The League of Youth by Henrik Ibsen.

Portrait of Henrik Ibsen
by Henrik Olrik (1879).
The League of Youth (De unges Forbund) is a play written by Henrik Ibsen in about the middle of his writing career following Peer Gynt. I must say I rather struggled with it.

It tells the story of a solicitor, Stensgård, who was to marry Ragna, the daughter of Mons Monsen, a landowner. On 17th May, a national day known as the Norwegian Constitution Day to commemorate Norway becoming independent from Sweden following their defeat in the Napoleonic Wars, Stensgård publicly announced his intentions to form a radical anti-capitalist political party: the League of Youth, and in his speech he launched a bitter attack on Chamberlain Bratsberg, an iron master. Bratsberg however interpreted the attack as being against Monsen. Stensgård then turns his attentions from Ragna to Thora, Bratsberg's daughter, however when he learns that Bratsberg's son Erik has forged documents to obtain money for a risky business scheme he once again returns to Ragna. When he learns that Monsen may be harmed by the venture however he hedges his bets and proposes to Madame Rundholmen.

His scheming and manipulation however does not work well for him in the end. Tired of him going back and forward, the women he leads on eventually tire and Stensgård is left alone. The League of Youth is an odd play I thought, and I didn't enjoy it, but I do admit it's an interesting one. Stensgård is  an opportunist, and very cynical, and his exploitation of what he perceives as weak backfires enormously. I read that someone described The League of Youth as a political Peer Gynt: that didn't surprise me - there are definite elements of that. I wish I'd enjoyed it, but it wasn't to be. Nevertheless I won't give up on Ibsen: looking forward to read The Lady from the Sea this weekend.


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