An Enemy of the People
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An Enemy of the people (original Norwegian title: En folkefiende) is an 1882 play by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. Ibsen wrote it in response to the public outcry against his play Ghosts, which at that time was considered scandalous. Ghosts had challenged the hypocrisy of Victorian morality and was deemed indecent for its veiled references to syphilis.
Upon completion of the play, Ibsen wrote to his publisher in Copenhagen, Denmark : "I am still uncertain as to whether I should call it a comedy or a straight drama. It may [have] many traits of comedy, but it also is based on a serious idea."
Act 1 "Within the comfort of a prosperous bourgeois household, dinner has been eaten and Dr. Stockmann and his two boys are out for an after-dinner walk. The table has not yet been cleared. Mrs. Stockmann is serving some cold roast beef to Billing, a reporter for the People's Heraldwho has stopped by. Peter Stockmann, her husband's brother and the mayor of the town, enters. Peter refuses Mrs. Stockmann's invitation to have something to eat. Mr. Hovstad, the editor of the People's Herald enters, hoping to discuss an article Dr. Stockmann had written for the paper, concerning the health spa that has just been built and the prosperity it is expected to bring to the town. Dr. Stockmann returns from his walk with his sons Eylif and Morten, bringing Horster, a good-natured young ship's captain, with him. He greets his brother warmly and invites him to stay for a toddy. The mayor declines, saying he must go. Doctor Stockmann remains impervious to his brother's sourness and talks of the excitement of living in the bustle of a big city, especially after spending so many years in poverty in a small, out-of-the way town in the north. He asks his wife if the mailman has come yet. She says "no." Peter turns the conversation to the Baths, remarking that Hovstad mentioned he was going to print Dr. Stockmann's piece on them. Dr. Stockmann recalls the essay and says that he would prefer that the piece not be printed yet. Peter accuses Dr. Stockmann of showing insufficient regard for Society and of stubbornly refusing to subordinate himself to Society. They argue and Peter leaves in anger. Mrs. Stockmann mildly rebukes her husband for angering his brother, but the doctor says he did not do anything to him to cause his temper to flare, adding that the mayor should not expect Dr. Stockmann to "give him an account of things before they happen." Mrs. Stockmann asks what there is to give an account of. Dr. Stockmann does not answer but wonders why the postman has not come yet. Hovstad, Billing, and Captain Horster emerge from the dining room, having finished their meal, and join Dr. Stockmann for conversation, cigars, and toddies. Captain Horster tells them he is sailing to America. Billing remarks that, consequently, he won't be able to vote in the local elections. Horster says he does not follow politics and knows nothing about them. Billing says he ought to vote anyhow because "Society's like a ship--every man must put his hand to the helm." Horster, the seafarer, retorts, "That might be all right on land, but it wouldn't work at sea." Dr. Stockmann turns the conversation to tomorrow's edition of the People's Herald and Hovstad remarks that he intends to print the doctor's piece praising the baths. Stockmann surprises him by telling him he'll have to delay printing it without explaining why. Their conversation is interrupted when Stockmann's grown-up daughter, Petra, enters. Amid greetings and offers of a toddy, Petra hands Dr. Stockmann the letter he is waiting for that she got from the postman as she was leaving that morning. Stockmann takes the letter and goes into his study to read it. Petra is a teacher who dedicates her life to her work. Her younger brother Morten says that he has no intention of working when he grows up. Rather he will be a Viking. When his brother, Eylif, objects that he would have to be a heathen in that case, Morten agrees and Billing approves, much to Mrs. Stockmann's chagrin. Petra uses the contretemps to argue that their world is full of hypocrisy. "At home you have to hold your tongue, and at school you have to stand up and tell lies." When she says she wishes she had the money to start her own school, Captain Horster offers her the large empty dining room in his house for a school. Hovstad, remarks that she is more likely to be a journalist than a teacher and asks her if she has yet translated the English novel he intends to serialize in the paper. She says she has not, but will. Emerging from his study Dr. Stockmann waves the letter excitedly and proclaims that he has "news that'll surprise the town." His hunch has turned out to be true. He wishes Peter were there to hear what he has learned. A sample of the water from the Baths that he sent to the university laboratory to be tested, just as he expected, shows the water is contaminated. That accounts for the several cases of illness that broke out among visitors to the baths last year. Polluted waste water from the tannery just above the Baths seeps into the stream that provides the water for the spa. Mrs. Stockmann says, "What a blessing you've found it out in time!" Stockmann points out that the conduits will have to be re-laid to channel the water to avoid the tannery. He had been silent until he had sure evidence, he explains, because he did not want to cause a panic. Now he feels vindicated by the report because he had argued, against his brother, that the conduits originally ought to have been laid as he now sees they must be. Hovstad promises to print an article in the paper about the discovery. Dr. Stockmann gives his paper arguing that dangerous infusoria contaminate the springs to Petra to have their maid deliver it to his brother. Stockmann is heady with the excitement of being the savior of the town and imagines all the glory that will be his because of his discovery.
Act 2 The next morning Mrs. Stockmann hands her husband a letter from his brother. The mayor writes that he is returning the article and that he is coming over. Mrs. Stockmann is worried about how Peter will take the news of the discovery, fearing he will be jealous that it was Dr. Stockmann and not himself who found out that the water is contaminated. She advises her husband to share the honor of the discovery publicly with his brother. Dr. Stockmann agrees, saying that it does not matter to him, "as long as I can get things put right. " Morten Kiil, Dr. Stockmann's father-in-law, having heard the news about the baths from Petra, stops by. He does not believe that what Dr. Stockmann says about the baths is true, but is delighted, nevertheless, believing that Dr. Stockmann is playing a trick on his brother and the other leading citizens of the town. As Morten Kiil is leaving, Hovstad enters, and Kiil is even more delighted. He thinks that Hovstad is in league with Dr. Stockmann and that Stockmann has the power of the press behind him. For Hovstad, the corruption of the purity of the water is a metaphor for the corrupt politics of the town's governing clique. Hovstad hopes to bring the clique down through the scandal that will ensue regarding the mismanagement of the construction of the baths and help put his own party, the Liberals, in power. Dr. Stockmann defends the governing circle, arguing that the town owes them a lot. Hovstad concedes that, and assures Dr. Stockmann that when he writes against the bureaucrats, he will acknowledge that, but that he is motivated in his campaign by his belief in democracy. Hovstad wishes to help "emancipat[e] the humble, down-trodden Masses!" Aslaksen, the paper's printer, enters. He has come to offer Dr. Stockmann his support. It will be a good thing, he says, for Dr. Stockmann to have "a solid majority" behind him. Stockmann is grateful but also a little puzzled. He says that redoing the Baths ought to be a routine matter. Aslaksen advises him that the authorities may bristle at taking suggestions from "outsiders" and offers to "arrange a little demonstration." Aslaksen says the small tradesmen support Dr. Stockmann because the Baths are important to the town as the source of its economic prosperity. When Aslaksen leaves, Hovstad expresses contempt for his moderation and promises that his support will be defined more sharply than Aslaksen's. Hovstad promises to use the paper in case the mayor resists Dr. Stockmann's attempt to re-engineer the baths. Under those conditions, should he face opposition, Dr. Stockmann agrees to let Hovstad print his report about the danger of the baths. Hovstad leaves. Dr. Stockmann is feeling a sense of security and pleasure at being "in complete agreement with one's fellow-townsmen" and of "doing something of such great practical value." In this spirit he greets Peter. The mayor is not in the same high spirits as his brother. He talks of the expense of reengineering the Baths. The project will take two years. Surrounding towns will use the bad publicity to establish themselves as tourist attractions for those who seek curative waters. Above all, the mayor declares, he is not convinced by Dr. Stockmann's report. The doctor, as usual, Peter asserts, is exaggerating. Rather than painting Dr. Stockmann as a hero, Peter warns his brother that he will be responsible for the ruin of the town. Dr. Stockmann counters that Peter is upset because he is responsible for where the conduits for the baths were laid, having ignored Dr. Stockmann's advice. The mayor concedes there is some truth in that, but quickly reverts to arguing that maintaining the appearance of his authority is necessary for the good of the town, as is opening the new spa. The mayor accuses his brother of not being motivated by devotion to the truth but by a warped personality. He says that Dr. Stockmann is not able to respect authority, that he is constitutionally rebellious. He warns his brother that pursuing his course will have damaging effects on his wife and children, that he will be dismissed from the board of directors of the Baths and that his reputation as a doctor will be tarnished. He orders Dr. Stockmann not to release his report and demands, since he has already released it to the newspaper, that he write another report stating that after further and deeper investigation, he has reached the conclusion that his earlier report was mistaken and that he has full confidence in the board of directors of the Baths to take any steps necessary to deal with whatever minor problems might exist. Dr. Stockmann refuses. The mayor reiterates that there will be terrible consequences for Dr. Stockmann and his family if he continues in his opposition. But the mayor's assertions only harden the doctor's resolve. Petra supports her father whole-heartedly. Mrs. Stockmann, although she knows her husband is right, is frightened, reminds him that the world is full of injustice, that they will again have to live in poverty. But the doctor, citing responsibility to his two boys, says he will not back down.
Act 3 In the newspaper office Billing and Hovstad agree that Dr. Stockmann's report on the danger of the water strengthens their campaign against the mayor and they will keep at it until "the whole of this privileged class comes crashing down." Dr. Stockmann enters and tells them to go ahead and print his report on the danger of the baths. Since his argument with his brother that morning, the issue, although still centered on the baths, has taken on greater scope for him. It has become a matter of overturning corrupt practices and replacing entrenched power with fresh ideas. The newspaper men's motives in supporting Dr. Stokmann are tainted with self-interest. Aslaksen is afraid of offending the authorities. He limits his criticism to cautious banalities. Billing, despite his rebellious stance, is trying to get a political position for himself. Hovstad is willing to compromise his ideals for the sake of the paper's circulation and to make the paper's politics acceptable to its readers by serializing an English novel with the simplistic attitude that God rewards those who do good and makes the works of evildoers end badly. When Petra returns the book, refusing to translate it because it is reactionary, he defends his duplicity. His support for her father, moreover, is largely motivated by his attraction to her. Petra leaves the newspaper office in anger. Aslaksen comes into Hovstad's office to inform him that the mayor has entered the offices by the back door so as not to be seen and wishes to speak to him. As it did the last time the mayor appeared, the direction of the play changes. The mayor's confrontation with his brother redefined and sharpened the conflict between them. Now, he will subvert the wills of Dr. Stockmann's allies. He will get them in his power and make an alliance against Dr. Stockmann in order to counter the idea that the baths are contaminated. He explains that it will be expensive to re-engineer the baths, that in order to do it, as mayor, he will "raise a municipal loan" and tax the working people, the shopkeepers, and the small homeowners since the shareholders of the baths refuse to give any more money for the baths. To support Dr. Stockmann's report under those circumstances, the newspaper would have to support raising of taxes. Realizing that reporting that the baths are unhealthy will hurt the town and themselves financially, the three agree that Dr. Stockmann's report may be incorrect and that Dr. Stockmann himself is in the wrong for promoting it. They agree to print the mayor's statement about the safety of the baths rather than Dr. Stockmann's scientific report explaining their toxicity. As the mayor is fishing in his pockets for his statement, Dr. Stockmann returns to the newspaper office as he said he would to read the proofs of his article. Peter hides in another room, leaving his ceremonial mayor's hat and cane in plain sight in the office. Dr. Stockmann finds that Aslaksen and Hovstad, who had previously been cordial to him, are cold and dismissive. They say they are busy and haven't had the time to set his article yet. He volunteers to come back later, still believing he will be seen as a popular hero when his essay is printed. Before he can leave the office, his wife enters, having come to prevent his article from being printed for fear of the repercussions, but Dr. Stockmann dismisses her concern. About to leave, he notices Peter's mayoral hat and cane. He understands that Peter has come to sabotage him and win their support. He puts on the hat, and opening the door to the room where Peter is hiding, exposes him. Peter reenters, enraged at being discovered and mocked by his brother. The doctor's triumphant moment is short-lived. Aslaksen and Hovstad explain they will not print his report in the paper, that they do not dare to, no matter what, because it would offend public opinion if they did. Seeing the injustice, Mrs. Stockmann overcomes her anxiety about the consequences to her family and voices support for her husband. He pledges that he is not defeated, that if the paper will not print his essay, he will issue it as a pamphlet, or, better, he will rent a hall in town and read his paper publicly.
Act 4 The setting is a room in Captain Horster's house. Dr. Stockmann is to give a public reading of his report. A group of townspeople have arrived early and gossip, revealing that they already believe Dr. Stockmann is in the wrong, particularly because no one in town except Horster would make a room available to him for the meeting. Slowly the room fills. Billing comes from the paper to cover the meeting, and Dr. Stockmann's whole family is there, too, to support him. The mayor is also present. As Dr. Stockmann begins to mount the platform to begin his reading, Aslaksen interrupts him saying that before they proceed they ought to elect a chairman for the meeting. Dr. Stockmann says there is no need, but Peter says there ought to be a chair, and the consensus is with him. Dr. Stockmann objects, pointing out that he has called the meeting only to read his paper. But the mayor argues that reading the paper "might possibly give rise to differences of opinion." Dr. Stockmann, not yet aware of the extent of the sabotage, capitulates. Aslaksen is elected chair and then prevents Dr. Stockmann from reading his paper, calling on the mayor, instead, to address the assembly. Peter inflames the crowd, arguing that no one "would consider it desirable that unreliable or exaggerated statements as to the hygienic condition of the Baths and of the town should be spread abroad." He concludes, consequently, that Dr. Stockmann should not be allowed to read the report. He is followed by Hovstad, who repudiates his support for Dr. Stockmann. When Stockmann is finally permitted to speak, it is with the proviso that he say nothing about the condition of the Baths. In his address, Stockmann does refer to the pollution of the Baths, but only in passing, as a way to move on to what he says he considers a worse problem, namely the opinion of the majority. Dr. Stockmann argues that the majority is never right. The minority of people, those who can see beyond what the mob can see are, in fact, in the right. Public opinion, Dr. Stockmann argues, is a coercive, ignorant, and destructive force. People, he argues, must be educated, must cultivate their reason and intelligence in order for valid democracy to exist. His fundamental condemnation is that his townsmen are willing to build their fortune on the fraud that the baths are safe when they are not. This position angers the crowd and they condemn Dr. Stockmann and censure him as a public enemy or enemy of the people. He is reviled by all, by those like Billing who have enjoyed his hospitality and those like his father-in-law, Morten Kiil, who utters a vague threat to the doctor because Stockmann has revealed that Kiil's tannery is one of the worst sources of pollution. The members of the audience on stage have become a mob and the act ends as they talk about storming Dr. Stockmann's house and breaking his windows.
Act 5 It is the next morning in Dr. Stockmann's study. The windows are smashed. Dr. Stockmann is gathering the stones the mob has lobbed into the house. He will keep the stones and bequeath them to his sons, he tells his wife. The glazier will not come to repair the windows; the landlord sends a notice that the family is being evicted. Stockmann and his wife talk about moving but he says that mobs determine policies everywhere. Unexpectedly Petra returns home from school. She has been fired because the head of her school received three letters of complaint about her and her "advanced opinions." The only person not cutting the family is Captain Horster, who stops by to see how they are and to tell them that because he let Dr. Stockmann use his house for the meeting and saw him safely home afterwards, he has been removed from his position as a ship's captain. One thing common to all the rebuffs that have been suffered is that glazier, landlord, headmistress, and ship owner all said they regretted acting as they did but that they dared not act otherwise because of public opinion or their party affiliation. As Captain Horster is telling the Stockmanns that he has an idea where they may go should they wish to leave the town, Peter Stockmann knocks at the door and is invited in. The doctor points out with bitter humor that it is chilly in the house and the mayor disingenuously apologizes "that it was not in my power to prevent the excesses of last night" when he was, after all, their architect. As if to prove his insincerity the mayor presents his brother with a notice of termination from the Board of Directors of the Baths and informs him, furthermore, that "the Householders's Association has drawn up a manifesto which they are circulating from door to door, urging all reputable citizens to refuse to employ you." The mayor advises his brother to leave town for six months and then return and tell the townspeople that he has taken time to weigh the matter carefully and wishes to apologize for his error regarding the Baths. Peter admits that would serve him and his cronies well and that he would be able to manipulate fickle public opinion in his brother's favor under those circumstances. Dr. Stockmann refuses to cooperate. The mayor says he has no right to jeopardize his family, but Dr. Stockmann counters that he has no right to participate in dirty and deceitful dealings. Peter mentions that Mrs. Stockmann's father, Morten Kiil, is a very wealthy man and will be leaving a considerable amount of money to his daughter and grandchildren. Dr. Stockmann says he did not know his father-in-law was that rich but he is glad that his family will be provided for despite his own impoverished circumstances. The mayor tells his brother not to count on Kiil's fortune because he can change his will. Stockmann retorts that that is unlikely to happen since Kiil is delighted that Stockmann has given the directors of the Baths so much trouble. This remark affects Peter more profoundly than Stockmann would have expected. Something makes sense to Peter and he leaves, entirely severing his ties with the doctor. Morten Kiil enters, and it becomes clear what had incensed the mayor. Since the Baths are said to be dangerous to health rather than curative, their value has collapsed. Morten Kiil has spent the morning buying up the shares in the Baths cheap with the money intended for his daughter and grandchildren. Everyone else has put pressure on Stockmann to recant, and he has resisted. Now it is his father-in-law's turn. Since the polluted water comes mainly from his tannery, Kiil hopes to force the doctor to recant so that his (Morten Kiil's) name will be cleared. If Stockmann persists in his insistence that the Baths are unhealthy, the shares will have no value. If, on the other hand, he recants, the shares will become valuable. Thus the financial future of Dr. Stockmann's wife and children hinge on his decision. Kiil gives Stockmann until two o'clock to decide. Hovstad and Aslaksen enter. Seeing Kiil, they assume that Dr. Stockmann's condemnation of the Baths was merely part of Kiil's scheme to lower the value of the shares in the Baths. They want a piece of the action. If Dr. Stockmann comes to terms with them and promotes the Baths, they promise to put the newspaper at his disposal and turn public opinion in his favor. Stockmann asks them what is in it for them and they tell him that the paper's financial health is shaky. They want him to subsidize the paper. If he refuses they will continue to vilify him. Enraged, Dr. Stockmann takes up his umbrella and brandishes it at them. His wife comes in, subdues him, and Aslaksen and Hovstad manage to make their escape from the house. Dr. Stockmann sends a note to Morten Kiil refusing to participate in his scheme. He tells his wife that they will not leave the town, that he will write, using his pen against the corruption he has uncovered. Captain Horster offers to let the Stockmanns live in his house. As for his medical practice, Stockmann points out that he will still have his poor patients, the ones who do not pay and who most need his care. Vigorous with the righteousness of his cause, when his sons are sent home from school because other boys fought with them because of their father, Dr. Stockmann proclaims that they shall not go back, that he will teach them himself. He will grow them into "decent, independent men." He will open a school with Petra in Captain Horster's dining room where the meeting took place, and he will get other students, not from the middle class but from the poor, the street urchins. His wife, although she supports him, is nervous about the future. His daughter, Petra, has nothing but admiration for him. He himself feels unbeatably strong because he is standing alone, true to right principles, not swayed by corrupt self-interest or public pressure."
- Doctor Thomas Stockmann, the medical officer at the new Municipal Baths and the protagonist.
- Mrs. Katherine Stockmann, his wife.
- Petra, their daughter, a teacher.
- Ejlif & Morten, their sons.
- Peter Stockmann, Doctor Stockmann's elder brother; he is the mayor of the town and thus Thomas' supervisor.
- Morten Kiil, a tanner (Mrs. Stockmann's father), also known as the Badger.
- Hovstad, editor of The Peoples' Messenger, the local paper.
- Billing, sub-editor.
- Captain Horster, a shipmaster going to America and a friend of Thomas Stockmann.
- Aslaksen, a publisher (also a character in The League of Youth).
- Men of various conditions and occupations, a few women, and a troop of schoolboys – the audience at a public meeting.
In An Enemy of the People, speaking the language of comic exaggeration through the mouth of his spokesman, the disillusioned idealist Doctor Thomas Stockmann, Ibsen puts into very literal terms the theme of the play: It is true that ideas grow stale and platitudinous, but one may go one step further and say flatly that truths die. According to Stockmann, there are no absolute principles of either wisdom or morality. In this Ibsen is referring indirectly to the reception of his previous plays. For example, the commandment "honor thy father and thy mother" referred to in Ghosts is not simply either true or false. It may have been a truth once and a falsehood today. As Stockmann puts it in his excited harangue to his political enemies: "Truths are by no means the wiry Methuselahs some people think them. A normally constituted truth lives—let us say—as a rule, seventeen or eighteen years; at the outside twenty; very seldom more. And truths so patriarchal as that are always shockingly emaciated."
This classic play was adapted by Arthur Miller in the 1950s in a production that opened at the Broadhurst Theater on December 28, 1950. It starred Academy Award winner Fredric March and his wife Florence Eldridge as well as Morris Carnovsky; future Oscar winner Rod Steiger was a "townsperson." Miller's adaptation was presented on National Educational Television in 1966, in a production starring James Daly. It was also made into a movie of the same name in 1978, starring Steve McQueen. The BBC then cast Robert Urquhart as "Tom Stockman" in their 1980 TV version, adapting the story and the cast names to reflect it now being set in a Scottish town.
A version was produced for Australian television in 1958.
In 2007 Ouriel Zohar creates his troupe Compagnie Ouriel Zohar with An Enemy of the People in Paris, an adaptation for two actors only. First performance in Paris, then Fréjus, Besançon in 2008, Liège Belgium Minsk Belarus Valleyfield in Canada 2009, Porto Heli in Greece in 2010.
An Enemy of the People (with the subtitle The strongest one is the one who stands alone)—a Norwegian film issued in 2004 and directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg—is an adaptation of Ibsen's play.
In early 2013, an adaptation was made in Egypt entitled "عدو الشعب". Translated from Arabic, the title is "Enemy of the people" or "A Public Enemy". It was a theater production organized and directed by Nora Amin (who herself plays the role of Doctor Stockman's wife) and starring Tarek El-Dewiri as Doctor Thomas Stockman. It was translated into colloquial Arabic and featured a rock-themed soundtrack played live on-set. It received various positive reviews and was jointly sponsored by the Norwegian Embassy in Cairo and the Ibsen Studies Center in Norway. The show came at a time where Egypt and the capital, Cairo are plunged into deep turmoil and the play carries serious political relevance in post-revolutionary Egypt.  
In January 2014, the play was adapted into Mandarin by Nelson Chia, artistic director of theater company Nine Years Theatre, and performed at the M1 Fringe Festival in Singapore.
This Audio Book of An Enemy of the People is translated into English by Author: Robert Farquharson Sharp. The source was made available to the public domain thanks to Librivox. This Recording was made in 2013-05-02.
- Ira Mark, Milne. "Overview: An Enemy of the People." Drama for Students. Literature Resource Center: Detroit: Gale, 2008. ISBN Vol.25 Check
- Ira Mark, Milne. "Overview: An Enemy of the people. Drama for Students"". Retrieved Wed. 2. 2014.
- Krutch, Joseph Wood. "Modernism" in Modern Drama: A Definition and an Estimate. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1953. Page 11.
- Bailey, Keith. "The Unknown Movies – An Enemy Of The People (1979)". Retrieved 2010-06-19.
- BBC TV's 1980 version of the novel, set in Scotland: IMDB.com website. Retrieved on January 13, 2008.
- "American Playhouse: An Enemy of the People (1990)". Retrieved 2013-03-30.
- Site de la compagnie Ouriel Zohar
- Baer, William (2008). Classic American films : conversations with the screenwriters. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. p. 208. ISBN 9780313348983.
- Al-Ahram Weekly article, English newspaper in Egypt, retrieved 2/10/2013.
- Al-Ahram Hebdo article, French newspaper in Egypt, retrieved 2/10/2013.
- "Public Enemy". Young Vic Theatre. Retrieved 18 April 2013.
-  Teatro da Comuna
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- An Enemy of the People at Project Gutenberg
- An Enemy of the People: Study Guide
- Spark Notes
- An Enemy of the People at the Internet Broadway Database
- An Enemy of the People at the Internet Movie Database