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Ibsen: A Doll's House

5. Criminality and Inheritance

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In this module, we think about the themes of crime, sickness and inheritance in the play, focusing in particular on the influence of Darwin's Origin of Species, the language of sickness and disease, and the different moral laws by which men and women are judged.


In this course, Dr Sophie Duncan (University of Oxford) explores Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, which premiered at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen in December 1879. The course begins by introducing Ibsen's life and times, his inspiration for the plot of the play, and the story of how the play transitioned from the Scandinavian to the British stage. After that, we think about A Doll's House as a work of Victorian drama, focusing in particular on the continuities and discontinuities with other plays of the period. In the third module, we explore the theme of marriage in the play, including the political and journalistic debates surrounding marriage in the 1880s and 90s, before moving on in the fourth module to consider the play's treatment of masculinity. In the fifth module, we think about the influence of Darwin's Origin of Species on the play, focusing in particular on the themes of criminality and inheritance, before moving on in the sixth and final module to consider the theatrical, critical and philosophical readings of the play's stunning and sensational ending.


Dr Sophie Duncan is Fellow in English at Christ Church, University of Oxford. She is an expert on Shakespeare in performance, and in the broader fields of theatre history and the performance of gender and race. Her books include SHAKESPEARE’S WOMEN AND THE FIN DE SIÈCLE (Oxford University Press, 2016), described as "extraordinary .... a welcome antidote to prevailing assumptions" (Times Literary Supplement), and SHAKESPEARE’S PROPS (Routledge, 2019).

She has also published extensively on Victorian theatre and culture, from Jack the Ripper to the suffragettes, via Oscar Wilde and Ira Aldridge (the first African American actor to perform in Europe). With Rachael Lennon, she co-wrote WOMEN AND POWER: THE STRUGGLE FOR SUFFRAGE (National Trust Books: 2018). Her new edition of Henrik Ibsen’s A DOLL’S HOUSE will be published by Methuen early in 2020.

Sophie read English at Oriel College, Oxford, and received her doctorate from Brasenose, Oxford in 2013. In 2018, she was the National Trust’s advisor on their national programme marking the first hundred years of women’s suffrage in Britain. She has worked extensively in theatre, radio and television as a historical advisor, including the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company, the Kiln, the New Vic, BBC Studios and Radio 4. She presented an episode of The Essay for BBC Radio 3 and has appeared on Woman’s Hour as well as numerous podcasts.

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APA style

Duncan, S. (2018, August 15). Ibsen: A Doll's House - Criminality and Inheritance [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Duncan, S. "Ibsen: A Doll's House – Criminality and Inheritance." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,

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