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Theatre / The Feast at Solhaug

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The Feast at Solhaug (1856) is an early play by playwright Henrik Ibsen. It is a short period piece set in the high middle ages, sometime around the year 1300. The play is a chivalric romance taking place over a short span of time, the eponymous feast at the Solhaug estate. Here, the nobleman Bengt Gauteson resides alongside his much younger wife Margit. She is not initially happy, and dreams of her youth and the attractive adventurer Gudmund, who courted her. He shows up, believing himself lawless, after thwarting a plot to poison the king. Meanwhile, Margit`s younger sister, Signe, arrives, and is courted by Gudmund - and at the same time, Bengt insists that she be married to the royal tax collector, the short tempered Knut. In the end, Bengt challenges Knut and is summarily killed for it. Knut is arrested, Gudmund is free of all charges, and gets to marry Signe. Margit retires to a convent, and all is back to order.


This play contains the following tropes:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Bengt - as far as Margit is concerned.
  • Alcohol Hic: Bengt decides to kill Knut while drunk. Not a good idea.
  • Artistic Licence – History: It is stated that the king`s chancellor Audun Hugleiksson is coming home from France with a queen for the Norwegian king. King Hakon actually married his queen in Oslo, while the play states that the wedding is in Bergen. Queen Eufemia was from Rügen by the Baltic Sea, not from France. They married in 1299, meaning that Gudmund has been on the run for three years at this pont. The time slot stated in the play makes it much briefer.
    • Bergen was the capital of Norway at this point of history, so that part is correct.
    • Hilarious in Hindsight: Ibsen could not possibly have known that his stated time slot is exactly the starting point of the ballad tradition, which the entire plot is built upon.
  • Asshole Victim: Bengt, being hewn down by Knut while drunk.
  • Costume Drama: Intended.
  • Deus ex Machina: Played straight. The king`s men comes in the nick of time, freeing Gudmund of all charges and restoring his property.
  • Dirty Old Man: Bengt`s attitude towards Margit in the third act, moments before he leaves with his axe to challenge Knut.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Bengt initially seems to be one. Come the third act, he seems more like an abhorrent admirer.
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  • Early-Installment Weirdness: One of the rare instances a play of Ibsen ends on a clearly happy note.
  • Gilded Cage: Margit about her marriage.
  • Happy Ending: for once.
  • Hen Pecked Husband: Bengt seems to be.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Knut the tax collector is called out on it in the first scene. Margit doubts that Knut is a fit husband for Signe because of his background story. Then Gudmund shows up.
  • Happily Ever After: for once, but this is a 28 year old Ibsen writing.
  • Historical Domain Character: Audun Hugleiksson, chancellor of King Hakon V, gets a namecheck. Because he is said to have been "deposed", we may conclude that the actual year of the play is 1302 (he was executed that year).
  • Lighter and Softer: To the Warriors at Helgeland, where the same plot points end in pure tragedy.
  • Love Triangle: More than one. Gudmund is loved by both Signe and Margit. Signe is courted by both Knut and Gudmund. Margit is loved by Gudmund and Bengt (we believe).
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  • May–December Romance: Bengt and Margit. She is 23 years old. His age is never stated, but he seems much older.
  • Medieval Ballads: The premise of the play.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Signe comes along as this. Singing, dancing and flirting in pure innocence.
  • Mood Whiplash: Margit has a soliloqui at the end of the second act - telling the sad story of her life, and fainting. Because of the chalice of poison we know she keeps in her purse, we initially believe she is dead. But she turns up alive and well in the next act.
  • Musical Episode: Song and dancing. It is, of course, a feast.
  • Oh, Crap!: A big one occurs when Knut and Gudmund declares friendship, congratulating eachother with a happy engagement, only for both of them to point at the same girl. Mood whiplash soon follows, with a possible nasty turn of events.
  • Outlaw: Gudmund states that he is, and Signe decides to flee with him.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Margit is clearly shown in one when the feast begins.
  • Pretty Boy: Gudmund outgraces every male cast member.
  • Rags to Riches: When they last met, Gudmund was a ruggedly handsome, but poor man. When he returns as a nobleman, both Margit and Signe are baffled.
  • Red Herring: The poisoned chalice. Everybody expects someone to drink it. Nobody ever does.
  • Shout-Out: To various medieval ballads. Margit and Signe both has their names from two Norwegian ones. Tristan and Iseult is referred to as a plot point. Margit feels herself abducted into a mountain (referring to the ballad Margit Hjukse), and there is of course the Sir Orfeo ballads: Gudmund is playing a harp (and one of the "orfeo" versions in Telemark is known as - Gudmund and little Signe).
  • Taking the Veil: Margit decides to become a nun after Bengt is dead. She leaves Gudmund and Signe her entire estate.
  • Wandering Minstrel: Gudmund, who won the girls with his harp. In the second act, he literally wanders off singing and playing, with both Signe and Margit swooning for him.