• Year Published: 1876.
  • Pages: 144.

Peer Gynt Summary

A five-act play written in verse format by Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen in 1867, Peer Gynt is a famous and widely performed Norwegian Play. Based on a well-known Norwegian Fairytale of the same name, the characters in the play actually resemble members of Ibsen’s own family.

The play voices the story of the fall and then the redemption of a peasant rogue of Norway. Though it wasn’t written for a stage play it was first performed on February 24, 1876, with music produced and conducted by Edvard Greig (a friend of the writer). The first performance was lavishly shown at the Miller garden Theater (in Oslo) with a live orchestra.

Peer Gynt Summary

Peer Gynt is the son of Jon Gynt, who was once a rich and extremely regarded man but then began drinking too much and lost all his money, leaving Aase (Peer’s mother) and Peer to live in poverty and heavy debt.

Peer wishes to get back the status and life that his father ruined, but gets digressed in day dreaming and self-importance. He gets involved in a fight at the wedding of his beloved Ingrid (the daughter of the richest merchant in town) and kidnaps her from her own wedding.

In the next Act, – he was banished from town for this act and so flees the town. He goes wandering in the mountains where he meets three passionate dairy-maids (the women wearing green, the daughter of the old man from Dovre mountains and Boygen), who are all waiting to be courted. He gets intoxicated with them and in most of this Act he waste his time chasing them.

Then he meets Solveig (the sister of Ingrid) who he had also met at Ingrid’s wedding and falls in love with her. She comes to his cabin to live with Peer but he leaves her too and gets back to his travels.

He is away from home for many years, during which he takes on many occupation and roles. He becomes a businessman who is engaged in shady work in Morocco, also passes through Spinx and Colossi of Memnon during his adventures.

He then becomes a Bedouin chief, a prophet- then seduces the daughter of Bedouin (Anitra) and even ends up in the madhouse in Cairo, where he is titled as emperor.
In the last Act -when he is finally on the way back home after his crazy journey, as an old man he is shipwrecked. One of the people he meets on the ship is a Strange Passenger- who scares the hell out of Peer by wanting to use his corpse to study where dreams are originated.

When he is back home in Norway, he goes to a peasant’s funeral and an auction. At the auction, he tries to sell all his possessions from his earlier life. He then meets Button Molder, who wants to melt down Peer’s souls with all its follies and spoilt goods and says he would be spared only if he could spell out when exactly in life he really was just himself’. He also meets the devil (the Lean one) who says he isn’t a true sinner and cannot be sent to hell.

Finally, Peer is shown to be in a great depression and goes back to Solveig again, all this time she has been waiting for him in the same cabin in the forest where he left her. He asks her to forgive him but she says, “You have not sinned at all, my dearest boy.” And tells Peer that for her he has always been himself in her love, in her dreams, and in her hopes.

In the last scene we see Button Molder (who is a messenger of God) saying, “Peer, we shall meet at the last crossroads, and then we shall see if… I’ll say no more.”

As you read this, you will see how crazy and adventurous the life of Peer was and how he kept chasing women, wasting his time and losing his way. But in the heart and belief of the true love, he has always been himself and a good soul.

Peer Gynt Themes List

  • Love
  • Absurdity
  • Alienation
  • Isolation
  • Conformity
  • Society
  • Individuality

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