PLAYING LIFE THROUGH ART-ANALYSES OF WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN BY HENRIK IBSEN

ANALYSES OF WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN BY HENRIK IBSEN

Jasminka Markovska

ISSN 1409-715X

Man shall only play with beauty,
l and he shall only play with beauty
Friedrich Schiller
(Der spielende Mensch/15.Brief)

          Ibsen’s last play, When We Dead Awaken, or the Epilogue, as he himself subtitled it, brings into light complex issues regarding art, the artist, the object of artistic inspiration and representation, the artist’s life and worldview, the artist’s relations with other people, his/hers attitude towards their own being, towards what they create, towards Otherness, and, finally, towards death as well. This art-centered play about a self-centered artist can be read as a very masterful (un)veiling of the difficult and complex relations that the artists create with their Self, as well as Other(s), when they use their own “artistic nature and art” as an alibi that enables them to develop fascinating mechanisms of protecting this same “artistic nature and their art”, up to the point when it leads to total devastation of the Self and the people around, to loss of love, as well as joy, to loss of meaning and purpose in life. The meta-artistic aspect of When We Dead Awaken, as well as the subtitle Epilogue, point to a deliberate, game-like structure, a sort of an enigmatic quality that this play should have in regard to Ibsen’s oeuvre, or at least his last twelve prose plays. It is as if this play is the key to a kind of a puzzle that Ibsen deliberately reminds us we ought to solve in order to understand not only his dramatic art, but the nature of art and the artist as well. Thomas F. Van Laan (1994:81-88) investigated the references and elements in this play that refer to the previous plays, and interprets this as a deliberate message that points to Ibsen’s work as a totality, especially because it was written after Ibsen had revised his dramatic work as a whole. In When We Dead Awaken Van Laan sees obsessive metaphors and allegories persistent through the whole work of Ibsen, the conflict between life and art being the most persistent theme in the last four plays.
          I believe that the structuring of this play, its misty unclearness, its symbolism, its meta-nature and its difficult, ambiguous, sometimes even paradoxical dialogues and character-relations point to a deliberate, “playful” technique that is in a way mocking both at the reader (and by this I mean the theatre spectator as well), as well as art and the artist. It helps to represent deep and multi-layered issues in just three acts, also not by using explanatory dialogues and contemplations on the meaning of art and life, but through the games that the characters play with each other, the word games in their dialogues and the games they are represented to be playing in regard to art, culture and society. Taking the performative-play aspect of the dramatic art aside, I will read the text as an art-game connoted representation of relations and a presentation of the game-like functions the characters have in regards to their position in the world. The words game and playing games, as well as allusions to game playing, childhood and childish behavior are an essential part of this play, and I believe that they are there with a purpose – the author chose to place them in the text in order to turn our attention to this very important aspect of life and artistic creation. Hopefully, the analyses of these aspects and elements should lead to an amusing possible interpretation of the play. I think that, in general, it has been interpreted without having in mind this lucid and ludic aspect of it, because of the “too serious issues” it discusses and the two tragic deaths at the end of the play. Hub Zwart, for example, has investigated the comical aspects of the play through analyses of the relationships of the characters and the way they use mocking, parody and animalistic imagery in order to reveal the true ambitions of the other(s). (Zwart 1996:179-208). For Zwart, the use of laughter and the comical in this play helps to make the strong division line between the public and the private spheres of life mellower.

          Laughter is an intrusion of the subjective into the public, and it is used as a hint to a solution, a kind of a reconciliation of society with the individual. “As an artist, Rubek represents the intrusion of laughter into the serious genre of portrait bust”. (Zwart 1996:191) Zwart also reads the tragic ending of the play as quasi-tragic, i.e. parodic, and suggests that the last act and the whole play can be interpreted as parody, as a kind of a “reversed Resurrection Day”. He also labels the appearance of the nun and the laughter and singing of Maja as elements that help to contrast the parodic ‘resurrection’ of Rubek and Irene into frozen corpses, a kind of marble statues. (Zwart 1996: 190) Zwart’s analyses of the text brings great insight into the relations that the characters form with each other and it is very helpful while analyzing their private  ironic attitudes and their cynicism in relation to society and the public. However, his interpretation neglects the meta-artistic aspect of the play and the problematic aspect of Rubek being an artist and Irene being his model. Zwart fails to investigate the relation between the individual and art (art is an institution of society as well), and the possible mocking and parodization of art and the artist. Although Rubek uses art as a parody of “the virtuous rich” that “pay… in good faith – and through the nose, too…” (Ibsen 1978:1036), Rubek’s bigger problem, the one that leads to the ending scene is not a problem of an individual unsatisfied with the public – it is a problem of an artist dissatisfied with himself. This dissatisfaction is what leads to the creation of the grotesque portrait busts.
          When introducing the problematic topic of modern art in his book The Man without Content, Giorgio Agamben discusses Nietzsche’s criticism of Kant’s concept of art as universal and non-personal and points towards the prevailing presence of this discussion within the modern aesthetic theory. Nietzsche pointed towards the creator of art as the starting point of comprehension of art, and to the artist as a seeker of happiness through art. Agamben finds this Nietzschean criticism to be a kind of a prophetic discourse that later on prevails in the philosophical works on aesthetics in the age of modernity. In this respect, Pygmalion, the mythical artist that seeks happiness and fulfilment of life in the statue that he creates, functions as a “symbol of this idea of disinterested beauty as a denominator of art to the idea of happiness, …while the focal point of the reflection on art moves from the disinterested spectator to the interested artist”. (Agamben 1999: 1-2) This interest of the artist in the art makes the process of creation ambiguous, as Agamben names it – “uncanny” (Agamben 1999: 5). The promise of happiness that comes with creation creates unhappiness, a sort of an expectation for this uplifting happiness that, paradoxically, leads to a problematic state for the author if it is not fulfilled. It leads to spiritual death. Pointing to this problematic relationship between the artist and his art, Agamben names artists (Baudelaire, Holderlin, Van Gogh, Rilke) who themselves have given statements of the suffering and the danger this kind of contemplation and attitude has brought into their lives. It seems that the artist seeking fulfilment and happiness in his art looses his/hers sanity and risks loosing spiritual health in life. 
          In my opinion, the prevailing topic of When We Dead Awaken is this very same uncanniness that Agamben describes as the prevailing problem for the modern artist. Arnold Rubek, one of the four main characters in the play, is a sculptor that is experiencing artistic and emotional blockage after he had sculpted his masterpiece, the world-known statue called ‘The Resurrection Day’, and after the original model for the same master piece, Irene, had left him. Rubek is gifted with the amazing ability to put his artistic nature in front of him in every situation and to turn any conversation into a justification of his deeds by the virtue of this very same artistic nature. It is as if he carries the shield of art around him like a holy armor that protects him from any responsibility and of course, brings an elevated and higher quality to his being. Frode Helland reads Rubek as an artist “sunk” in melancholy allegorization. (Helland 1997:83-100) This process of allegorization does not allow him to accept the sensual aspects of life and makes it hard for him to accept anything that disturbs his allegorization, anything that is Other to it, be it even an undeniable fact such as the physicality of the woman that exposes her body in front of him. (Helland 1997:91) In the accent put on this process of allegorization Helland finds the main difference between Ibsen’s attitude towards the creating (life-giving, Pigmalion-like) artist and the romantic’s attitude to the same depiction. While the romantics focus on the artist and his powerful and elevated ability to create and give life to dead matter, in Helland’s view, Ibsen focuses not so much on the nature of the artist as much as on the process of allegorization itself.

 

          In order to investigate the problematic relation of the person-artist and art, I believe that is necessary to discuss aesthetics and aesthetization, because the artist’s role is to be sensitive to the aesthetic and to put it into form, i.e to aestheticize a presentation of (the) world. For this purpose, I will use Schiller’s contemplation on artistic creation from “The Aesthetical Education of Man (in a sequence of letters”, i.e. letters 12, 13, 14, 15, 26 and 27. ) (Schiller 1998) Schiller’s romantic paradigm of the artist as a virtuous creature that embodies the ability of articulating the sensual (bodily, material) and the abstract (spiritual) drives in art finds the solution in play and playfulness as the quality needed for the creation of true art. This aspect of playfulness and the drive towards playing is what balances both the artist (in his pursue for happiness and higher values in life) and his works (only when the artist is disidentified from the work, i.e. when he takes his private expectations away from his creation can true art be possible). As Schiller says in his XV-th Letter )from The Aesthetical Education of Man (in a sequence of letters)” : )
          “For, to speak out once for all, man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays. This proposition, which at this moment perhaps appears paradoxical, will receive a great and deep meaning if we have advanced far enough to apply it to the twofold seriousness of duty and of destiny. I promise you that the whole edifice of aesthetic art and the still more difficult art of life will be supported by this principle”.

 

          Anton Rubek also believes that the artist is an elevated man, an extra-ordinary person. He believes himself to be such a person. However, I believe that Rubek as an artist that believes in the sublime and elevating powers of art – i.e. as an artist that expects fulfillment and happiness through creating art - lacks the power of true playfulness. Rubek denies and doesn’t follow the drive of the senses; he is only driven by the drive towards form. Therefore, he is unbalanced and unable to give an expression to his ideas, although he is contemplating and remorsing this disability. According to Schiller’s concept of creation of art, the overpowering and misbalance of the drive towards form over the drive towards matter (the senses) leads to a transformation of the ability to receive into the ability for determination. Therefore, the artist will always hopelessly miss being himself – he would be something that he determined he should become (Schiller 1998: Letter XIII) From the reading of the play it appears that Rubek has this problem, and he is unable to receive the physical love that Irene offered him, as well as any kind of information from the outside world that is in collision to his actions because he had determined to be an artist, and nothing else. In regard to Irene, he had determined that they should play the game of her being the model and him being the artist. She should not be touched or connected to any kind of satisfaction of the senses, because he denied her of her senses, just as he denied himself of his senses. Irene had accepted this kind of thinking – she had served Rubek as a model and let him use her, abandoning her family and normal life. She had been as “artistic”, identifying herself with pure form as much as Rubek, denying her sensual part, and playing allegorical games with leaves and flowers by the water as a replacement of real sensual exchange. In this respect, the sharp needle that she always carried with herself can be interpreted as a ‘safety tool’ against an awakening of her real sensual drive, or anything that might be a threat to her emerging as a pure form. As she says: “But that statue in wet, living clay, that) I loved – the way a human figure filled with soul emerged out of those raw, shapeless masses. That was our )creation, our )child. Mine and yours.” (Ibsen 1978:1070) After leaving Rubek, she had realized that she had repressed the natural, sensual drive of a woman by following exclusively the drive towards form and exchanged her life-giving function and unborn children with a statue (a replica of herself). She blames Rubek for this, and accuses him of being “the artist who so casually and unfeelingly took a warm-blooded body, a young human life, and slit the soul out of it – because you could use it to create a work of art”. (Ibsen 1978:1070)

          Without the ability to recognize and articulate the existence of these two drives, the artist (and any person in general) would never be able to develop the third drive of play that is the characteristic of the true artist and the true person. In this same respect, Rubek is also an artist that experiences the “uncanny” quality of art as described by Agamben, namely, the difficulty of artistic creation that comes from the expectation of fulfillment and happiness. Perhaps it is possible to sublimate the romantic ideal of true artistic creation as playful phenomena with the modern concept of the discontented artist in pursue for happiness in order to get to a solution for the “uncanny” feelings of the modern artist. In this sense, perhaps the modern artist can feel the expected uplifting energy only when there is the aspect of playing and game involved in it, only when the creation is closed and safely defined in the boundaries of game. However, this would also mean that the artist should necessarily be aware of this playing quality and expect only the fulfillment that game as such brings with it, not hoping for the immediate and uplifting life-fulfillment and happiness. Because they both lack the awareness of the game-process while they play it, both Rubek and his model Irene experience the feeling of unfulfillment and spiritual emptiness in their lives, and they describe themselves as “dead”. As Terry Eagleton points out in Ideology of the Aesthetic) (1990), the romantic aesthetic ideal introduced by Baumgarten had risen from ‘a discourse of the body’, in an attempt to link the sphere of perception and the sensual with logic, and it serves the purpose of elevating the mind. The ‘poetic’, i.e., the aesthetic, was understood as an elevation of the senses, a confused kind of a logic that served and helped the growth of the mind. In this respect, a poem (i.e. any artwork) can be seen as “a perfected form of sensate discourse”. (Eagleton 1990:13-15) With this in mind, and if we consider the fact that Rubek uses the commonly accepted romantic ideal of being an artist as an excuse and a reason for his way of being, it appears that he had made the mistake of replacing the material and immaterial of his being with life and art, trying to find aesthetics in life, and, crushed by the attempt, denying the immaterial in art. He is left with creating the portrait busts – representations of life that polluted the ideal of immaterial beauty, and the pessimism regarding the expression (perhaps even the existence) of the immaterial can be seen in the hidden animals (ugly, grotesque). He introduced an ugly aspect into his art that dominates his artistic production, chasing away the immaterial and the beautiful sensual. Instead of creating art through play, he starts to play games with the people in his life and the customers he makes portrait busts for, therefore destroying himself both as an artist and as a person. And these games are the only thing that keeps him sane. Instead of creating art through playfulness, instead of modeling and representing as a game-like activity, he connects the act of creation to his own being in a way that distorts the playful aspect of creation and therefore no longer brings joy to the process.
          RUBEK  (defiantly)). I am an artist, Irene. And I’m not ashamed of the human frailties I might carry around with me. Because, you see, I was born) to be an artist. And no matter what, I’ll never be anything else.
          IRENE (regards him with a veiled, evil smile and speaks softly and gently) ). You are a poet, Arnold. (Lightly, stroking his hair. )) You are a big, dear, overgrown child, not to see it.
          RUBEK (vexed)). Why do you keep calling me a poet?
          IRENE (her eyes full of cunning)). Because, my friend, there’s something extenuating in that word. Something self – justifying – that throws a cloak over every sin and human frailty. (Her tone changes suddenly)). But I was a human being – once! And I also had a life to live – and a human destiny to fulfill. See, I let that go – gave it all up to make myself your instrument – Oh, that was suicide. A mortal sin against myself. (Half whispers).) And that sin I can never atone for. (Ibsen 1978:1074)

          Irene points this mistake to Rubek in the dialogue above. She also shows awareness of the mistake she had made – not being an artist her self, but giving up to the artist’s ideal and renouncing her sensual life in the name of art. Of course, Rubek is unable to recognize this and accuses Irene that she is the one that takes everything in a far too serious manner

          As a response to this, she immediately re-evokes the game they used to play in the past near the lake Taunitz, trying to cast away the serious atmosphere that built up around them. She tries to turn into the childish, innocent girl that gave herself up to this play some years before. (Ibsen 1978: 1075-1077) Remarkably, both of the characters show great relief when, after the serious, and even life-threatening conversation about their past (Irene was ready to stab Rubek with a knife) and after the conclusion that the idea of being together in the same way is only an “empty dream”, they agree to keep on “playing their game”.
          IRENE (impassively, as before)). Empty dreams. Aimless – dead dreams. Our life together can never be resurrected.
          RUBEK (brusquely, dropping the matter)). Then let’s just keep on playing our game!
          IRENE. Yes, playing, playing – only playing!  (Ibsen 1978:1077 – 1078).

          After this dialogue they make a mutual promise that they will try to open towards reality, and see what they have lost. They will try to awaken from the state of being dead. However, their enthusiasm about the continuation of playing ‘their game’ makes the honesty of these words a bit ambiguous – they both at the same time speak that they need to awake, but as if they know what this awakening will lead to. This points to another playing of a game, a game that is supposed to represent real life instead of an artistic ideal. However, they both ban the possibility of real life even before it comes:
          IRENE. We’ll see what we’ve lost only when – (,i>Breaking off).)
          RUBEK (with an inquiring look)). When – ?
          IRENE. When we dead awaken.
          RUBEK (shakes his head sorrowfully)). Yes, and what, really, do we see then?
          IRENE. We see that we’ve never lived.  (Ibsen 1978: 1080)

          In a way, Irene leads Rubek to a game that will show him the impossibility of real life, thus reversing the situation from the past when Rubek lead her into playing a game of a model for the artist. He lead them both to a kind of a spiritual death and hopelessness, she leads him into real death and “pax vobiscum”. The game that they have been playing from the start is dangerous, but thrilling. The nun, “the black bird of prey” can be seen as a sign for this tendency – as Irene alone labels her, she is her shadow, her dark side that can be interpreted as her death-drive. It is very peculiar how Irene says that she would kill the nun with the first possibility she has for this, because, being her constant companion, it is very probable that she had many chances to do this. It is the same kind of a game that she had played with Rubek, carrying a sharp needle or dagger with her, carrying with her the possibility and the thrill of killing, but never actually doing it.
          In his analyses of the relation between Rubek and Irene, both as persons and through their sculptor – model relationship,  Jorgen Dinas Johansen  points to the fact that the theory of sublimation through art (which has often been mechanically used in order to explain Rubek’s physical indifference towards Irene) might not really function in Irene’s and Rubek’s case, because they are both constantly regretting that they hadn’t started a normal sexual relationship. (Johansen 1997:108) Irene is not only the model, but the originator of the Day of Resurrection. This hints towards a deeper and different relationship then the ordinary model-artist relation. Further on, Johansen points that Rubek’s narcissistic ability to see in Irene (for all times) only what he dreams of her makes up for the real sexual contact. This substitution can be understood in the sense that he is making her (his dream) eternal (by sculpting, and therefore fossilizing her form). (Johansen 1997:109) He also marks that she was the only reason for Rubek’s ability for creation, as well as the only condition for creation – after she left him, he hadn’t been able to create anything else but portrait busts. To both the sculptor and the model the sculpture serves as a trance-narcissistic object, but it also connects them with social reality, because of its deep connectedness with the physical body. (Johansen 1997:110)

          In a way, the sculpture as an aesthetic object served as a game-field for both of them, allowing them to see the embodiment of their ideals in it – for Rubek it is the ideal of art and pureness, and for Irene it is the ideal of creation (the sculpture is a re-creation of herself, but a child as well). However, they were not playful while performing their game, they played with unawareness of the game itself, i.e. pathologically. In their mutually accepted game in which they both had their own set of rules, Irene was free to dwell on the fantasy that the sculpting of the clay into the shape of the body is a real physical creation.
          This make-believe attitude of the characters is persistent in the play. As I have pointed before, Irene evoked the game she and Rubek played on Lake Taunitz, a game of make-believe swans and boats, with allusions to the myth of Lohengrin from the Parsifal   legends. As M.S Barranger (1975) explains, Irene that represents the swan can be read as the object that lead the famous artist to success, and Rubek can be seen as Lohengrin, with respect to the fact that, like Lohengrin, he was married temporarily and that, in one version of the legend, the Swan returns Lohengrin to the Grail Castle, just like Irene is supposed to bring back Rubek to the immaterial aesthetic ideal. Barranger interprets this Ibsen’s allusion as an ironic counterpart to the scene acted out by the stream. In his view, Lohengrin and Rubek are opposites, because Rubek “has spiritually mutilated others, his selfhood and his art”. (Barrenger 1975) Victor Castellani points that myths can be used for the purpose of both to introduce symbolic and allegorical reference that goes beyond the works, as well as to introduce a certain uncertainty and awe, “a mysterious or mystical quality or mood.” (Castellani 1998:258) The fact that the myth is introduced within the dialogue among the characters, gives a mystical and mysterious quality to their relationship, something they desperately need in order to keep playing their game until the end. The way they use and refer to the myth is simply an imitation, but the significance of the mythological story they refer to is meta-artistic, as well as an allegory of their roles in life. The usage, or the retelling of myth usually evokes and calls upon the mythical time, a frozen time that has the quality of the first creation, of dream-worlds and childhood innocence. Children try to imitate elders, thus learning how to behave later in life. Similarly, Rubek and Irene imitate the search for the Grail, and try to imitate the roles they are supposed to represent for each other in the search for the immaterial aesthetic ideal. However, they don’t play the game in regards to the artistic creation in the way they did while Irene was the model that Rubek was sculpting. The last time they play the game, they play it in regard to their lives. And it is this dangerous game that they allow to enter their lives that leads them to their actual death.
          Rene Girard (1999:225-227) speaks of a model of triangular desire, a situation where a person pursues desires that are given by a model - ideal, desires which are not simple and object-oriented, but involve a “mediator of desire”, someone that ‘teaches’ what the ideal desire should be. In this respect, Irene was pursuing a desire mediated by the artist Rubek, she had not simply desired him and a child with him, but his art – the sculpture as their ideal child. Rubek himself desires the ideal in art, he desires to be the true artist, and there is no hint who mediated this desire to him. Perhaps this is one of the most important questions that this play can impose on us: Namely, who (what) mediates the desire for the ideal to the artist, i.e. how (why) does a person get interested and involved in this kind of pursue? Is it a natural state, i.e. is the artist born with the predisposition for this desire, or it gets mediated through out life?
          In the situation of the scene by the river, Irene uses the myth of Lohengrin in order to awake the desire for the artistic ideal in Rubek. It is a game she chooses to use when she feels that Rubek will fail to perceive her mediating of a desire to him, the desire to make him wish for “light and its flaming glory.” “Up to the peaks of promise!” – she says, (Ibsen 1978:1091) and he accepts this, mediating to her another desire, that he knows was her ideal “Up there we’ll celebrate our marriage feast, Irene –my beloved!”. (Ibsen 1978:1091). They both imitate and play the game that they know is most appealing for the other – in order to overcome the fear of what frightens both of them – real life that eventually leads to death. In this way, they thrill and challenge each other to the point when the game gets so overwhelming that they substitute real life with it. In a dangerous game of make-belief, they fearlessly face death, and not only that, but they mediate through each other the desire to see the light and the sunrise – a sort of an eschatological ideal in it.

          In the Introduction to Dreadful Games ) (1988), Nancy Morrow  points that the metaphor of the game was one of the most significant metaphors in 19th century novels, and that the language of games was used widely in order to reveal the true nature of society relations. (Morrow 1988:3) She uses the theory of play in order to throw new light on several classical novelistic texts of this period. Similarly, I believe that Ibsen, in his dramatic work, and especially in the last four plays, uses the discourse of games and introduces game-like structures in his dialogues in order to reveal certain relationships. Of course, these relationships depict the true nature of society and human relations, but I believe that the more important thing is that they also reveal the relations of the artist to all that is Other to him/her (society, other people, spouses and lovers, love, responsibility, etc.) The artist is an immanent player. However, the true skill that the artist needs is to keep the awareness of the act of playing. Only when there is awareness that what is being played is a game, with a set of rules, and a limited space and a limited time for playing is there a possibility for the artist’s integrated existence. If the playfulness of creation and the idealistic rules of that game go out of the field of playing (the place of creation) and out of the time of playing (the time needed for creation), the attempt to substitute life with art will inevitably lead to a failure, and loss of any meaning. Rubek’s constant replacing of reality with mimetic objects can also be seen in what he did with the small cottage on Lake Taunitz, turning it into a substitute of a home, a mimetic home in which he and his young wife Maja are playing out the game of being married. The new exclusive villa represents ‘the home’ that he never succeeded to have with Irene, and Maja imitates the ‘supposed to be wife’ Irene could have been. The complex issue of the mimetic home is skilfully discussed by Mark B. Sandberg (2001:32-58).
          However, Rubek and Irene are not the only characters that play games. Games are played out by Maja and the hunter Ulfheim as well. In order to discuss some other aspects of the game – like relationships in the play, I will use Roger Caillois’s classification of games. (Кајоа 2003:141 - 167) Roger Caillois divides games in four general categories: games of agon (competition), games of alea (luck, chance), games of mimicry (imitation), and games of ilinx (vertigo). The games of agon are games that can range from races with no rules, boxing, hunting, up to sophisticated planning such as in chess or billiard. The games of agon are actually consisted of all the various kinds of competition. These are the games most appealing to Ulfheim, the fearless hunter that competes with nature, thus overcoming his fear of death. In a way, he also competes with Rubek in the attempt to take his young wife Maja and take her up high into the mountains. All the four characters in the play are thrilled and excited by the thought of going high in the mountains, thus anticipating the overwhelming games of ilinx (all the games that provoke vertigo – from childish round-about, through dancing the waltz, climbing rocks and walking on rope). Ulfheim and Maja, however, decide to stop playing this game of vertigo and the game of the hunter and the hunted, and, when they see that it is too dangerous to take the chance of climbing up the mountain, they go down to where real life is. The pair Maja – Ulfheim does not proceed with the playing of games, and they don’t play the final game of alea (luck, chance), to see if they will survive the coming storm. The singing of Maja can be interpreted through the aspect of game as well – she sings because she is free from playing the continuous, boring and lifeless game of mimicry of a bride to the artist. Maja and Ulfheim seem to know that they are playing – unlike Rubek and Irene, they don’t fall into the trap of mediated, triangular desire. They play, exchange roles of the hunter and the hunted, they play the game of going up, but they see the real dangers in the play and stop when it seems to threaten their lives. They know that they are playing and they know when they are playing.

 

          Rubek and Irene, on the other hand, because of the desire for the blinding ideal of art that they both mediate to each other, loose this ability (or perhaps deliberately act out that they don’t see it) and loose their lives in the ecstasy of the ilinx. The game of mimicry is Rubek’s favourite game – he plays it with Irene, and also with Maja. The games of mimicry embody all types of imitation, playing with dolls, masques and masquerades, up to the theatre and all the various types of staged art. The game of the flowers, leaves and swans acted out by Rubek and Irene is a game of mimicry par excellence. Rubek and Irene are aware that they are playing regarding this game, but they both use it as a tool for mediating a desire that after that looses the aspect of game and substitutes reality. Interestingly, the games Rubek plays with Maja are full of awareness about the game, and this is expressed by the ironic, cynical and bitter dialogues that they have. It is as if Rubek is mocking with Maja because she doesn’t have the enchanting ability to mediate a desire on him, and she is mocking with him because she sees his deluded nature and his disability to just play or just live.
          The aspect of game and play is a very important aspect of art, the artist, as well as life, an aspect that has been noticed by the first theorists of the aesthetic and has been a prevailing topic in art ever since. Games are, in fact, very serious. They are necessary for the growth and the shaping of the individual, as well as the artist. I believe that the works of Ibsen mirror this very important aspect of existence as well, suggesting and asking important questions about the nature of game and its functions in society and culture. Game brings joyfulness, playfulness, satisfaction and outlet for anger. It is perhaps the least harmful way for shaping the ego, and for finding out the real drives behind the persona. Games bring integration. In my opinion, When We Dead Awaken )is a play about the artist and his model that forgot how to play, and, having realized that disability lead them to a disability to live, lead each other into the final game of death, thus perhaps allowing each other the last thrill they could have possibly felt.

 

          Cited works:

 

          Agamben, Giorgio. The Man without Content). Tr. By Georgia Albert. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999.
          Barranger, M. S. “Ibsen’s When We Dead Awaken, II”. The Explicator. Vol 33. ) Richmond: The Explicator Literary Foundation, April 1975.
          Castellani, Victor. “Ibsen and the Return of Myth: When We Dead Awaken”. International Ibsen Conference: Ibsen im europaischen Spannungsfeld zwischen Naturalismus und Symbolismus). Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1998 (257-273).
          Eagleton, Terry. The Ideology of the Aesthetic). Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990.
          Girard, Rene. “Triangular Desire”. Literary Theory:  An Anthology. ) Ed. Julie Rivkin & Michael Ryan. Malden: Blackwell Publushers, 1999 (225 – 227).
          Helland, Frode. “Classicism and Anticlassicism in Ibsen, with particular emphasis on When we dead awaken”. Contemporary approaches to Ibsen / )ed. by Bjørn Hemmer and Vigdis Ystad . Oslo : Scandinavian university press, 1997 (83-100).
          Ibsen, Henrik. The Complete Major Prose Plays. ) Transl. & introd. by Rolf Fjelde, New York: Plume, 1978.
          Johansen, Jørgen Dines. “Art is (not) a Woman’s Body – Art and Sexuality in Ibsen’s When We Dead Awaken”. Contemporary approaches to Ibsen / ed. by Bjørn Hemmer and Vigdis Ystad. Oslo: Scandinavian university press, 1997 (103-131).
          Morrow, Nancy. Dreadful Games). Kent, Ohio and London: The Kent State University Press, 1988.
          Sandberg, Mark. “Ibsen and the Mimetic Home of Modernity”. Ibsen studies). Oslo, 1:2 (2001) (32-58).
          Van Laan, Tomas F. “ Ibsen’s Epilog”. International Ibsen Conference.(VII, Grimstad 1993). Proceedings. ) Oslo : Centre for Ibsen Studies, 1994. (81-88).
          Zwart, Hub. “The transfiguration of the moral subject: A rereading of When We Dead Awaken”. Ethical Consensus and the Truth of Laughter. )Kampen: Kok Pharos Publishing House, 1996 (179-208).
          Кајоа, Роже. “Класификација на игрите„. Естетика на играта/ Уред. Иван Џепароски. Скопје: Култура, 2003 (141 - 167). (translated from French by Vladimir Martinovski from: Roger Caillois: Les jeux et les hommes, )Paris: Gallimard, Folio essays No 184, 1992)
          http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/schiller-education.html. August 1998. Original source: Literary and philosophical essays: French, German and Italian. With introductions and notes. ) New York: Collier [c1910] Series: The Harvard classics. The web page is a part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. - a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.