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Theatre: Ghosts
Ghosts, originally titled Gengangere (literally translated as Ghosts), is a play by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. It was written in 1881 and first staged in 1882.

On an interesting side note, the play was originally written in Danish. The word "Gengangere" is Danish, not Norwegian. That is because Danish was the main written language in Norway at the time. For more on that discussion, see Norwegian Language Struggle. Ibsen preferred writing in the language he was taught.

Helen Alving is about to dedicate an orphanage she has built in the memory of her dead husband, Captain Alving. She reveals to her spiritual advisor, Pastor Manders, that she has hidden the evils of her marriage, and has built the orphanage to deplete her husband's wealth so that their son, Oswald, might not inherit anything from him. Pastor Manders had previously advised her to return to her husband despite his philandering, and she followed his advice in the belief that her love for her husband would eventually reform him. However her husband's philandering continued until his death, and Mrs. Alving was unable to leave him prior for fear of being shunned by the community. During the action of the play she discovers that her son Oswald (whom she had sent away so that he would not be corrupted by his father) is suffering from inherited syphilis, and (worse) has fallen in love with Regina Engstrand, Mrs. Alving's maid, who is revealed to be an illegitimate daughter of Captain Alving, and thereby Oswald's own half-sister. The play concludes with Mrs. Alving having to decide whether or not to euthanize her son Oswald in accordance with his wishes. Her choice is left unknown.

Should not be confused with The Protector episode "Ghosts", the Psych episode "Ghosts", the Revolution episode "Ghosts", and the Hidden Palms episode "Ghosts". Should not be confused with the DC Comics series Ghosts. Should not be confused with the board game Ghosts. Should not be confused with the books Ghosts 1990 and Ghosts 1993. Should not be confused with the films Ghosts 2005 and Ghosts 2006.

This play provides examples of:

  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Captain Alving was also a chamberlain, belonging to the upper upper class in Norwegian society. Also a cheating bastard and abuser of women.
  • Batman Gambit: Engstrand is behind this one, with Manders acting as his Unwitting Pawn. Through the course of the play, he gets Manders to be where he wants him to be, and tricks him into setting all the money from the Alving estate into his "home for sailors" - actually a brothel. He also makes Manders believe he set fire to the Alving Memorial. In one particular production, we see Helen Alving give Engstrand a Death Glare when she understands what is going on.
  • Berserk Button: Mrs Alving when Manders mentions "law and order" (societal rules). It cost her dearly.
  • Book Dumb: Old Engstrand doesn`t understand the French words Regine uses and asks if she is speaking English. Regina responds with a sarcastic "of course" (Goes in the original Norwegian version. An English translation would have him confuse French and German).
  • Cue the Sun: The play ends with the sun rising after three acts of rain. Ironically, none of the remaining players are able to appreciate it.
  • Dirty Old Man: Engstrand. Also a Consummate Liar. Captain Alving obviously was one. And then there is Manders, who was aware of Regine and her "maturity" early on.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Osvald relates how his father once took him in his lap and forced him to smoke a cigar until he choked on it and had to throw up... And one wonders how he got his syphilis.
  • Downer Ending: The only decent male character is losing his last wits, while the main character despairs.
  • The Fettered: Helen Alving. She is bound by duty, tradition, laws, and gets into a fit when Manders mentions "law and order". Yet another Ibsenian woman who seems to have had enough.
  • Generation Xerox: Captain Alving was caught red handed with a housemaid in the parlor. Years later, Osvald is discovered in the parlor with the daughter of said housemaid (Regine Engstrand, who, as it turns out, was conceived in the former event. Which means... squick). Subverted if it turns out Manders is Oswald`s father (commented on in a throwaway line).
  • Genre Savvy: Regina turns out to be quite genre savvy when it comes to her father, and will not relent to him at any cost. But even she didn`t see the true link between her and Oswald.
  • Gratuitous French: Regina has learned some French phrases in case she is going to Paris with Oswald.
  • Heroic BSOD: The very end of the play. Mrs Alving is considering Oswald`s plea to kill him when his mind goes. She can`t make up her mind. And there it all ends. With a Big "NO!".
  • Hipster: Oswald has spent some time with the then-hipsters of Paris (the Bohemians). Manders calls him out on their moral standards, when he hears that the families live outside of wedlock, with children. Oswald has a Shut Up, Hannibal! moment where he reminds Manders that the real bastards are the bourgois upper class men, coming to visit the "alternatives". Manders does not have a straight answer to that one.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Manders, misjudging both Captain Alving, Helen, and Engstrand.
  • Hypocrite: Engstrand, but also Manders to a degree. The two get along splendidly.
  • Idiot Ball: Manders is the prominent ball holder in this play. He is elegantly tricked by Engstrand, and has to get all the Info Dump straight in his face from mrs Alving. As a priest, he should have known his flock a little better than that. When he confronts Engstrand, he is tricked again.
    • When he decides not to take any insurance on the memorial home, and then almost gets framed for arson later, he is almost Too Dumb to Live.
  • Insurance Fraud: Inverted because the "Alving Memorial Home" never became insured. This happened because Manders feared for his reputation. Then the whole thing caught fire and burnt to the ground, making sure all wealth got lost.
  • Love Martyr: Helen stayed with her cheating husband until the day he died. She came to regret that decision.
  • Love Redeems: Helen Alving knew that her husband Captain Alving was a cheat, but she stayed with him in the hopes that he would be reformed. However, he remained a cheat all the way to his death.
  • Male Gaze: Manders when commenting on how Regine has "filled out" the last two years. Oswald is also commenting on her curves.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Engstrand is behind Manders.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Engstrand. He twirls Manders around his finger like nothing, even when he blames the reverend for accidentally setting the Memorial on fire.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Regine. Almost all the male cast members comment on her looks. Engstrand goes further, by suggesting she should work as "bait" in his planned "home for sailors".
  • Off Stage Villainy: Engstrand has done a number of bad things, and is responsible for burning down the Memorial - but it all happens off stage. But as it happens, he gets Manders to support him all the way. And what does that tell us of Manders?
  • Oh Crap: Regine gets some serious willies when she discovers the identity of her true father.
  • The Reveal: Helen Alving gets around to explain the circumstances concerning the relation between Oswald and Regine. Her reaction is as you could expect.
  • Sanity Slippage: Oswald`s illness sends him straight into blubbering at the end.
  • Sarcasm Mode: The most sarcastic line is Engstrand`s, when he, at the end of the play, states that he will raise a memorial "worthy of captain Alving". Cue the brothel.
  • Sinister Minister: Reverend Manders is not above striking a deal with Engstrand the carpenter, allowing him to build a brothel, or trying to gloss over the more questionable actions of Captain Alving. He was also the one who sealed the marriage between the housemaid and Engstrand, making Regina believe Engstrand was her father. To top it, he has no qualms in trying to persuade Regine to follow Engstrand when Engstrand wants her to -ahem- "work" in his establisment. Subverted when we consider him an Unwitting Pawn in the hands of Engstrand.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Regine solves it this way. Probably just as well.
  • Social Climber: Regine when she decides to follow Oswald to Paris, and later when she states that she still will be able to "drink champagne with the upper class".
  • Spiritual Successor:The Wild Duck, written in 1883. Both plays contain a girl conceived outside of wedlock and fostered by another. While The Wild Duck discuss "ideals" as lies (Relling), this play sets the "ideals" of Manders as opposite to the truth (lampshaded by mrs Alving).
  • Title Drop: When Helen has retold the story of her husband and the housemaid in the parlor, she and Manders hear Oswald and Regine reenact the scene. Helen goes immediately pale, and whispers: Ghosts.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: Oswald when he is first introduced. Manders comments that he almost looked like his father, when he came downstairs smoking the old man`s pipe. Subverted when Helen protests: "He looks like me". When she states that Oswald`s mouth (which Manders claimed looked like the captain) rather reminds her of a priest, it should have worried Manders a little.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between Helen Alving and Manders.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Deconstructed Trope. Captain Alving cheated on his wife until the day he died. This motivated her to try to drain up all his money and make sure his son Oswald inherited nothing from him. However, it turns out that Oswald has inherited syphilis from his father. Not only that, but he fell in love with Helen's maid, Regina Engstrand, who turns out to be Captain Alving's illegitimate daughter and Oswald's half-sister.

The Gentleman RankerTheatrical ProductionsThe Glass Menagerie

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