Clement Scott

Rosmersholm ved Vaudeville Theatre anmeldt av Clement Scott i The Daily Telegraph i London 24. februar 1891 (No. 11,160).


Say what we will about Ibsen, he unquestionably possesses a great power of fascination. Those who most detest his theories, his doctrines, his very methods of art, confess to a strange and absorbing interest. There was a curious experiment tried yesterday afternoon. «Rosmersholm» was acted for the first time in England, and acted, on the whole, extremely well, by a young band of players of high intelligence; and, strange as the play was, unconventional and unorthodox as was the dramatic scheme, tedious and prolix as were several scenes, startling and horrifying as were some of the masters views to such as have faith in something beyond the religion of self and the creed of utter despair, still, let it honestly be confessed, there they all sat, open-mouthed, attentive, men and women alike, the believer and the agnostic, listening to one of the strangest plays ever written, and swayed by dialogue, incisive, pure, and at times unquestionably poetic. The very audience itself was a curious study.

Some there were whose hearts cried out in the words of Rosmer of Rosmersholm: «All that is good in human nature will go to ruin if this is allowed to go on. But it shall not go on! Oh, what a joy what a joy it would be to me to let a little light into all this gloom and ugliness!» Some there were again, whose ears and senses, confused with all this new jargon of «emancipated» men and women, chuckled to themselves with Pastor Kroll, as he said, «Ah! I fancy its much the same with most of what you call your emancipation. You have read yourself into a number of new ideas and opinions. You have got a sort of smattering of recent discoveries in various fields discoveries that appear to overturn certain principles that have hitherto been held impregnable and unassailable. But all this has been only a matter of the intellect only knowledge. It has not passed into your blood.» Many there must have been who wondered what an ordinary audience of «unemancipated» playgoers would have thought of an apostate parson recommending a double suicide to the woman who had been the direct cause of his wifes death with these astounding words, «There is no judge over us; and therefore we must do justice upon ourselves.» And then, again, there must, even in an intelligent audience like that, have been very many who virtually wrung their hands in despair like the weak, vacillating, perplexed Rosmer, and cried out, «I do not understand.» The new play, one of the least objectionable, most mystical, and surely the best written in the whole of the Ibsen series, is no easy one to describe. Any doubts that may have existed in the mind after reading the book again and yet again were not wholly removed by witnessing the drama in action. The old theory of playwriting was to make your story or your study as simple and direct as possible. The hitherto accepted plan of a writer for the stage was to leave no possible shadow of doubt concerning his characterisation. But Ibsen loves to mystify. He is as enigmatical as the Sphinx. Those who earnestly desire to do him justice and to understand him keep on saying to themselves, «Granted all these people are egotists, or atheists, or agnostics, or emancipated, and what not, still I cant understand why he does this or she does that.»

Up to this hour it would surely puzzle the most philosophical Ibsenite to say clearly and decisively why Rebecca West chose such a man as Rosmer for her helpmate and soul-companion, and having got him into her toils and Mrs. Rosmer conveniently at the bottom of the pond in the garden, why she should refuse the marriage which it was her original object to attain. Rebecca West is the illegitimate daughter of a doctor who allows her, when half-educated, to ramble at will in his library to read any books that come in her way, and very early in life to acquire «views.» These are very decided views indeed, and it would not be unjust to describe the dark-eyed Rebecca as a young woman with little faith in anything except herself, who has had no religious or moral training whatever. She finds that she cannot get on with her views by herself. She wants a spiritual companion, and she selects for that purpose a somewhat dreamy and vacillating clergyman who happens to be living pretty amicably, so far as Rebecca sees, with his wife, who is criminal enough and weak enough and conventional enough to be affectionately fond of her husband. Into the Rosmer household the wily Rebecca worms herself. She is clever enough to know that the first thing to be done is to ingratiate herself with the wife, whom in her heart she cordially despises. The wife is like wax in the hands of her false friend, and, as very often happens, adores and idolises the serpent on the hearth. Dust is supposed to be thrown into the eyes of trusting Mrs. Rosmer, and then the work of emancipation begins. First of all Rosmer is persuaded, not to change his religion, but to throw it off altogether, like an old-fashioned coat. The orthodox parson becomes a freethinker. Then Rosmers politics have to be changed. From an ardent Conservative he becomes a vacillating Democrat. Next his conjugal duties are to be upset, and Rebecca hints what a dreadful anomaly a childless wife is in any household. It is a cruel and crafty business. Rosmer must be saved and emancipated to the full; but what modern prophetess of emancipation cares a brass farthing about his childless wife? She, poor creature, has to suffer her agony in silence. She sees Rebecca and Rosmer closeted together; she knows that she has an intellectual rival under her own roof; she feels that she is looked upon as a crack-brained thing because she cannot, for the life of her, understand the first principles of emancipation and distrusts platonic attachments; and at last, urged by Rebecca, and in order to promote the mystic marriage between the apostate parson and the emancipated Rebecca, the luckless wretch, for whom no word of pity is expressed by husband, brother, companion, or friend, flings herself into the mill dam to make way for Rebecca! All this occurs before the play commences, but, according to the modern and novel method of dramatic construction, we are not told about it until the tragedy is half over. And now begins the mystical union between the parson and the pythoness. There are none so blind as those who will not see. We all know the characteristics of the fabled ostrich. It is not until Rosmer has quarrelled with his friends, and made bitter enemies by his conversion, that he awakes to the strange fact, by means of spiteful newspaper paragraphs, that it is a little unconventional for a handsome, middle-aged widower to live alone in the same house with an attractive young woman. Poor innocent Rosmer! he means no harm. How should he? Still, he thinks it better on the whole to exchange platonism for passion, and he asks Rebecca to become his wife. She jumps into his arms, but on reflection jumps out again. Indeed, she goes so far as to say that if Rosmer dares to talk like that again, she will leave the house and never live with her «dear Rosmer» any more. Instead of marrying Rosmer, as everyone imagined she would have done now that the course is clear, she confesses to the widower and to the drowned Beatas brother that she contributed directly to the wifes suicide. Rosmer is so shocked that he turns back again from a Democrat to a Conservative. Had he not very strange and original views on the subject of suicide, doubtless he would have recanted still further, and reverted to a parson. But when he is told by Rebecca that she has still one more confession to make, and that she has all along loved him with a furious passion, instead of renewing his offer, he proposes, with all the calmness in the world, a double suicide. He can only believe in Rebeccas devotion if she will go the way Beata did. The way to his heart is through the milldam. Rebecca consents to the suicidal policy without so much as a moments reflection. But Rosmer is far too polite to allow his «dear» to take this cold journey alone. He will accompany her. So out they go to the pond to drown themselves, and the curtain falls as the perplexed old servant says, «The dead wife has taken them.»

In such a grim tragedy as this there is, of course, no chance for any relief of comedy; but ever and anon there comes on the stage an admirably-drawn character one Ulric Brendel who acts as the chorus in a Greek play. Mr. Charles Hudson, no doubt, did his best with the fascinating figure, but we must own we should like to have seen it read in a different fashion. In his first scene he was too obviously intoxicated; in his last he was not sufficiently sad in his cynical depression. Ulric Brendel is one of the most interesting figures in the Ibsen fiction, but he has not yet been played. Miss Florence Farr (Mrs. E. Emery) made a remarkable success as Rebecca West, a character teeming with difficulty and perplexity. Ibsen is certainly an actress-maker, and his disciples will be loud in their congratulations of this highly intelligent lady. Like Miss Achurch, she is imbued with the spirit of Ibsen. It is her religion, and she is a dèvote. The young actress was always inside the character; but her great success was in the confession scene, which she will play even better when the piece is repeated. Half the interest to the audience came from the deep earnestness of Miss Florence Farr. Mr. F. R. Benson was a little restless and awkward at times, though he made a handsome Rosmer. He was best when he kept quiet and did not act so violently. Still, for all that, it was a very interesting and remarkable performance. Most valuable help was also given by Mr. Athol Forde, an excellent Rector Kroll; by Mr. J. Wheatman, a characteristic Peter Mortensgard; and by Miss May Protheroe, who had the very difficult task of closing the tragedy, which would have frightened a far more experienced actress. But one and all were heart and soul in their work, and they deserve a testimonial from the enthusiastic Ibsenites. The «Master» has certainly «gone up one» in the class, mainly through the excellent acting in «Rosmersholm».
Publisert 20. mars 2018 11:05 - Sist endret 20. mars 2018 11:06