IBSEN AND MILLER—THE MAIN PLOT IS IN THE BACKGROUND. Hilton Als says that one of the main things that sparked Arthur Miller’s interest in Ibsen was Ibsen’s “distinct lack of subtlety.” It is easy to think of both Miller and Ibsen in that way. I have thought of them that way in the past. But think of the strong melodramatic plots—often bluntly political– in Miller and Ibsen as the subplots. These black and white plots work in the theater to maintain interest—and to distract the attention. Think of A DOLL’S HOUSE as a detective story or a magic trick. The machinations of Nora trying to raise money to pay off a debt to a villain distract us in the foreground while—unnoticed—in the background is the trivialization of the wife and the marriage. I submit that Arthur Miller learned from Ibsen to present powerful and subtle emotions of people living in families while a melodrama holds our interest. Think of the family relationships as the main plot and the melodrama as the subplot.

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