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Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen wrote An Enemy of the People in 1882 as a response to the public outrage over his play Ghosts. Part comedy, part serious drama, the play looks at Dr. Thomas Stockmann's struggle to uphold the truth in the face of intolerance and willful ignorance, as his entire community turns against him. Branded an "Enemy of the People," Dr. Stockmann can only take solace in the idea that "the strongest man in the world is the man who stands most alone."
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An Enemy of the People
Translated By R. Farquharson Sharp
AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
A play in five acts
Dr. Thomas Stockmann, Medical Officer of the Municipal Baths.
Mrs. Stockmann, his wife.
Petra (their daughter) a teacher.
Ejlif & Morten (their sons, aged 13 and 10 respectively).
Peter Stockmann (the Doctor's elder brother), Mayor of the
Town and Chief Constable, Chairman of the Baths' Committee, etc.
Morten Kiil, a tanner (Mrs. Stockmann's adoptive father).
Hovstad, editor of the "People's Messenger."
Aslaksen, a printer.
Men of various conditions and occupations, a few women, and a troop of schoolboys—the audience at a public meeting.
The action takes place in a coastal town in southern Norway,
AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
(SCENE.—DR. STOCKMANN'S sitting-room. It is evening. The room is plainly but neatly appointed and furnished. In the right-hand wall are two doors; the farther leads out to the hall, the nearer to the doctor's study. In the left-hand wall, opposite the door leading to the hall, is a door leading to the other rooms occupied by the family. In the middle of the same wall stands the stove, and, further forward, a couch with a looking-glass hanging over it and an oval table in front of it. On the table, a lighted lamp, with a lampshade. At the back of the room, an open door leads to the dining-room. BILLING is seen sitting at the dining table, on which a lamp is burning. He has a napkin tucked under his chin, and MRS. STOCKMANN is standing by the table handing him a large plate-full of roast beef. The other places at the table are empty, and the table somewhat in disorder, evidently a meal having recently been finished.)
Mrs. Stockmann. You see, if you come an hour late, Mr. Billing, you have to put up with cold meat.
Billing (as he eats). It is uncommonly good, thank you—remarkably good.
Mrs. Stockmann. My husband makes such a point of having his meals punctually, you know.
Billing. That doesn't affect me a bit. Indeed, I almost think I enjoy a meal all the better when I can sit down and eat all by myself, and undisturbed.
Mrs. Stockmann. Oh well, as long as you are enjoying it—. (Turns to the hall door, listening.) I expect that is Mr. Hovstad coming too.
Billing. Very likely.
(PETER STOCKMANN comes in. He wears an overcoat and his official hat, and carries a stick.)
Peter Stockmann. Good evening, Katherine.
Mrs. Stockmann (coming forward into the sitting-room). Ah, good evening—is it you? How good of you to come up and see us!
Peter Stockmann. I happened to be passing, and so—(looks into the dining-room). But you have company with you, I see.
Mrs. Stockmann (a little embarrassed). Oh, no—it was quite by chance he came in. (Hurriedly.) Won't you come in and have something, too?
Peter Stockmann. I! No, thank you. Good gracious—hot meat at night! Not with my digestion.
Mrs. Stockmann. Oh, but just once in a way—
Peter Stockmann. No, no, my dear lady; I stick to my tea and bread and butter. It is much more wholesome in the long run—and a little more economical, too.
Mrs. Stockmann (smiling). Now you mustn't think that Thomas and I are spendthrifts.
Peter Stockmann. Not you, my dear; I would never think that of you. (Points to the Doctor's study.) Is he not at home?
Mrs. Stockmann. No, he went out for a little turn after supper—he and the boys.
Peter Stockmann. I doubt if that is a wise thing to do. (Listens.) I fancy I hear him coming now.
Mrs. Stockmann. No, I don't think it is he. (A knock is heard at the door.) Come in! (HOVSTAD comes in from the hall.) Oh, it is you, Mr. Hovstad!
Hovstad. Yes, I hope you will forgive me, but I was delayed at the printers. Good evening, Mr. Mayor.
Peter Stockmann (bowing a little distantly). Good evening. You have come on business, no doubt.
Hovstad. Partly. It's about an article for the paper.
Peter Stockmann. So I imagined. I hear my brother has become a prolific contributor to the "People's Messenger."
Hovstad. Yes, he is good enough to write in the "People's Messenger" when he has any home truths to tell.
Mrs. Stockmann (to HOVSTAD). But won't you—? (Points to the dining-room.)
Peter Stockmann. Quite so, quite so. I don't blame him in the least, as a writer, for addressing himself to the quarters where he will find the readiest sympathy. And, besides that, I personally have no reason to bear any ill will to your paper, Mr. Hovstad.
Hovstad. I quite agree with you.
Peter Stockmann. Taking one thing with another, there is an excellent spirit of toleration in the town—an admirable municipal spirit. And it all springs from the fact of our having a great common interest to unite us—an interest that is in an equally high degree the concern of every right-minded citizen.
Hovstad. The Baths, yes.
Peter Stockmann. Exactly—-our fine, new, handsome Baths. Mark my words, Mr. Hovstad—the Baths will become the focus of our municipal life! Not a doubt of it!
Mrs. Stockmann. That is just what Thomas says.
Peter Stockmann. Think how extraordinarily the place has developed within the last year or two! Money has been flowing in, and there is some life and some business doing in the town. Houses and landed property are rising in value every day.
Hovstad. And unemployment is diminishing,
Peter Stockmann. Yes, that is another thing. The burden on the poor rates has been lightened, to the great relief of the propertied classes; and that relief will be even greater if only we get a really good summer this year, and lots of visitors—plenty of invalids, who will make the Baths talked about.
Hovstad. And there is a good prospect of that, I hear.
Peter Stockmann. It looks very promising. Inquiries about apartments and that sort of thing are reaching us, every day.
Hovstad. Well, the doctor's article will come in very suitably.
Peter Stockmann. Has he been writing something just lately?
Hovstad. This is something he wrote in the winter; a recommendation of the Baths—an account of the excellent sanitary conditions here. But I held the article over, temporarily.
Peter Stockmann. Ah,—some little difficulty about it, I suppose?
Hovstad. No, not at all; I thought it would be better to wait until the spring, because it is just at this time that people begin to think seriously about their summer quarters.
Peter Stockmann. Quite right; you were perfectly right, Mr. Hovstad.
Hovstad. Yes, Thomas is really indefatigable when it is a question of the Baths.
Peter Stockmann. Well remember, he is the Medical Officer to the Baths.
Hovstad. Yes, and what is more, they owe their existence to him.
Peter Stockmann. To him? Indeed! It is true I have heard from time to time that some people are of that opinion. At the same time I must say I imagined that I took a modest part in the enterprise.
Mrs. Stockmann. Yes, that is what Thomas is always saying.
Hovstad. But who denies it, Mr. Stockmann? You set the thing going and made a practical concern of it; we all know that. I only meant that the idea of it came first from the doctor.
Peter Stockmann. Oh, ideas yes! My brother has had plenty of them in his time—unfortunately. But when it is a question of putting an idea into practical shape, you have to apply to a man of different mettle. Mr. Hovstad. And I certainly should have thought that in this house at least...
Mrs. Stockmann. My dear Peter—
Hovstad. How can you think that—?
Mrs. Stockmann. Won't you go in and have something, Mr. Hovstad? My husband is sure to be back directly.
Hovstad. Thank you, perhaps just a morsel. (Goes into the dining-room.)
Peter Stockmann (lowering his voice a little). It is a curious thing that these farmers' sons never seem to lose their want of tact.
Mrs. Stockmann. Surely it is not worth bothering about! Cannot you and Thomas share the credit as brothers?
Peter Stockmann. I should have thought so; but apparently some people are not satisfied with a share.
Mrs. Stockmann. What nonsense! You and Thomas get on so capitally together. (Listens.) There he is at last, I think. (Goes out and opens the door leading to the hall.)
Dr. Stockmann (laughing and talking outside). Look here—here is another guest for you, Katherine. Isn't that jolly! Come in, Captain Horster; hang your coat up on this peg. Ah, you don't wear an overcoat. Just think, Katherine; I met him in the street and could hardly persuade him to come up! (CAPTAIN HORSTER comes into the room and greets MRS. STOCKMANN. He is followed by DR. STOCKMANN.) Come along in, boys. They are ravenously hungry again, you know. Come along, Captain Horster; you must have a slice of beef. (Pushes HORSTER into the dining-room. EJLIF and MORTEN go in after them.)
Mrs. Stockmann. But, Thomas, don't you see—?
Dr. Stockmann (turning in the doorway). Oh, is it you, Peter? (Shakes hands with him.) Now that is very delightful.
Peter Stockmann. Unfortunately I must go in a moment—
Dr. Stockmann. Rubbish! There is some toddy just coming in. You haven't forgotten the toddy, Katherine?
Mrs. Stockmann. Of course not; the water is boiling now. (Goes into the dining-room.)
Peter Stockmann. Toddy too!
Dr. Stockmann. Yes, sit down and we will have it comfortably.
Peter Stockmann. Thanks, I never care about an evening's drinking.
Dr. Stockmann. But this isn't an evening's drinking.
Peter Stockmann. It seems to me—. (Looks towards the dining-room.) It is extraordinary how they can put away all that food.
Dr. Stockmann (rubbing his hands). Yes, isn't it splendid to see young people eat? They have always got an appetite, you know! That's as it should be. Lots of food—to build up their strength! They are the people who are going to stir up the fermenting forces of the future, Peter.
Peter Stockmann. May I ask what they will find here to "stir up," as you put it?
Dr. Stockmann. Ah, you must ask the young people that—when the times comes. We shan't be able to see it, of course. That stands to reason—two old fogies, like us.
Peter Stockmann. Really, really! I must say that is an extremely odd expression to—
Dr. Stockmann. Oh, you mustn't take me too literally, Peter. I am so heartily happy and contented, you know. I think it is such an extraordinary piece of good fortune to be in the middle of all this growing, germinating life. It is a splendid time to live in! It is as if a whole new world were being created around one.
Peter Stockmann. Do you really think so?
Dr. Stockmann. Ah, naturally you can't appreciate it as keenly as I. You have lived all your life in these surroundings, and your impressions have been blunted. But I, who have been buried all these years in my little corner up north, almost without ever seeing a stranger who might bring new ideas with him—well, in my case it has just the same effect as if I had been transported into the middle of a crowded city.
Peter Stockmann. Oh, a city—!
Dr. Stockmann. I know, I know; it is all cramped enough here, compared with many other places. But there is life here—there is promise—there are innumerable things to work for and fight for; and that is the main thing. (Calls.) Katherine, hasn't the postman been here?
Mrs. Stockmann (from the dining-room). No.
Dr. Stockmann. And then to be comfortably off, Peter! That is something one learns to value, when one has been on the brink of starvation, as we have.
Peter Stockmann. Oh, surely—
Dr. Stockmann. Indeed I can assure you we have often been very hard put to it, up there. And now to be able to live like a lord! Today, for instance, we had roast beef for dinner—and, what is more, for supper too. Won't you come and have a little bit? Or let me show it you, at any rate? Come here—
Peter Stockmann. No, no—not for worlds!
Dr. Stockmann. Well, but just come here then. Do you see, we have got a table-cover?
Peter Stockmann. Yes, I noticed it.
Dr. Stockmann. And we have got a lamp-shade too. Do you see? All out of Katherine's savings! It makes the room so cosy. Don't you think so? Just stand here for a moment—no, no, not there—just here, that's it! Look now, when you get the light on it altogether. I really think it looks very nice, doesn't it?
Peter Stockmann. Oh, if you can afford luxuries of this kind—
Dr. Stockmann. Yes, I can afford it now. Katherine tells me I earn almost as much as we spend.
Peter Stockmann. Almost—yes!
Dr. Stockmann. But a scientific man must live in a little bit of style. I am quite sure an ordinary civil servant spends more in a year than I do.
Peter Stockmann. I daresay. A civil servant—a man in a well-paid position...
Dr. Stockmann. Well, any ordinary merchant, then! A man in that position spends two or three times as much as—
Peter Stockmann. It just depends on circumstances.
Dr. Stockmann. At all events I assure you I don't waste money unprofitably. But I can't find it in my heart to deny myself the pleasure of entertaining my friends. I need that sort of thing, you know. I have lived for so long shut out of it all, that it is a necessity of life to me to mix with young, eager, ambitious men, men of liberal and active minds; and that describes every one of those fellows who are enjoying their supper in there. I wish you knew more of Hovstad.
Peter Stockmann. By the way, Hovstad was telling me he was going to print another article of yours.
Dr. Stockmann. An article of mine?
Peter Stockmann. Yes, about the Baths. An article you wrote in the winter.
Dr. Stockmann. Oh, that one! No, I don't intend that to appear just for the present.
Peter Stockmann. Why not? It seems to me that this would be the most opportune moment.
Dr. Stockmann. Yes, very likely—under normal conditions. (Crosses the room.)
Peter Stockmann (following him with his eyes). Is there anything abnormal about the present conditions?
Dr. Stockmann (standing still). To tell you the truth, Peter, I can't say just at this moment—at all events not tonight. There may be much that is very abnormal about the present conditions—and it is possible there may be nothing abnormal about them at all. It is quite possible it may be merely my imagination.
Peter Stockmann. I must say it all sounds most mysterious. Is there something going on that I am to be kept in ignorance of? I should have imagined that I, as Chairman of the governing body of the Baths—
Dr. Stockmann. And I should have imagined that I—. Oh, come, don't let us fly out at one another, Peter.
Peter Stockmann. Heaven forbid! I am not in the habit of flying out at people, as you call it. But I am entitled to request most emphatically that all arrangements shall be made in a businesslike manner, through the proper channels, and shall be dealt with by the legally constituted authorities. I can allow no going behind our backs by any roundabout means.
Dr. Stockmann. Have I ever at any time tried to go behind your backs?
Peter Stockmann. You have an ingrained tendency to take your own way, at all events; and, that is almost equally inadmissible in a well ordered community, The individual ought undoubtedly to acquiesce in subordinating himself to the community—or, to speak more accurately, to the authorities who have the care of the community's welfare.
Dr. Stockmann. Very likely. But what the deuce has all this got to do with me?
Peter Stockmann. That is exactly what you never appear to be willing to learn, my dear Thomas. But, mark my words, some day you will have to suffer for it—sooner or later. Now I have told you. Good-bye.
Dr. Stockmann. Have you taken leave of your senses? You are on the wrong scent altogether.
Peter Stockmann. I am not usually that. You must excuse me now if I— (calls into the dining-room). Good night, Katherine. Good night, gentlemen. (Goes out.)
Mrs. Stockmann (coming from the dining-room). Has he gone?
Dr. Stockmann. Yes, and in such a bad temper.
Mrs. Stockmann. But, dear Thomas, what have you been doing to him again?
Dr. Stockmann. Nothing at all. And, anyhow, he can't oblige me to make my report before the proper time.
Mrs. Stockmann. What have you got to make a report to him about?
Dr. Stockmann. Hm! Leave that to me, Katherine. It is an extraordinary thing that the postman doesn't come.
(HOVSTAD, BILLING and HORSTER have got up from the table and come into the sitting-room. EJLIF and MORTEN come in after them.)
Billing (stretching himself). Ah!—one feels a new man after a meal like that.
Hovstad. The mayor wasn't in a very sweet temper tonight, then.
Dr. Stockmann. It is his stomach; he has wretched digestion.
Hovstad. I rather think it was us two of the "People's Messenger" that he couldn't digest.
Mrs. Stockmann. I thought you came out of it pretty well with him.
Hovstad. Oh yes; but it isn't anything more than a sort of truce.
Billing. That is just what it is! That word sums up the situation.
Dr. Stockmann. We must remember that Peter is a lonely man, poor chap. He has no home comforts of any kind; nothing but everlasting business. And all that infernal weak tea wash that he pours into himself! Now then, my boys, bring chairs up to the table. Aren't we going to have that toddy, Katherine?
Mrs. Stockmann (going into the dining-room). I am just getting it.
Dr. Stockmann. Sit down here on the couch beside me, Captain Horster. We so seldom see you. Please sit down, my friends. (They sit down at the table. MRS. STOCKMANN brings a tray, with a spirit-lamp, glasses, bottles, etc., upon it.)
Mrs. Stockmann. There you are! This is arrack, and this is rum, and this one is the brandy. Now every one must help themselves.
Dr. Stockmann (taking a glass). We will. (They all mix themselves some toddy.) And let us have the cigars. Ejlif, you know where the box is. And you, Morten, can fetch my pipe. (The two boys go into the room on the right.) I have a suspicion that Ejlif pockets a cigar now and then!—but I take no notice of it. (Calls out.) And my smoking-cap too, Morten. Katherine, you can tell him where I left it. Ah, he has got it. (The boys bring the various things.) Now, my friends. I stick to my pipe, you know. This one has seen plenty of bad weather with me up north. (Touches glasses with them.) Your good health! Ah, it is good to be sitting snug and warm here.
Mrs. Stockmann (who sits knitting). Do you sail soon, Captain Horster?
Horster. I expect to be ready to sail next week.
Mrs. Stockmann. I suppose you are going to America?
Horster. Yes, that is the plan.
Mrs. Stockmann. Then you won't be able to take part in the coming election?
Horster. Is there going to be an election?
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