Henrik Ibsen: Life, Work and Criticism


42 pages
ISBN 0-919966-43-8





Reviewed by Renate Usmiani

Renate Usmiani was Professor of English at Mount St. Vincent University in Halifax.


Yvonne Shafer’s study of Henrik Ibsen follows the standard format of this series: biography, chronological list of plays, survey of the major works, critical reactions, bibliography, index — all of this compressed into approximately 40 pages of small offset print. Such a telescoping of material makes it difficult to achieve the authoritative standard claimed by the series title. Nonetheless, the monograph does offer a useful information capsule to the undergraduate student. All of the bibliographical material is excellent, and chapters II (“A Chronological List of Ibsen’s Plays”) and V (“Annotated Bibliography”) are probably the most worthwhile portions of the book.

Chapters I, III, and IV, in which the author discusses Ibsen’s work, suffer noticeably from the space constraint imposed by the format; they also show a lack of judgment in the proportion of space allotted to each area. Thus, the biography covers five and a half pages; in the “survey of Ibsen’s Major Plays,” the author attempts to cover eleven plays within eight and a half pages; five pages are allotted to “Critical and Popular Reaction.” The book certainly would have benefited from a reduction in biographical material and less concern with reception, in favor of greater concentration on the plays themselves.

The book also suffers from a truly mediocre writing style which lessens its value for undergraduate students, who deserve and need better models. At times, the writing becomes downright sophomoric with repetition and ambiguity the worst offenses.


Shafer, Yvonne, “Henrik Ibsen: Life, Work and Criticism,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 22, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/36084.