The Feast at Solhoug by Henrik Ibsen
Author: Henrik Ibsen
The Feast at Solhoug (Gildet paa Solhoug) is a verse play by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. It was written in 1855 and premiered in 1856 at the Det Norske Theater in Bergen, where Ibsen directed it. The Feast at Solhoug was Ibsen’s earliest popular success and the first of his plays to be performed outside Norway.
Ibsen was very pleased with the premiere of the play. He wrote, “It received an excellent, a remarkably sympathetic interpretation. Acted with pleasure and enthusiasm, it was received in the same spirit… Later in the evening I was serenaded by the orchestra, accompanied by a great part of the audience. I almost think that I went so far as to make some kind of speech from my window; certain I am that I felt extremely happy.”
After the success of The Feast at Solhoug, Ibsen was invited to a literary salon run by the poet, novelist, and playwright Magdalene Thoresen. There, he met his future wife, Suzannah Thoresen, who was Thoresen’s stepdaughter.
The Feast at Solhoug revolves around Margit and the feast held to celebrate the third anniversary of her wedding to the Master of Solhoug, Bengt Gauteson. Trapped in a loveless marriage, she yearns for her past lover, Gudmund. When Gudmund returns unexpectedly, Margit dreams of marrying him and plots to murder her husband.
2. Story Summary
Margit is married to the Master of Solhoug, Bengt Gauteson, who she does not love. The play opens on the day of the feast to celebrate their third wedding anniversary. The King’s sheriff, Knut Gesling, and his friend, Erik of Hegge, arrive to seek support for a marriage between Knut and Margit’s sister, Signe. Both are invited to the feast on the condition that they remain peaceful that night.
Knut and Erik leave to look for Margit’s kinsman, Gudmund Alfson, an outlaw. Gudmund returns, and Margit treats him coldly as she resents him for leaving her suddenly three years before. Gudmund and Margit used to be lovers, and she still harbors feelings for him. When Margit learns that Gudmund is on the run, she dreams of marrying him, thinking he can give her a life of adventure and excitement. She then plots to murder her husband with poison.
Gudmund meets Margit’s younger sister, Signe, and woos her. Knut returns and shares with Gudmund his plans to marry. In their conversation, they realize that they are courting the same woman. Knowing of Signe’s love for Gudmund, Knut gives up and leaves.
Margit leaves Bengt a poisoned drink before she goes to bed. However, Gudmund and Signe enter and almost take the poisoned drink.
Bengt gets into a confrontation with Knut, and Knut kills him. Knut is arrested and brought before Margit. The King realizes that Gudmund is innocent and frees him of all charges. Margit gives Gudmund and Signe her blessing and leaves for a convent.
- Bengt Gauteson – Master of Solhou
- Margit – His wife
- Signe – Her sister
- Gudmund Alfson – Their kinsman
- Knut Gesling – The King’s sheriff
- Erik of Hegge – His friend
- A house-carl
- Another house-carl
- The King’s Envoy
- An Old Man
- A Maiden
- Guests, both men and ladies
- Knut Gesling’s men
- Serving-men and maidens at Solhoug