The League of Youth by Henrik Ibsen
Author: Henrik Ibsen
The League of Youth (De unges Forbund) is a play by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. It was written in 1869 and is the first of Ibsen’s plays to use colloquial prose. The League of Youth was well-received for its dark humor and sharp wit. Its protagonist, Stensgaard, has been described as “Peer Gynt in politics.” He was based on Hermann Bagger, an outsider who arrived in Skien in the 1830s, was elected into political office, and got involved in a scandal surrounding an IOU note.
Ibsen’s father, Knud Ibsen, is believed to have been the model for the character Daniel Hejre, and Aslaksen, the printer, was likely based on Ibsen’s friend, N.F. Axelson, who printed a paper, The Man, which Ibsen edited for nine months.
In The League of Youth, Ibsen explores themes that would come to dominate his later plays. Stensgaard’s initial idealism is pitted against his more prosaic desire for power as the town’s conservative chamberlain tries to court him. The chamberlain’s daughter, Thora, also resists being confined to her domestic roles, echoing the struggle of Nora from A Doll’s House.
Although the play is popular in Scandinavia, it is not well known outside the region. There have been three stagings in the UK: a 1900 production by the Stage Society, a 2011 production by Nottingham Playhouse, and a critically acclaimed modern adaptation in 2016 by Riot Act and Theatre N16. This last production took inspiration from contemporary UK politics and was directed by Whit Herford.
Stensgaard is an idealist who forms a new political party, The League of Youth, which aims to overthrow the old guard. He promises to represent the voice of the ardent and trustful youth, gaining support for his attack on privilege and corruption. In his rise to power, he gets involved in political and romantic intrigue, culminating in the failure of his election plans and rejection from all the women he planned to marry.
- Stensgaard – A lawyer and political idealist
- Chamberlain Bratsberg – Owner of the iron-works
- Erik Bratsberg – His son, a merchant
- Thora Bratsberg – His daughter
- Selma – Erik’s wife
- Doctor Fieldbo – A physician at the Chamberlain’s iron-works
- Mons Monsen
- Bastian Monsen –His son
- Ragna – His daughter
- Helle – A theology student and tutor
- Ringdal – Manager of the iron-works
- Anders Lundestad – A landowner
- Daniel Hejre
- Madam Rundholmen – A widow of a storekeeper and publican
- Aslaksen – A printer
- A maid-servant at the Chamberlain’s
- A waiter
- A waitress at Madam Rundholmen’s
- Townspeople and guests at the Chamberlain’s