also blue).
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Brand gets this through many times, mostly in his rousing speech, calling the officials out on their flaws.
- The Resenter: Towards the officials altogether. Also towards his mother, and arguably the whole friggin community he grew up in.
- Resigned to the Call: Brand takes the job rather reluctantly.
- Right Place, Right Time, Wrong Reason: Brand chose to stay not for the needs of the many, but because of his mother. He actually hoped she would come around. She didn´t.
- Romani: Gerd, and the beggarwoman with her child. It is implied in a trowaway line that the bailiff ordered a whole bunch of them arrested, leaving only the destitute mother and her child out in the cold, only to knock at Brand`s door at the most dramatic moment.
- Rousing Speech: Several. Most apparent in the fifth act, when Brand actually convinces the entire parish to go to the mountains with him, in search of a better destiny. At this point, Brand seems to have had a lot of rousing speeches off-stage, as the other officials rightly has begun to fear him.
- Agnes has one in the second act, to the point where Brand gets new revelations and remakes his choices. Even a local farmer gets his moment of awesome in the same act, trying to convince Brand that his task is right before his eyes.
- Rule of Symbolism: Brand speaks of a "church" that has to be built bigger. The "symbolical church" is implied to be built in the minds of men (a church not made with hands...).
- also the glacier/the "ice church", falling down at the end.
- "The world", as defined by the entity passing for Agnes in the fifth act, hinting of a dualistic christian view, where the physical world are to be shrugged off anyway. In gnosticism, this world is technically evil.
- Rule of Three: The first act presents three characters, who sets Brand off on his first "quest": A farmer who wants him as a priest for his dying daughter, the painter Einar (and his fiancée Agnes), who lives on the light side, and finally Gerd, the wild one. All of them sides of life he wants to set straight: The dull (the farmer), the idle (the artist), and the wild one (the trope namer).
- Sacrificial Lamb: Agnes, wearing the apropriate name (Agnus Dei). She ends up dead, after sacrificing everything for the good cause. The last sacrifice, though, is Brand´s, when he has to give up his wife.
- Samaritan Syndrome: For Brand, who really wishes to be there for everyone.
- Screwed Up Family: Brand was born into an arranged marriage. His parents never loved or seemed to care for eachother, and the father of Brand`s mother pushed her into it, because the boy she had in mind was poor. So he left with a romani girl, becoming the father of Gerd.
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Brand is this trope to a T.
- Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Invoked in the middle of the provost`s lengthy speech.
- Second Act Break Up: Agnes with Einar, when he refuses to help Brand because he fears for his life. She immediately goes herself, and her fate is sealed.
- Shrine to the Fallen: the drawer containing the clothes of Alf, dead at that point in the play (the fourth act).
- Shout-Out: To The Bible from beginning to end, both as direct reference and as allusions. Brand himself uses the Messianic Archetype trope over and over, and the author uses it shamelessly on the title character. After all, he is a man of the cloth...
- Snark Knight: Brand to a T.
- Society Is to Blame: Justified with the beggarwoman in the fourth act. ALSO justified in the case of Agnes, who falls victim to this chain of events. To make things clearer: The beggars are actually a band of romani lawfully arrested by the bailiff, accused of straggling, theft and social disorder. The lone mother is one of the few still going free. Brand can justly blame society for his plight, as it is the obstructive bailiff who unintendedly made things worse for him and Agnes, resulting in her death soon afterwards. It is a fair chance that some of Brand`s outbursts against the officials later on is connected to this fact.
- Another dramatical case of truth in television: Romani people were known for traveling all over Norway in this time, and the official attitude towards them was often criminalization, arrest, or just making them leave for whatever excuse available. Their plight was not good, and many resorted to petty crimes and begging. The criticism implied in the play is justified by history.
- Stand Your Ground: Gerd effectively orders Brand not to back out of the fight at the end of the third act. She argues that the dark side will prevail if he does not hold the line against it.
- Stepford Snarker: Brand, with all his repressions.
- Survivor Guilt: Brand after the death of Agnes.
- The Soulsaver: Twice. First, the man who killed his child for want of food to feed it. Brand to the rescue because he recongnizes the sheer need for salvation, or at least peace. Once again in the fourth act with Agnes, who cannot bear to part with the clothes of her dead son.
- The Stoic: Brand wishes to cope with his problems without anyone interfering. He even shuts down his wife in the process.
- Speak of the Devil: Inverted in the final temptation scene when Brand, convinced he is talking to Agnes, and who is supposedly not dead, utters the words "Thanks to.." only to be hushed by the being in question.
- Staring Contest: Brand vs his mother in the second act. They stand in a way that almost points towards a showdown situation. The "staring" continues for three years until she finally dies.
- Stock Character: The bailiff, who does not do any Character Development at all, and the provost in the fifth act, who represents "the body of the church" in all it´s unintended silliness.
- Suicide Mission: Brand at the beginning of the play. Yes, as long as he does God`s work, he clearly doesn`t care if he lives or dies.
- Take That!: Much of Brand´s rantings are criticisms of Norwegian society at the time, and the portraits of the Bailiff and the provost (the officials) sets them out as comical villains. The play is an inversion of Peer Gynt, and written at the same time.
- A prominent example comes in the fourth act, when the bailiff proposes building a "political party house", and Brand calmly interprets it as a possible madhouse: "and if somebody gets too crazy, we always have the great hall" (a kick to the Norwegian parliament, assembled at "the great thing" or stortinget).
- And the provost`s rantings in the fifth act arguably serves as a "Take that, church!". Hence, all officials, priests and politicians are in for a beating in the play.
- A possible take on capitalism with an ironic twist?
- Tall, Dark and Snarky: Brand to a T.
- The Cloud Cuckoolander Was Right: Gerd on warning Brand from going down in the valley at their first meeting. Can also be played as a foreshadowing, because of her immediate proposal of going to the "ice church" (the glacier), where they both finally end up, and perish. Gerd`s visions of grandeur are possibly bigger than Brand`s.
- A moment of fridge brilliance to shape up the final part of the play occurs in the fourth act when Brand actually begins to think like her (although not realizing it at the time).
- Temple of Doom: The "ice church" where Brand and Gerd ends up, in fact a part of the glacier. Gerd, being the Unwitting Instigator of Doom, has been heading in that direction for most of the play. When this construction collapses, everything else goes with it.
- Third Option: Inverted. Agnes chose to stay with Brand on the expence of her own life and the life of his son. The real killer is the fact that he could have sent her away and caught up with her later. This was not a tolerable solution in 1866. It didn`t occur to Agnes either.
- Many readers have been justly cross with Brand because of this. But then again, society is to blame.
- Thousand-Yard Stare: Brand when he learns that his mother just died. This happens in the middle of the third act, and is the beginning of a continual despair event horizon as well as the trauma congaline.
- Brand has used most of the act on denying his mother his presence, both as a son and as a priest. The mother on her side, denied to give up anything of her goods to charity, and Brand surely didn`t want any of it. So she died without redemption from her son. Dysfunctional family indeed.
- Too Much Information: Brand witnessed his mother robbing his father on the father`s deathbed while still a boy! This squicked him out good and proper, and made him get as far away from his mother as possible. When his mother begged him to take care of her wealth, he instantly turned her down, and told her exactly why.
- Tragedy. Possibly the purest tragedy Ibsen ever wrote.
- Trauma Conga Line: For Brand and Agnes respectively, beginning with the death of Brand`s mother, then immediately on to the fatal sickness of their son, and then his untimely death. From which we conclude the death of Agnes. No wonder Brand is screwed up at the beginning of the fifth act, complaining that he has lost his link to God, and nothing actually matters anymore. And all this time, he tries to keep a stiff upper lip.
- Turbulent Priest: Brand from the third act and onwards. The bailiff covertly asks him to leave, and a local man tells him straight in his face that the bailiff wants to get rid of him. Come fourth act, the bailiff admits defeat because Brand is popular among ordinary people. In the fifth act. Brand is in for a knighting, and is also discussed when promoting a new bishop. When Brand violently bursts out against them, both the provost and the bailiff lapse into a sigh of relief:
Provost: Well, now he will never be bishop!
Bailiff: And there goes his knighthood...
- Twisted Christmas. The pauper mother and her freezing child begging for clothes on Christmas Eve, while Agnes mourns her lost child by cherishing what is left of him: his clothes. Moral dilemma up to eleven...
- Undying Loyalty: Agnes to Brand.
- Ungrateful Bastard: Arguably the entire community when chasing Brand away in the fifth act. Note that this is the same people who begged him to become their priest in the second act, and who asked him to stay on in the third...
- Unwanted False Faith: Brand reacts when Gerd tries to make a messianic archetype of him, complete with wounds in the right places.
- Earlier, Gerd pointed out to him that his priorities were wrong when setting the life of his son over the work of God. Referring to Alf as a "false God" is the trick that makes him stay.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Gerd. Emphasis on the "unwitting" part. She is the one calling Brand out on it, making his plight worse, and in the end, she fires the rifle shot that ends the whole community by burying the valley under a lavine.
- Villain Corner: Brand, because of his principle zeal. This is arguably the strongest argument against his character in literary criticism. His only way out of it is possible death or mental breakdown, depending on who you ask.
- Consider The Sandman, who had to die to get out of the trap his own rules had set for him.
- Waif Prophet: Gerd. Her first encouter with Brand at the end of the first act serves as a foreshadowing on what will happen at the end of the play.
- We Can Rule Together: What the provost essentially tries to tell Brand. He has to give in to compromise, and the world will be his to command.
- With Us or Against Us: A cry from the crowd roused by Brand in the fifth act, to the distress of the county officials. Also an early trope namer. The crowd does not hold for long, though.
- Wham Line: "Folks, the spirit of compromise is Satan!" And the crowd went totally wild...
- What the Hell, Hero?: the local doctor calls Brand out on his refusal to see his mother on her deathbed, and again on behalf of his sick son. Gerd calls Brand out on his decision to leave, making Brand`s position impossible over time.
- What You Are in the Dark: Brand stays for the needs of the many at the cost of his son`s life. But he sure as anything does not tell about it. This backfires up to eleven when the people of the parish turn on him, accusing him of not caring for his son.
- Where I Was Born and Razed: Brand brings the destruction with him, although unwittingly. His rebellion in the fifth act leads to him being chased off, conveniently towards the glazier. Then, Gerd follows him with her rifle, fires it, and makes the cataclysm ensue.
- Inverted when the responsibility for this lies on a number of people involved. Brand was the triggering factor.
- White Man's Burden: The romani case invokes the trope. The Bailiff puts on a dark tone when he callously arrests them for jaywalking, and ousts them from the municipality. Brand himself invokes it when the beggar woman on his doorstep clearly is one (although he and Agnes probably would have helped her anyway).
- World of Symbolism: Often played straight. The play is not intended to be realistic. A good in-universe example of completely missing the point is the rather literal minded bailiff, who actually thought Brand meant a physical church when he probably thought of something else (se the Bigger is better trope above). This is most probably an in-joke in the play, as Brand strives with his ideas to the point where nobody follows them anymore. This could arguably make Brand a cloud cuckoolander, something that can explain the role of Gerd in his life. The last part of the play can be said to represent a mental world occupied only by Brand and Gerd.