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Riviere, J. (1952). The Inner World in Ibsen's Master-Builder. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 33:173-180.

(1952). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 33:173-180

The Inner World in Ibsen's Master-Builder

Joan Riviere

In my paper 'The Unconscious Phantasy of an Inner World reflected in Examples from English Literature' I brought together a few instances from poetry and prose in which a conscious awareness of containing other persons inside them, and of themselves existing in others, is more or less directly acknowledged by the writers. Here I have chosen a different kind of illustration of this theme, one in which conscious awareness of having beings inside one is not quite directly expressed, although it does appear in a special guise; nevertheless the whole meaning and content of the work has this and can have no other significance. It is a play; and the allusions in it to what is happening in the inner world are not occasional and transitory, nor are they elaborately overlaid by a realistic pattern of everyday life. The whole action and even the characters belong so predominantly to the inner world that the entire drama is a representation of that world; and moreover, to such a degree is this so that from the standpoint of external life the story seems to have no apparent motivation, and to some has even appeared ridiculous. The play is Ibsen's Master-Builder, whose meaning and message remains as mysterious to-day as it was when first performed more than fifty years ago, when nearly all the critics reacted to it with contempt. In spite of its insoluble and fantastic story, however, the play has from the beginning had a profound appeal, drawing audiences and moving them by powerful emotional forces in it which yet defy precise definition.

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