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Theatre / St John's Eve

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St John`s Eve (Sancthansnatten) is an early play written by Henrik Ibsen in 1853. He came to consider it an old Shame, and never put it into his collected works. It has, however, been Vindicated by History, and is played by different groups in the later decades.

The story tells of a Telemark farm, where the deceased husband, farmer Berg, remarried with an urban woman, who had a daughter from a former marriage. This new wife has rebuilt the farm house, and wishes to remove the "old rubble" where the old granfather still lives. Anne, the true inheritor, is put aside on the prospect of marrying off her own daughter Juliane to an old childhood friend of hers, Johannes Birk. He is a student, coming in from town with Jørgen, the brother of Juliane, and a young poet, Julian Paulsen, who is quite an urban romantic. During the mixing of drinks, the old goblin intervenes with a flower of remembrance, spicing up the drinks, and thus makes the couples remember who they are destined for: Anne goes to Birk, Julian to Juliane. On the way, Anne also discover (with fairy intervention), an old key that unlocks the true testament to the farm. Thus, the urban wife is outgambitted, and retreats to town. The right couples live happily ever after.


The play contains examples of these tropes

  • All Just a Dream: The couples wake up the morning after, realizing their corrected couplings.
  • Alpha Couple: Anne and Birk.
  • Arcadia: This presentation of Telemark certainly is. But it works in context.
  • The Beautiful Elite: Mrs Berg, Julian and Juliane. This is actually spoofed, as none of them actually stands with the local farmers or "wild nature", although Paulsen romanticizes it.
  • Beta Couple: Julian and Juliane.
  • The Ditz: Juliane, a Norwegian Ur-Example. Julian likewise, poet or not.
  • The Chessmaster: Mrs Berg is drawing strings to make Juliane inherit the farm by marrying Birk. She is, however, outgambitted by the goblin, and by old Berg by default.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Implied between Anne and Birk. They played together as children, but are not able to remember eachother before the Goblin intervenes. Also implied with Julian and Juliane, who met at a children`s ball in town.
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  • Chekhov's Gun: The flower turning into a lost key, {{maybe magic, maybe mundane}}.
  • City Mouse: Juliane.
  • The City vs. the Country: The basic plot.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Both Julian and Juliane.
  • Country Mouse: Anne.
  • Deus ex Machina: Grandfather Berg comes in with the true testament at the end of the play, well and truly setting mrs Berg out of the gambit.
  • Expy: Pretty much expies sentral elements of A Midsummer Night's Dream. The Goblin clearly expies the Puck, and the magic flower is prominent in both plays.
  • The Fair Folk: the goblin, and the elves of the forest. The Hulder is commented upon. The Fair Folk even stages some ballads for the main couple.
  • Fish out of Water: Juliane, Julian and mrs Berg. The two former are Played for Laughs, the last one is not.
  • Healing Herb: The flower used by the Goblin to spice the drinks. It heals the loss of memory, and thus restores the truth for all involved, Anne, Birk, Julian and Juliane.
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  • Hufflepuff House: Jørgen, brother of Juliane. His sole purpose is to bring Birk and Julian to the farm, then to mix drinks, and then to be left completely out of the gambit.
  • Life of the Party: Birk clearyfies that the excessive life in the city made him forget his roots, and Anne, for many years. Juliane, however, is quite fine with it.
  • Magic Antidote: The drink becomes one after the goblin tampers with it.
  • Mixed Metaphor: Julian, who reckons himself a poet, is an expert. Often Played for Laughs.
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot: Birk manages this when he first comes to the farm, by making jokes on the expence of the old buildings and the (possible) goblin living there. Anne calls him out on it at once.
  • Out-Gambitted: Mrs Berg, by old Berg, Anne`s grandfather.
  • Portal Door: The entrance to the halls of the mountain domain.
  • Romanticism: Commented upon, stating that there are actually two kinds. Paulsen, being the urban romantic, is dead wrong in snobbing off the farmers, who actually has the "key" to Norwegian culture. Anne is set as the other kind of romantic, being the heroine of the play.
  • Shout-Out: Asbjørnsen and Moe is a premise of the play, with several references. So are the medieval ballads, although the Danish ones. Julian Paulsen chides Asbjørnsen for revealing the fact that the Hulder has a tail ("that monster who wrote a book and told that she in fact - had a tail!"). Even more ridiculous when he even was in love with her.
  • Show Within a Show: Anne manages to open up a portal to the mountain, showing some medieval ballads, heavily plot-related.
  • The Simple Life is Simple: Juliane lives after this. Julian as well, although he romanticizes country life.
  • Simple-Minded Wisdom: Anne seems to have inherited this trope. Her grandfather certainly counts, although he is more of a sly farmer type. Birk actually calls Anne out on this, calling her a "child", because she is ignorant of the ways of the world. But her way end up as the wiser one.
  • Take That!: Ibsen parodied the romantics at the time, making Julian Paulsen a heavy statement. This is the main reason why the audience disliked the play, and Ibsen, snarking that all the critics were like Paulsen, hid the play in a drawer for the rest of his life.
    • The older poet Welhaven, having read the works of Asbjørnsen and Moe, disliked the notion that the Hulder had a tail, and disapproved of it, and went for a more idealized, fairy-like Hulder. Ibsen had read this, and made Welhaven the butt of his joke. No wonder the local audience in Bergen went batshit on this satire (as Welhaven also was a Bergen native).