The Master Builder, by Henrik Ibsen


The large broad verandah of SOLNESS’S dwelling-house. Part of the house, with outer door leading to the verandah, is seen to the left. A railing along the verandah to the right. At the back, from the end of the verandah, a flight of steps leads down to the garden below. Tall old trees in the garden spread their branches over the verandah and towards the house. Far to the right, in among the trees, a glimpse is caught of the lower part of the new villa, with scaffolding round so much as is seen of the tower. In the background the garden is bounded by an old wooden fence. Outside the fence, a street with low, tumble-down cottages.

Evening sky with sun-lit clouds.

On the verandah, a garden bench stands along the wall of the house, and in front of the bench a long table. On the other side of the table, an arm-chair and some stools. All the furniture is of wicker-work.

MRS. SOLNESS, wrapped in a large white crepe shawl, sits resting in the arm-chair and gazes over to the right. Shortly after, HILDA WANGEL comes up the flight of steps from the garden. She is dressed as in the last act, and wears her hat. She has in her bodice a little nosegay of small common flowers.

Mrs. Solness [Turning her head a little.] Have you been round the garden, Miss Wangel?

Hilda Yes, I have been taking a look at it.

Mrs. Solness And found some flowers too, I see.

Hilda Yes, indeed! There are such heaps of them in among the bushes.

Mrs. Solness Are there, really? Still? You see I scarcely ever go there.

Hilda [Closer.] What! Don’t you take a run down into the garden every day, then?

Mrs. Solness [With a faint smile.] I don’t “run” anywhere, nowadays.

Hilda Well, but do you not go down now and then to look at all the lovely things there?

Mrs. Solness It has all become so strange to me. I am almost afraid to see it again.

Hilda Your own garden!

Mrs. Solness I don’t feel that it is mine any longer.

Hilda What do you mean —?

Mrs. Solness No, no, it is not — not as it was in my mother’s and father’s time. They have taken away so much — so much of the garden, Miss Wangel. Fancy — they have parcelled it out — and built houses for strangers — people that I don’t know. And they can sit and look in upon me from their windows.

Hilda [With a bright expression.] Mrs. Solness!

Mrs. Solness Yes?

Hilda May I stay here with you a little?

Mrs. Solness Yes, by all means, if you care to.

[HILDA moves a stool close to the arm-chair and sits down.

Hilda Ah — here one can sit and sun oneself like a cat.

Mrs. Solness [Lays her hand softly on HILDA’S neck.] It is nice of you to be willing to sit with me. I thought you wanted to go in to my husband.

Hilda What should I want with him?

Mrs. Solness To help him, I thought.

Hilda No, thank you. And besides, he is not in. He is over there with his workmen. But he looked so fierce that I did not dare to talk to him.

Mrs. Solness He is so kind and gentle in reality.

Hilda He!

Mrs. Solness You do not really know him yet, Miss Wangel.

Hilda [Looks affectionately at her.] Are you pleased at the thought of moving over to the new house?

Mrs. Solness I ought to be pleased; for it is what Halvard wants —

Hilda Oh, not just on that account, surely?

Mrs. Solness Yes, yes, Miss Wangel; for it is only my duty to submit myself to him. But very often it is dreadfully difficult to force one’s mind to obedience.

Hilda Yes, that must be difficult indeed.

Mrs. Solness I can tell you it is — when one has so many faults as I have —

Hilda When one has gone through so much trouble as you have —

Mrs. Solness How do you know about that?

Hilda Your husband told me.

Mrs. Solness To me he very seldom mentions these things. — Yes, I can tell you I have gone through more than enough trouble in my life, Miss Wangel.

Hilda [Looks sympathetically at her and nods slowly.] Poor Mrs. Solness. First of all there was the fire —

Mrs. Solness [With a sigh.] Yes, everything that was mine was burnt.

Hilda And then came what was worse.

Mrs. Solness [Looking inquiringly at her.] Worse?

Hilda The worst of all.

Mrs. Solness What do you mean?

Hilda [Softly.] You lost the two little boys.

Mrs. Solness Oh, yes, the boys. But, you see, that was a thing apart. That was a dispensation of Providence; and in such things one can only bow in submission — yes, and be thankful, too.

Hilda Then you are so?

Mrs. Solness Not always, I am sorry to say. I know well enough that it is my duty — but all the same I cannot.

Hilda No, no, I think that is only natural.

Mrs. Solness And often and often I have to remind myself that it was a righteous punishment for me —

Hilda Why?

Mrs. Solness Because I had not fortitude enough in misfortune.

Hilda But I don’t see that —

Mrs. Solness Oh, no, no, Miss Wangel — do not talk to me any more about the two little boys. We ought to feel nothing but joy in thinking of them; for they are so happy — so happy now. No, it is the small losses in life that cut one to the heart — the loss of all that other people look upon as almost nothing.

Hilda [Lays her arms on MRS. SOLNESS’S knees, and looks up at her affectionately.] Dear Mrs. Solness — tell me what things you mean!

Mrs. Solness As I say, only little things. All the old portraits were burnt on the walls. And all the old silk dresses were burnt, what had belonged to the family for generations and generations. And all mother’s and grandmother’s lace — that was burnt, too. And only think — the jewels, too! [Sadly.] And then all the dolls.

Hilda The dolls?

Mrs. Solness [Choking with tears.] I had nine lovely dolls.

Hilda And they were burnt too?

Mrs. Solness All of them. Oh, it was hard — so hard for me.

Hilda Had you put by all these dolls, then? Ever since you were little?

Mrs. Solness I had not put them by. The dolls and I had gone on living together.

Hilda After you were grown up?

Mrs. Solness Yes, long after that.

Hilda After you were married, too?

Mrs. Solness Oh yes, indeed. So long as he did not see it — . But they were all burnt up, poor things. No one thought of saving them. Oh, it is so miserable to think of. You mustn’t laugh at me, Miss Wangel.

Hilda I am not laughing in the least.

Mrs. Solness For you see, in a certain sense, there was life in them, too. I carried them under my heart — like little unborn children.

DR. HERDAL, with his hat in his hand, comes out through the door, and observes MRS. SOLNESS. and HILDA.

Dr. Herdal Well, Mrs. Solness, so you are sitting out here catching cold?

Mrs. Solness I find it so pleasant and warm here today.

Dr. Herdal Yes, yes. But is there anything going on here? I got a note from you.

Mrs. Solness [Rises.] Yes, there is something I must talk to you about.

Dr. Herdal Very well; then perhaps we better go in. [To HILDA.] Still in your mountaineering dress, Miss Wangel?

Hilda [Gaily, rising.] Yes — in full uniform! But today I am not going climbing and breaking my neck. We two will stop quietly below and look on, doctor.

Dr. Herdal What are we to look on at?

Mrs. Solness [Softly, in alarm, to HILDA.] Hush, hush — for God’s sake! He is coming! Try to get that idea out of his head. And let us be friends, Miss Wangel. Don’t you think we can?

Hilda [Throws her arms impetuously round MRS. SOLNESS’S neck.] Oh, if we only could!

Mrs. Solness [Gently disengages herself.] There, there, there! There he comes, doctor. Let me have a word with you.

Dr. Herdal Is it about him?

Mrs. Solness Yes, to be sure it’s about him. Do come in.

She and the doctor enter the house. Next moment SOLNESS comes up from the garden by the flight of steps. A serious look comes over HILDA’S face.

Solness [Glances at the house-door, which is closed cautiously from within.] Have you noticed, Hilda, that as soon as I come, she goes?

Hilda I have noticed that as soon as you come, you make her go.

Solness Perhaps so. But I cannot help it. [Looks observantly at her.] Are you cold, Hilda? I think you look cold.

Hilda I have just come up out of a tomb.

Solness What do you mean by that?

Hilda That I have got chilled through and through, Mr. Solness.

Solness [Slowly.] I believe I understand —

Hilda What brings you up here just now?

Solness I caught sight of you from over there.

Hilda But then you must have seen her too?

Solness I knew she would go at once if I came.

Hilda Is it very painful for you that she should avoid you in this way?

Solness In one sense, it’s a relief as well.

Hilda Not to have her before your eyes?

Solness Yes.

Hilda Not to be always seeing how heavily the loss of the little boys weighs upon her?

Solness Yes. Chiefly that.

[HILDA drifts across the verandah with her hands behind her back, stops at the railing and looks out over the garden.

Solness [After a short pause.] Did you have a long talk with her?

[HILDA stands motionless and does not answer.

Solness Had you a long talk, I asked? [HILDA is silent as before.

Solness What was she talking about, Hilda? [HILDA continues silent.

Solness Poor Aline! I suppose it was about the little boys.


[A nervous shudder runs through her; then she nods hurriedly once or twice.

Solness She will never get over it — never in this world. [Approaches her.] Now you are standing there again like a statue; just as you stood last night.

Hilda [Turns and looks at him, with great serious eyes.] I am going away.

Solness [Sharply.] Going away!

Hilda Yes.

Solness But I won’t allow you to!

Hilda What am I to do here now?

Solness Simply to be here, Hilda!

Hilda [Measures him with a look.] Oh, thank you. You know it wouldn’t end there.

Solness [Heedlessly.] So much the better!

Hilda [Vehemently.] I cannot do any harm to one whom I know! I can’t take away anything that belongs to her.

Solness Who wants you to do that?

Hilda [Continuing.] A stranger, yes! for that is quite a different thing! A person I have never set eyes on. But one that I have come into close contact with —! Oh no! Oh no! Ugh!

Solness Yes, but I never proposed you should.

Hilda Oh, Mr. Solness, you know quite well what the end of it would be. And that is why I am going away.

Solness And what is to become of me when you are gone? What shall I have to live for then? — After that?

Hilda [With the indefinable look in her eyes.] It is surely not so hard for you. You have your duties to her. Live for those duties.

Solness Too late. These powers — these — these —

Hilda — devils —

Solness Yes, these devils! And the troll within me as well — they have drawn all the life-blood out of her. [Laughs in desperation.] They did it for my happiness! Yes, yes! [Sadly.] And now she is dead — for my sake. And I am chained alive to a dead woman. [In wild anguish.] II who cannot live without joy in life!

[HILDA moves round the table and seats herself on the bench, with her elbows on the table, and her head supported by her hands.

Hilda [Sits and looks at him awhile.] What will you build next?

Solness [Shakes his head.] I don’t believe I shall build much more.

Hilda Not those cosy, happy homes for mother and father, and for the troop of children?

Solness I wonder whether there will be any use for such homes in the coming time.

Hilda Poor Mr. Solness! And you have gone all these ten years — and staked your whole life — on that alone.

Solness Yes, you may well say so, Hilda.

Hilda [With an outburst.] Oh, it all seems to me so foolish — so foolish!

Solness All what?

Hilda Not to be able to grasp at your own happiness — at your own life! Merely because some one you know happens to stand in the way!

Solness One whom you have no right to set aside.

Hilda I wonder whether one really has not the right! And yet, and yet — . Oh! if one could only sleep the whole thing away!

[She lays her arms flat down on the table, rests the left side of her head on her hands, and shuts her eyes.

Solness [Turns the arm-chair and sits down at the table.] Had you a cosy, happy home — up there with your father, Hilda?

Hilda [Without stirring, answers as if half asleep.] I had only a cage.

Solness And you are determined not to go back to it?

Hilda [As before.] The wild bird never wants to go back to the cage.

Solness Rather range through the free air —

Hilda [Still as before.] The bird of prey loves to range —

Solness [Lets his eyes rest on her.] If only one had the viking-spirit in life —

Hilda [In her usual voice; opens her eyes but does not move.] And the other thing? Say what that was!

Solness A robust conscience.

[HILDA sits erect on the bench, with animation. Her eyes have once more the sparkling expression of gladness.

Hilda [Nods to him.] I know what you are going to build next!

Solness Then you know more than I do, Hilda.

Hilda Yes, builders are such stupid people.

Solness What is it to be then?

Hilda [Nods again.] The castle.

Solness What castle?

Hilda My castle, of course.

Solness Do you want a castle now?

Hilda Don’t you owe me a kingdom, I should like to know?

Solness You say I do.

Hilda Well — you admit you owe me this kingdom. And you can’t have a kingdom without a royal castle, I should think.

Solness [More and more animated.] Yes, they usually go together.

Hilda Good! Then build it for me! This moment!

Solness [Laughing.] Must you have that on the instant, too?

Hilda Yes, to be sure! For the ten years are up now, and I am not going to wait any longer. So — out with the castle, Mr. Solness!

Solness It’s no light matter to owe you anything, Hilda.

Hilda You should have thought of that before. It is too late now. So — [tapping the table] — the castle on the table! It is my castle! I will have it at once!

Solness [More seriously, leans over towards her, with his arms on the table.] What sort of castle have you imagined, Hilda?

[Her expression becomes more and more veiled. She seems gazing inwards at herself.

Hilda [Slowly.] My castle shall stand on a height — on a very great height — with a clear outlook on all sides, so that I can see far — far around.

Solness And no doubt it is to have a high tower!

Hilda A tremendously high tower. And at the very top of the tower there shall be a balcony. And I will stand out upon it —

Solness [Involuntarily clutches at his forehead.] How can you like to stand at such a dizzy height —?

Hilda Yes, I will! Right up there will I stand and look down on the other people — on those that are building churches, and homes for mother and father and the troop of children. And you may come up and look on at it, too.

Solness [In a low tone.] Is the builder to be allowed to come up beside the princess?

Hilda If the builder will.

Solness [More softly.] Then I think the builder will come.

Hilda [Nods.] The builder — he will come.

Solness But he will never be able to build any more. Poor builder!

Hilda [Animated.] Oh, yes, he will! We two will set to work together. And then we will build the loveliest — the very loveliest — thing in all the world.

Solness [Intently.] Hilda — tell me what that is!

Hilda [Looks smilingly at him, shakes her head a little, pouts, and speaks as if to a child.] Builders — they are such very — very stupid people.

Solness Yes, no doubt they are stupid. But now tell me what it is — the loveliest thing in the world — that we two are to build together?

Hilda [Is silent a little while, then says with an indefinable expression in her eyes.] Castles in the air.

Solness Castles in the air?

Hilda [Nods.] Castles in the air, yes! Do you know what sort of thing a castle in the air is?

Solness It is the loveliest thing in the world, you say.

Hilda [Rises with vehemence, and makes a gesture of repulsion with her hand.] Yes, to be sure it is! Castles in the air — they are so easy to build, too — [looks scornfully at him] — especially for the builders who have a — a dizzy conscience.

Solness [Rises.] After this day we two will build together, Hilda.

Hilda [With a half-dubious smile.] A real castle in the air?

Solness Yes. One with a firm foundation under it.

RAGNAR BROVIK comes out from the house. He is carrying a large green wreath with flowers and silk ribbons.

Hilda [With an outburst of pleasure.] The wreath! Oh, that will be glorious!

Solness [In surprise.] Have you brought the wreath Ragnar?

Ragnar I promised the foreman I would.

Solness [Relieved.] Ah, then I suppose you father is better?

Ragnar No.

Solness Was he not cheered by what I wrote?

Ragnar It came too late.

Solness Too late!

Ragnar When she came with it he was unconscious. He had had a stroke.

Solness Why, then, you must go home to him! You must attend to your father!

Ragnar He does not need me any more.

Solness But surely you ought to be with him.

Ragnar She is sitting by his bed.

Solness [Rather uncertainly.] Kaia?

Ragnar [Looking darkly at him.] Yes — Kaia.

Solness Go home, Ragnar — both to him and to her. Give me the wreath.

Ragnar [Suppresses a mocking smile.] You don’t mean that you yourself —?

Solness I will take it down to them myself [Takes the wreath from him.] And now you go home; we don’t require you today.

Ragnar I know you do not require me any more; but today I shall remain.

Solness Well, remain then, since you are bent upon it.

Hilda [At the railing.] Mr. Solness, I will stand here and look on at you.

Solness At me!

Hilda It will be fearfully thrilling.

Solness [In a low tone.] We will talk about that presently, Hilda.

[He goes down the flight of steps with the wreath, and away through the garden.

Hilda [Looks after him, then turns to RAGNAR.] I think you might at least have thanked him

Ragnar Thanked him? Ought I to have thanked him?

Hilda Yes, of course you ought!

Ragnar I think it is rather you I ought to thank.

Hilda How can you say such a thing?

Ragnar [Without answering her.] But I advise you to take care, Miss Wangel! For you don’t know him rightly yet.

Hilda [Ardently.] Oh, no one knows him as I do!

Ragnar [Laughs in exasperation.] Thank him, when he has held me down year after year! When he made father disbelieve in me — made me disbelieve in myself! And all merely that he might —!

Hilda [As if divining something.] That he might —? Tell me at once!

Ragnar That he might keep her with him.

Hilda [With a start towards him.] The girl at the desk.

Ragnar Yes.

Hilda [Threateningly, clenching her hands.] That is not true! You are telling falsehoods about him!

Ragnar I would not believe it either until today — when she said so herself.

Hilda [As if beside herself.] What did she say? I will know! At once! at once!

Ragnar She said that he had taken possession of her mind — her whole mind — centred all her thoughts upon himself alone. She says that she can never leave him — that she will remain here, where he is —

Hilda [With flashing eyes.] She will not be allowed to!

Ragnar [As if feeling his way.] Who will not allow her?

Hilda [Rapidly.] He will not either!

Ragnar Oh no — I understand the whole thing now. After this, she would merely be — in the way.

Hilda You understand nothing — since you can talk like that! No, I will tell you why he kept hold of her.

Ragnar Well then, why?

Hilda In order to keep hold of you.

Ragnar Has he told you so?

Hilda No, but it is so. It must be so! [Wildly.] I will — I will have it so!

Ragnar And at the very moment when you came — he let her go.

Hilda It was you — you that he let go! What do you suppose he cares about strange women like her?

Ragnar [Reflects.] Is it possible that all this time he has been afraid of me?

Hilda He afraid! I would not be so conceited if I were you.

Ragnar Oh, he must have seen long ago that I had something in me, too. Besides — cowardly — that is just what he is, you see.

Hilda He! Oh yes, I am likely to believe that!

Ragnar In a certain sense he is cowardly — he, the great master builder. He is not afraid of robbing others of their happiness — as he has done both for my father and me. But when it comes to climbing up a paltry bit of scaffolding — he will do anything rather than that.

Hilda Oh, you should just have seen him high, high up — at the dizzy height where I once saw him.

Ragnar Did you see that?

Hilda Yes, indeed I did. How free and great he looked as he stood and fastened the wreath to the church vane!

Ragnar I know that he ventured that, once in his life — one solitary time. It is a legend among us younger men. But no power on earth would induce him to do it again.

Hilda To-day he will do it again!

Ragnar [Scornfully.] Yes, I daresay!

Hilda We shall see it!

Ragnar That neither you nor I will see.

Hilda [With uncontrollable vehemence.] I will see it! I will and I must see it!

Ragnar But he will not do it. He simply dare not do it. For you see he cannot get over this infirmity — master builder though he be.

MRS. SOLNESS comes from the house on to the verandah.

Mrs. Solness [Looks around.] Is he not here? Where has he gone to?

Ragnar Mr. Solness is down with the men.

Hilda He took the wreath with him.

Mrs. Solness [Terrified.] Took the wreath with him! Oh God! oh God! Brovik — you must go down to him! Get him to come back here!

Ragnar Shall I say you want to speak to him, Mrs. Solness?

Mrs. Solness Oh yes, do! — No, no — don’t say that I want anything! You can say that somebody is here, and that he must come at once.

Ragnar Good. I will do so, Mrs. Solness.

[He goes down the flight of steps and away through the garden.

Mrs. Solness Oh, Miss Wangel, you can’t think how anxious I feel about him.

Hilda Is there anything in this to be terribly frightened about?

Mrs. Solness Oh yes; surely you can understand. Just think, if he were really to do it! If he should take it into his head to climb up the scaffolding!

Hilda [Eagerly.] Do you think he will?

Mrs. Solness Oh, one can never tell what he might take into his head. I am afraid there is nothing he mightn’t think of doing.

Hilda Aha! Perhaps you too think he is — well —?

Mrs. Solness Oh, I don’t know what to think about him now. The doctor has been telling me all sorts of things; and putting it all together with several things I have heard him say —

DR. HERDAL looks out, at the door.

Dr. Herdal Is he not coming soon?

Mrs. Solness Yes, I think so. I have sent for him at any rate.

Dr. Herdal [Advancing.] I am afraid you will have to go in, my dear lady —

Mrs. Solness Oh no! Oh no! I shall stay out here and wait for Halvard.

Dr. Herdal But some ladies have just come to call on you —

Mrs. Solness Good heavens, that too! And just at this moment!

Dr. Herdal They say they positively must see the ceremony.

Mrs. Solness Well, well, I suppose I must go to them after all. It is my duty.

Hilda Can’t you ask the ladies to go away?

Mrs. Solness No, that would never do. Now that they are here, it is my duty to see them. But do you stay out here in the meantime — and receive him when he comes.

Dr. Herdal And try to occupy his attention as long as possible —

Mrs. Solness Yes, do, dear Miss Wangel. Keep as firm hold of him as ever you can.

Hilda Would it not be best for you to do that?

Mrs. Solness Yes; God knows that is my duty. But when one has duties in so many directions —

Dr. Herdal [Looks towards the garden.] There he is coming.

Mrs. Solness And I have to go in!

Dr. Herdal [To HILDA.] Don’t say anything about my being here.

Hilda Oh no! I daresay I shall find something else to talk to Mr. Solness about.

Mrs. Solness And be sure you keep firm hold of him. I believe you can do it best.

[MRS. SOLNESS and DR. HERDAL go into the house. HILDA remains standing on the verandah. SOLNESS comes from the garden, up the flight of steps.

Solness Somebody wants me, I hear.

Hilda Yes; it is I, Mr. Solness.

Solness Oh, is it you, Hilda? I was afraid it might be Aline or the Doctor.

Hilda You are very easily frightened, it seems!

Solness Do you think so?

Hilda Yes; people say that you are afraid to climb about — on the scaffoldings, you know.

Solness Well, that is quite a special thing.

Hilda Then it is true that you are afraid to do it?

Solness Yes, I am.

Hilda Afraid of falling down and killing yourself?

Solness No, not of that.

Hilda Of what, then?

Solness I am afraid of retribution, Hilda.

Hilda Of retribution? [Shakes her head.] I don’t understand that.

Solness Sit down, and I will tell you something.

Hilda Yes, do! At once!

[She sits on a stool by the railing, and looks expectantly at him.

Solness [Throws his hat on the table.] You know that I began by building churches.

Hilda [Nods.] I know that well.

Solness For, you see, I came as a boy from a pious home in the country; and so it seemed to me that this church-building was the noblest task I could set myself.

Hilda Yes, yes.

Solness And I venture to say that I built those poor little churches with such honest and warm and heartfelt devotion that — that —

Hilda That —? Well?

Solness Well, that I think that he ought to have been pleased with me.

Hilda He? What he?

Solness He who was to have the churches, of course! He to whose honour and glory they were dedicated.

Hilda Oh, indeed! But are you certain, then, that — that he was not — pleased with you?

Solness [Scornfully.] He pleased with me! How can you talk so, Hilda? He who gave the troll in me leave to lord it just as it pleased. He who bade them be at hand to serve me, both day and might — all these — all these —

Hilda Devils —

Solness Yes, of both kinds. Oh no, he mad me feel clearly enough that he was not pleased with me. [Mysteriously.] You see, that was really the reason why he made the old house burn down.

Hilda Was that why?

Solness Yes, don’t you understand? He wanted to give me the chance of becoming an accomplished master in my own sphere — so that I might build all the more glorious churches for him. At first I did not understand what he was driving at; but all of a sudden it flashed upon me.

Hilda When was that?

Solness It was when I was building the church-tower up at Lysanger.

Hilda I thought so.

Solness For you see, Hilda — up there, amidst those new surroundings, I used to go about musing and pondering within myself. Then I saw plainly why he had taken my little children from me. It was that I should have nothing else to attach myself to. No such thing as love and happiness, you understand. I was to be only a master builder — nothing else. and all my life long I was to go on building for him. [Laughs.] But I can tell you nothing came of that!

Hilda What did you do then?

Solness First of all, I searched and tried my own heart —

Hilda And then?

Solness The I did the impossible — I, no less than he.

Hilda The impossible?

Solness I had never before been able to climb up to a great, free height. But that day I did it.

Hilda [Leaping up.] Yes, yes, you did!

Solness And when I stood there, high over everything, and was hanging the wreath over the vane, I said to him: Hear me now, thou Mighty One! From this day forward I will be a free builder — I too, in my sphere — just as thou in thine. I will never more build churches for thee — only homes for human beings.

Hilda [With great sparkling eyes.] That was the song that I heard through the air!

Solness But afterwards his turn came.

Hilda What do you mean by that?

Solness [Looks despondently at her.] Building homes for human beings — is not worth a rap, Hilda.

Hilda Do you say that now?

Solness Yes, for now I see it. Men have no use for these homes of theirs — to be happy in. And I should not have had any use for such a home, if I had had one. [With a quiet, bitter laugh.] See, that is the upshot of the whole affair, however far back I look. Nothing really built; nor anything sacrificed for the chance of building. Nothing, nothing! the whole is nothing!

Hilda Then you will never build anything more?

Solness [With animation.] On the contrary, I am just going to begin!

Hilda What, then? What will you build? Tell me at once!

Solness I believe there is only one possible dwelling-place for human happiness — and that is what I am going to build now.

Hilda [Looks fixedly at him.] Mr. Solness — you mean our castles in the air.

Solness The castles in the air — yes.

Hilda I am afraid you would turn dizzy before we got half-way up.

Solness Not if I can mount hand in hand with you, Hilda.

Hilda [With an expression of suppressed resentment.] Only with me? Will there be no others of the party?

Solness Who else should there be?

Hilda Oh — that girl — that Kaia at the desk. Poor thing — don’t you want to take her with you too?

Solness Oho! Was it about her that Aline was talking to you?

Hilda Is it so — or is it not?

Solness [Vehemently.] I will not answer such a question. You must believe in me, wholly and entirely!

Hilda All these ten years I have believed in you so utterly — so utterly.

Solness You must go on believing in me!

Hilda Then let me see you stand free and high up!

Solness [Sadly.] Oh Hilda — it is not every day that I can do that.

Hilda [Passionately.] I will have you do it! I will have it! [Imploringly.] Just once more, Mr. Solness! Do the impossible once again!

Solness [Stands and looks deep into her eyes.] If I try it, Hilda, I will stand up there and talk to him as I did that time before.

Hilda [In rising excitement.] What will you say to him?

Solness I will say to him: Hear me, Mighty Lord — thou may’st judge me as seems best to thee. But hereafter I will build nothing but the loveliest thing in the world —

Hilda [Carried away.] Yes — yes — yes!

Solness — build it together with a princess, whom I love —

Hilda Yes, tell him that! Tell him that!

Solness Yes. And then I will say to him: Now I shall go down and throw my arms round her and kiss her —

Hilda — many times! Say that!

Solness — many, many times, I will say it!

Hilda And then —?

Solness Then I will wave my hat — and come down to the earth — and do as I said to him.

Hilda [With outstretched arms.] Now I see you again as I did when there was song in the air!

Solness [Looks at here with his head bowed.] How have you become what you are, Hilda?

Hilda How have you made me what I am?

Solness [Shortly and firmly.] The princess shall have her castle.

Hilda [Jubilant, clapping her hands.] Oh, Mr. Solness —! My lovely, lovely castle. Our castle in the air!

Solness On a firm foundation.

[In the street a crowd of people has assembled, vaguely seen through the trees. Music of wind-instruments is heard far away behind the new house.

MRS. SOLNESS, with a fur collar round her neck, DOCTOR HERDAL with her white shawl on his arm, and some ladies, come out on the verandah. RAGNAR BROVIK comes at the same time up from the garden.

Mrs. Solness [To RAGNAR.] Are we to have music, too?

Ragnar Yes. It’s the band of the Mason’s Union. [To SOLNESS.] The foreman asked me to tell you that he is ready now to go up with the wreath.

Solness [Takes his hat.] Good. I will go down to him myself.

Mrs. Solness [Anxiously.] What have you to do down there, Halvard?

Solness [Curtly.] I must be down below with the men.

Mrs. Solness Yes, down below — only down below.

Solness That is where I always stand — on everyday occasions.

[He goes down the flight of steps and away through the garden.

Mrs. Solness [Calls after him over the railing.] But do beg the man to be careful when he goes up! Promise me that, Halvard!

Dr. Herdal [To MRS. SOLNESS.] Don’t you see that I was right? He has given up all thought of that folly.

Mrs. Solness Oh, what a relief! Twice workmen have fallen, and each time they were killed on the spot. [Turns to HILDA.] Thank you, Miss Wangel, for having kept such a firm hold upon him. I should never have been able to manage him.

Dr. Herdal [Playfully.] Yes, yes, Miss Wangel, you know how to keep firm hold on a man, when you give your mind to it.

[MRS. SOLNESS and DR. HERDAL go up to the ladies, who are standing nearer to the steps and looking over the garden. HILDA remains standing beside the railing in the foreground. RAGNAR goes up to her.

Ragnar [With suppressed laughter, half whispering.] Miss Wangel — do you see all those young fellows down in the street?

Hilda Yes.

Ragnar They are my fellow students, come to look at the master.

Hilda What do they want to look at him for?

Ragnar They want to see how he daren’t climb to the top of his own house.

Hilda Oh, that is what those boys want, is it?

Ragnar [Spitefully and scornfully.] He has kept us down so long — now we are going to see him keep quietly down below himself.

Hilda You will not see that — not this time.

Ragnar [Smiles.] Indeed! Then where shall we see him?

Hilda High — high up by the vane! That is where you will see him!

Ragnar [Laughs.] Him! Oh yes, I daresay!

Hilda His will is to reach the top — so at the top you shall see him.

Ragnar His will, yes; that I can easily believe. But he simply cannot do it. His head would swim round, long, long before he got half-way. He would have to crawl down again on his hands and knees.

Dr. Herdal [Points across.] Look! There goes the foreman up the ladders.

Mrs. Solness And of course he has the wreath to carry too. Oh, I do hope he will be careful!

Ragnar [Stares incredulously and shouts.] Why, but it’s —

Hilda [Breaking out in jubilation.] It is the master builder himself?

Mrs. Solness [Screams with terror.] Yes, it is Halvard! Oh my great God —! Halvard! Halvard!

Dr. Herdal Hush! Don’t shout to him!

Mrs. Solness [Half beside herself.] I must go to him! I must get him to come down again!

Dr. Herdal [Holds her.] Don’t move, any of you! Not a sound!

Hilda [Immovable, follows SOLNESS with her eyes.] He climbs and climbs. Higher and higher! Higher and higher! Look! Just look!

Ragnar [Breathless.] He must turn now. He can’t possibly help it.

Hilda He climbs and climbs. He will soon be at the top now.

Mrs. Solness Oh, I shall die of terror. I cannot bear to see it.

Dr. Herdal Then don’t look up at him.

Hilda There he is standing on the topmost planks! Right at the top!

Dr. Herdal Nobody must move! Do you dear?

Hilda [Exulting, with quiet intensity.] At last! At last! Now I see him great and free again!

Ragnar [Almost voiceless.] But this is im —

Hilda So I have seen him all through these ten years. How secure he stands! Frightfully thrilling all the same. Look at him! Now he is hanging the wreath round the vane!

Ragnar I feel as if I were looking at something utterly impossible.

Hilda Yes, it is the impossible that he is doing now! [With the indefinable expression in her eyes.] Can you see any one else up there with him?

Ragnar There is no one else.

Hilda Yes, there is one he is striving with.

Ragnar You are mistaken.

Hilda Then do you hear no song in the air, either?

Ragnar It must be the wind in the tree-tops.

Hilda I hear a song — a mighty song! [Shouts in wild jubilation and glee.] Look, look! Now he is waving his hat! He is waving it to us down here! Oh, wave, wave back to him! For now it is finished! [Snatches the white shawl from the Doctor, waves it, and shouts up to SOLNESS.] Hurrah for Master Builder Solness!

Dr. Herdal Stop! Stop! For God’s sake —!

[The ladies on the verandah wave their pocket-handkerchiefs, and the shouts of “Hurrah” are taken up in the street. Then they are suddenly silenced, and the crowd bursts out into a shriek of horror. A human body, with planks and fragments of wood, is vaguely perceived crashing down behind the trees.

Mrs. Solness and the Ladies. [At the same time.] He is falling! He is falling!

[MRS. SOLNESS totters, falls backwards, swooning, and is caught, amid cries and confusion, by the ladies. The crowd in the street breaks down the fence and storms into the garden. At the same time DR. HERDAL, too, rushes down thither. A short pause.

Hilda [Stares fixedly upwards and says, as if petrified.] My Master Builder.

Ragnar [Supports himself, trembling, against the railing.] He must be dashed to pieces — killed on the spot.

One of the Ladies. [Whilst MRS. SOLNESS is carried into the house.] Run down for the doctor —

Ragnar I can’t stir a root —

Another Lady. Then call to some one!

Ragnar [Tries to call out.] How is it? Is he alive?

A Voice. [Below, in the garden.] Mr. Solness is dead!

Other Voices. [Nearer.] The head is all crushed. — he fell right into the quarry.

Hilda [Turns to RAGNAR, and says quietly.] I can’t see him up there now.

Ragnar This is terrible. So, after all, he could not do it.

Hilda [As if in quiet spell-bound triumph.] But he mounted right to the top. And I heard harps in the air. [Waves her shawl in the air, and shrieks with wild intensity.] My — my Master Builder!

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Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:56