The Lady from the Sea

Author: Henrik Ibsen

Act IV

(SCENE.—DOCTOR WANGEL’S garden-room. Doors right and left. In the background, between the windows, an open glass door leading out on to the verandah. Below this, a portion of the garden is visible. A sofa and table down left. To the right a piano, and farther back a large flower-stand. In the middle of the room a round table, with chairs. On the table is a rose-tree in bloom, and other plants around it. Morning.

In the room, by the table, BOLETTE is sitting on the sofa, busy with some embroidery. LYNGSTRAND is seated on a chair at the upper end of the table. In the garden below BALLESTED sits painting. HILDE stands by watching him.)

Lyngstrand (with his arms on the table, sits silent awhile, looking at BOLETTE’S work). It must be awfully difficult to do a border like that, Miss Wangel?

Bolette. Oh, no! It’s not very difficult, if only you take care to count right.

Lyngstrand. To count? Must you count, too?

Bolette. Yes, the stiches. See!

Lyngstrand. So you do! Just fancy! Why, it’s almost a kind of art. Can you design, too?

Bolette. Oh, yes! When I’ve a copy.

Lyngstrand. Not unless?

Bolette. No.

Lyngstrand. Well, then, after all, it’s not a real art?

Bolette. No; it is rather only a sort of—handicraft.

Lyngstrand. But still, I think that perhaps you could learn art.

Bolette. If I haven’t any talent?

Lyngstrand. Yes; if you could always be with a real true artist—

Bolette. Do you think, then, I could learn it from him?

Lyngstrand. Not exactly learn in the ordinary sense; but I think it would grow upon you little by little—by a kind of miracle as it were, Miss Wangel.

Bolette. That would be wonderful.

Lyngstrand (after a pause). Have you ever thought about—I mean, have you ever thought deeply and earnestly about marriage, Miss Wangel?

Bolette (looking quickly at him). About—no!

Lyngstrand. I have.

Bolette. Really? Have you?

Lyngstrand. Oh yes! I often think about things of that sort, especially about marriage; and, besides, I’ve read several books about it. I think marriage must be counted a sort of miracle— that a woman should gradually change until she is like her husband.

Bolette. You mean has like interests?

Lyngstrand. Yes, that’s it.

Bolette. Well, but his abilities—his talents—and his skill?

Lyngstrand. Hm—well—I should like to know if all that too—

Bolette. Then, perhaps, you also believe that everything a man has read for himself, and thought out for himself, that this, too, can grow upon his wife?

Lyngstrand. Yes, I think it can. Little by little; as by a sort of miracle. But, of course, I know such things can only happen in a marriage that is faithful, and loving, and really happy.

Bolette. Has it never occurred to you that a man, too, might, perhaps, be thus drawn over to his wife? Grow like her, I mean.

Lyngstrand. A man? No, I never thought of that.

Bolette. But why not one as well as the other?

Lyngstrand. No; for a man has a calling that he lives for; and that’s what makes a man so strong and firm, Miss Wangel. He has a calling in life.

Bolette. Has every man?

Lyngstrand. Oh no! I am thinking more especially of artists.

Bolette. Do you think it right of an artist to get married?

Lyngstrand. Yes, I think so. If he can find one he can heartily love, I—

Bolette. Still, I think he should rather live for his art alone.

Lyngstrand. Of course he must; but he can do that just as well, even if he marries.

Bolette. But how about her?

Lyngstrand. Her? Who?

Bolette. She whom he marries. What is she to live for?

Lyngstrand. She, too, is to live for his art. It seems to me a woman must feel so thoroughly happy in that.

Bolette. Hm, I don’t exactly know—

Lyngstrand. Yes, Miss Wangel, you may be sure of that. It is not merely all the honour and respect she enjoys through him; for that seems almost the least important to me. But it is this—that she can help him to create, that she can lighten his work for him, be about him and see to his comfort, and tend him well, and make his life thoroughly pleasant. I should think that must be perfectly delightful to a woman.

Bolette. Ah! You don’t yourself know how selfish you are!

Lyngstrand. I, selfish! Good heavens! Oh, if only you knew me a little better than you do! (Bending closer to her.) Miss Wangel, when once I am gone—and that will be very soon now—

Bolette (looks pityingly at him). Oh, don’t think of anything so sad!

Lyngstrand. But, really, I don’t think it is so very sad.

Bolette. What do you mean?

Lyngstrand. Well, you know that I set out in a month. First from here, and then, of course, I’m going south.

Bolette. Oh, I see! Of course.

Lyngstrand. Will you think of me sometimes, then, Miss Wangel?

Bolette. Yes, gladly.

Lyngstrand (pleased). No, promise!

Bolette. I promise.

Lyngstrand. By all that is sacred, Miss Bolette?

Bolette. By all that is sacred. (In a changed manner.) Oh, but what can come of it all? Nothing on earth can come of it!

Lyngstrand. How can you say that! It would be so delightful for me to know you were at home here thinking of me!

Bolette. Well, and what else?

Lyngstrand. I don’t exactly know of anything else.

Bolette. Nor I either. There are so many things in the way. Everything stands in the way, I think.

Lyngstrand. Oh, another miracle might come about. Some happy dispensation of fortune, or something of the sort; for I really believe I shall be lucky now.

Bolette (eagerly). Really? You do believe that?

Lyngstrand. Yes, I believe it thoroughly. And so—after a few years—when I come home again as a celebrated sculptor, and well off, and in perfect health!

Bolette. Yes, yes! Of course, we will hope so.

Lyngstrand. You may be perfectly certain about it. Only think faithfully and kindly of me when I am down there in the south; and now I have your word that you will.

Bolette. You have (shaking her head). But, all the same, nothing will surely come of it.

Lyngstrand. Oh! yes, Miss Bolette. At least this will come of it. I shall get on so much more easily and quickly with my art work.

Bolette. Do you believe that, too?

Lyngstrand. I have an inner conviction of it. And I fancy it will be so cheering for you, too—here in this out-of-the-way place-to know within yourself that you are, so to say, helping me to create.

Bolette (looking at him). Well; but you on your side?

Lyngstrand. I?

Bolette (looking out into the garden). Hush! Let us speak of something else. Here’s Mr. Arnholm.

(ARNHOLM is seen in the garden below. He stops and talks to HILDE and BALLESTED.)

Lyngstrand. Are you fond of your old teacher, Miss Bolette?

Bolette. Fond of him?

Lyngstrand. Yes; I mean do you care for him?

Bolette. Yes, indeed I do, for he is a true friend—and adviser, too—and then he is always so ready to help when he can.

Lyngstrand. Isn’t it extraordinary that he hasn’t married!

Bolette. Do you think it is extraordinary?

Lyngstrand. Yes, for you say he’s well-to-do.

Bolette. He is certainly said to be so. But probably it wasn’t so easy to find anyone who’d have him.

Lyngstrand. Why?

Bolette. Oh! He’s been the teacher of nearly all the young girls that he knows. He says that himself.

Lyngstrand. But what does that matter?

Bolette. Why, good heavens! One doesn’t marry a man who’s been your teacher!

Lyngstrand. Don’t you think a young girl might love her teacher?

Bolette. Not after she’s really grown up.

Lyngstrand. No—fancy that!

Bolette (cautioning him). Sh! sh!

(Meanwhile BALLESTED has been gathering together his things, and carries them out from the garden to the right. HILDE helps him. ARNHOLM goes up the verandah, and comes into the room.)

Arnholm. Good-morning, my dear Bolette. Good-morning, Mr.—Mr.— hm—(He looks displeased, and nods coldly to LYNGSTRAND, who rises.)

Bolette (rising up and going up to ARNHOLM). Good-morning, Mr. Arnholm.

Arnholm. Everything all right here today?

Bolette. Yes, thanks, quite.

Arnholm. Has your stepmother gone to bathe again today?

Bolette. No. She is upstairs in her room.

Arnholm. Not very bright?

Bolette. I don’t know, for she has locked herself in.

Arnholm. Hm—has she?

Lyngstrand. I suppose Mrs. Wangel was very much frightened about that American yesterday?

Arnholm. What do you know about that?

Lyngstrand. I told Mrs. Wangel that I had seen him in the flesh behind the garden.

Arnholm. Oh! I see.

Bolette (to ARNHOLM). No doubt you and father sat up very late last night, talking?

Arnholm. Yes, rather late. We were talking over serious matters.

Bolette. Did you put in a word for me, and my affairs, too?

Arnholm. No, dear Bolette, I couldn’t manage it. He was so completely taken up with something else.

Bolette (sighs). Ah! yes; he always is.

Arnholm (looks at her meaningly). But later on today we’ll talk more fully about—the matter. Where’s your father now? Not at home?

Bolette. Yes, he is. He must be down in the office. I’ll fetch him.

Arnholm. No, thanks. Don’t do that. I’d rather go down to him.

Bolette (listening). Wait one moment, Mr. Arnholm; I believe that’s father on the stairs. Yes, I suppose he’s been up to look after her.

(WANGEL comes in from the door on the left.)

Wangel (shaking ARNHOLM’S hand). What, dear friend, are you here already? It was good of you to come so early, for I should like to talk a little further with you.

Bolette (to LYNGSTRAND). Hadn’t we better go down to Hilde in the garden?

Lyngstrand. I shall be delighted, Miss Wangel.

(He and BOLETTE go down into the garden, and pass out between the trees in the background.)

Arnholm (following them with his eyes, turns to WANGEL). Do you know anything about that young man?

Wangel. No, nothing at all.

Arnholm. But do you think it right he should knock about so much with the girls?

Wangel. Does he? I really hadn’t noticed it.

Arnholm. You ought to see to it, I think.

Wangel. Yes, I suppose you’re right. But, good Lord! What’s a man to do? The girls are so accustomed to look after themselves now. They won’t listen to me, nor to Ellida.

Arnholm. Not to her either?

Wangel. No; and besides I really cannot expect Ellida to trouble about such things. She’s not fit for that (breaking off). But it wasn’t that which we were to talk of. Now tell me, have you thought the matter over—thought over all I told you of?

Arnholm. I have thought of nothing else ever since we parted last night.

Wangel. And what do you think should be done?

Arnholm. Dear Wangel, I think you, as a doctor, must know that better than I.

Wangel. Oh! if you only knew how difficult it is for a doctor to judge rightly about a patient who is so dear to him! Besides, this is no ordinary illness. No ordinary doctor and no ordinary medicines can help her.

Arnholm. How is she today?

Wangel. I was upstairs with her just now, and then she seemed to me quite calm; but behind all her moods something lies hidden which it is impossible for me to fathom; and then she is so changeable, so capricious—she varies so suddenly.

Arnholm. No doubt that is the result of her morbid state of mind.

Wangel. Not altogether. When you go down to the bedrock, it was born in her. Ellida belongs to the sea-folk. That is the matter.

Arnholm. What do you really mean, my dear doctor?

Wangel. Haven’t you noticed that the people from out there by the open sea are, in a way, a people apart? It is almost as if they themselves lived the life of the sea. There is the rush of waves, and ebb and flow too, both in their thoughts and in their feelings, and so they can never bear transplanting. Oh! I ought to have remembered that. It was a sin against Ellida to take her away from there, and bring her here.

Arnholm. You have come to that opinion?

Wangel. Yes, more and more. But I ought to have told myself this beforehand. Oh! I knew it well enough at bottom! But I put it from me. For, you see, I loved her so! Therefore, I thought of myself first of all. I was inexcusably selfish at that time!

Arnholm. Hm. I suppose every man is a little selfish under such circumstances. Moreover, I’ve never noticed that vice in you, Doctor Wangel.

Wangel (walks uneasily about the room). Oh, yes! And I have been since then, too. Why, I am so much, much older than she is. I ought to have been at once as a father to her and a guide. I ought to have done my best to develop and enlighten her mind. Unfortunately nothing ever came of that. You see, I hadn’t stamina enough, for I preferred her just as she was. So things went worse and worse with her, and then I didn’t know what to do. (In a lower voice.) That was why I wrote to you in my trouble, and asked you to come here.

Arnholm (looks at him in astonishment). What, was it for this you wrote?

Wangel. Yes; but don’t let anyone notice anything.

Arnholm. How on earth, dear doctor—what good did you expect me to be? I don’t understand it.

Wangel. No, naturally. For I was on an altogether false track. I thought Ellida’s heart had at one time gone out to you, and that she still secretly cared for you a little—that perhaps it would do her good to see you again, and talk of her home and the old days.

Arnholm. So it was your wife you meant when you wrote that she expected me, and—and perhaps longed for me.

Wangel. Yes, who else?

Arnholm (hurriedly). No, no. You’re right. But I didn’t understand.

Wangel. Naturally, as I said, for I was on an absolutely wrong track.

Arnholm. And you call yourself selfish!

Wangel. Ah! but I had such a great sin to atone for. I felt I dared not neglect any means that might give the slightest relief to her mind.

Arnholm. How do you really explain the power this stranger exercises over her?

Wangel. Hm—dear friend—there may be sides to the matter that cannot be explained.

Arnholm. Do you mean anything inexplicable in itself—absolutely inexplicable?

Wangel. In any case not explicable as far as we know.

Arnholm. Do you believe there is something in it, then?

Wangel. I neither believe nor deny; I simply don’t know. That’s why I leave it alone.

Arnholm. Yes. But just one thing: her extraordinary, weird assertion about the child’s eyes—

Wangel (eagerly). I don’t believe a word about the eyes. I will not believe such a thing. It must be purely fancy on her part, nothing else.

Arnholm. Did you notice the man’s eyes when you saw him yesterday?

Wangel. Of course I did.

Arnholm. And you saw no sort of resemblance?

Wangel (evasively). Hm—good heavens! What shall I say? It wasn’t quite light when I saw him; and, besides, Ellida had been saying so much about this resemblance, I really don’t know if I was capable of observing quite impartially.

Arnholm. Well, well, may be. But that other matter? All this terror and unrest coming upon her at the very time, as it seems, this strange man was on his way home.

Wangel. That—oh! that’s something she must have persuaded and dreamed herself into since it happened. She was not seized with this so suddenly—all at once—as she now maintains. But since she heard from young Lyngstrand that Johnston—or Friman, or whatever his name is—was on his way hither, three years ago, in the month of March, she now evidently believes her unrest of mind came upon her at that very time.

Arnholm. It was not so, then?

Wangel. By no means. There were signs and symptoms of it before this time, though it did happen, by chance, that in that month of March, three years ago, she had a rather severe attack.

Arnholm. After all, then—?

Wangel. Yes, but that is easily accounted for by the circumstances—the condition she happened to be in at the time.

Arnholm. So, symptom for symptom, then.

Wangel (wringing his hands). And not to be able to help her! Not to know how to counsel her! To see no way!

Arnholm. Now if you could make up your mind to leave this place, to go somewhere else, so that she could live amid surroundings that would seem more homelike to her?

Wangel. Ah, dear friend! Do you think I haven’t offered her that, too? I suggested moving out to Skjoldviken, but she will not.

Arnholm. Not that either?

Wangel. No, for she doesn’t think it would be any good; and perhaps she’s right.

Arnholm. Hm. Do you say that?

Wangel. Moreover, when I think it all over carefully, I really don’t know how I could manage it. I don’t think I should be justified, for the sake of the girls, in going away to such a desolate place. After all, they must live where there is at least a prospect of their being provided for someday.

Arnholm. Provided for! Are you thinking about that already?

Wangel. Heaven knows, I must think of that too! But then, on the other hand, again, my poor sick Ellida! Oh, dear Arnholm! in many respects I seem to be standing between fire and water!

Arnholm. Perhaps you’ve no need to worry on Bolette’s account. (Breaking off.) I should like to know where she—where they have gone. (Goes up to the open door and looks out.)

Wangel. Oh, I would so gladly make any sacrifice for all three of them, if only I knew what!

(ELLIDA enters from the door on the left.)

Ellida (quickly to WANGEL). Be sure you don’t go out this morning.

Wangel. No, no! of course not. I will stay at home with you. (Pointing to ARNHOLM, who is coming towards them.) But won’t you speak to our friend?

Ellida (turning). Oh, are you here, Mr. Arnholm? (Holding out her hand to him.) Good-morning.

Arnholm. Good-morning, Mrs. Wangel. So you’ve not been bathing as usual today?

Ellida. No, no, no! That is out of the question today. But won’t you sit down a moment?

Arnholm. No, thanks, not now. (Looks at WANGEL.) I promised the girls to go down to them in the garden.

Ellida. Goodness knows if you’ll find them there. I never know where they may be rambling.

Wangel. They’re sure to be down by the pond.

Arnholm. Oh! I shall find them right enough. (Nods, and goes out across the verandah into the garden.)

Ellida. What time is it, Wangel?

Wangel (looking at his watch). A little past eleven.

Ellida. A little past. And at eleven o’clock, or half-past eleven tonight, the steamer is coming. If only that were over!

Wangel (going nearer to her). Dear Ellida, there is one thing I should like to ask you.

Ellida. What is it?

Wangel. The evening before last—up at the "View"—you said that during the last three years you had so often seen him bodily before you.

Ellida. And so I have. You may believe that.

Wangel. But, how did you see him?

Ellida. How did I see him?

Wangel. I mean, how did he look when you thought you saw him?

Ellida. But, dear Wangel, why, you now know yourself how he looks.

Wangel. Did he look exactly like that in your imagination?

Ellida. He did.

Wangel. Exactly the same as you saw him in reality yesterday evening?

Ellida. Yes, exactly.

Wangel. Then how was it you did not at once recognise him?

Ellida. Did I not?

Wangel. No; you said yourself afterwards that at first you did not at all know who the strange man was.

Ellida (perplexed). I really believe you are right. Don’t you think that strange, Wangel? Fancy my not knowing him at once!

Wangel. It was only the eyes, you said.

Ellida. Oh, yes! The eyes—the eyes.

Wangel. Well, but at the "View" you said that he always appeared to you exactly as he was when you parted out there—ten years ago.

Ellida. Did I?

Wangel. Yes.

Ellida. Then, I suppose he did look much as he does now.

Wangel. No. On our way home, the day before yesterday, you gave quite another description of him. Ten years ago he had no beard, you said. His dress, too, was quite different. And that breastpin with the pearl? That man yesterday wore nothing of the sort.

Ellida. No, he did not.

Wangel (looks searchingly at her). Now just think a little, dear Ellida. Or perhaps you can’t quite remember how he looked when he stood by you at Bratthammer?

Ellida (thoughtfully closing her eyes for a moment). Not quite distinctly. No, today I can’t. Is it not strange?

Wangel. Not so very strange after all. You have now been confronted by a new and real image, and that overshadows the old one, so that you can no longer see it.

Ellida. Do you believe that, Wangel?

Wangel. Yes. And it overshadows your sick imaginings, too. That is why it is good a reality has come.

Ellida. Good? Do you think it good?

Wangel. Yes. That it has come. It may restore you to health.

Ellida (sitting down on sofa). Wangel, come and sit down by me. I must tell you all my thoughts.

Wangel. Yes, do, dear Ellida.

(He sits down on a chair on the other side of the table.)

Ellida. It was really a great misfortune—for us both—that we two of all people should have come together.

Wangel (amazed). What are you saying?

Ellida. Oh, yes, it was. And it’s so natural. It could bring nothing but unhappiness, after the way in which we came together.

Wangel. What was there in that way?

Ellida. Listen, Wangel; it’s no use going on, lying to ourselves and to one another.

Wangel. Are we doing so? Lying, you say?

Ellida. Yes, we are; or, at least, we suppress the truth. For the truth—the pure and simple truth is—that you came out there and bought me.

Wangel. Bought—you say bought!

Ellida. Oh! I wasn’t a bit better than you. I accepted the bargain. Sold myself to you!

Wangel (looks at her full of pain). Ellida, have you really the heart to call it that?

Ellida. But is there any other name for it? You could no longer bear the emptiness of your house. You were on the look-out for a new wife.

Wangel. And a new mother for the children, Ellida.

Ellida. That too, perhaps, by the way; although you didn’t in the least know if I were fit for the position. Why, you had only seen me and spoken to me a few times. Then you wanted me, and so—

Wangel. Yes, you may call it as you will.

Ellida. And I, on my side—why, I was so helpless and bewildered, and so absolutely alone. Oh! it was so natural I should accept the bargain, when you came and proposed to provide for me all my life.

Wangel. Assuredly it did not seem to me a providing for you, dear Ellida. I asked you honestly if you would share with me and the children the little I could call my own.

Ellida. Yes, you did; but all the same, I should never have accepted! Never have accepted that at any price! Not sold myself! Better the meanest work—better the poorest life—after one’s own choice.

Wangel (rising). Then have the five—six years that we have lived together been so utterly worthless to you?

Ellida. Oh! Don’t think that, Wangel. I have been as well cared for here as human being could desire. But I did not enter your house freely. That is the thing.

Wangel (looking at her). Not freely!

Ellida. No. It was not freely that I went with you.

Wangel (in subdued tone). Ah! I remember your words of yesterday.

Ellida. It all lies in those words. They have enlightened me; and so I see it all now.

Wangel. What do you see?

Ellida. I see that the life we two live together—is really no marriage.

Wangel (bitterly). You have spoken truly there. The life we now live is not a marriage.

Ellida. Nor was it formerly. Never—not from the very first (looks straight in front of her). The first—that might have been a complete and real marriage.

Wangel. The first—what do you mean?

Ellida. Mine—with him.

Wangel (looks at her in astonishment). I do not in the least understand you.

Ellida. Ah! dear Wangel, let us not lie to one another, nor to ourselves.

Wangel. Well—what more?

Ellida. You see—we can never get away from that one thing—that a freely given promise is fully as binding as a marriage.

Wangel. But what on earth—

Ellida (rising impetuously). Set me free, Wangel!

Wangel. Ellida! Ellida!

Ellida. Yes, yes! Oh! grant me that! Believe me, it will come to that all the same—after the way we two came together.

Wangel (conquering his pain). It has come to this, then?

Ellida. It has come to this. It could not be otherwise.

Wangel (looking gloomily at her). So I have not won you by our living together. Never, never possessed you quite.

Ellida. Ah! Wangel—if only I could love you, how gladly I would- -as dearly as you deserve. But I feel it so well— that will never be.

Wangel. Divorce, then? It is a divorce, a complete, legal divorce that you want?

Ellida. Dear, you understand me so little! I care nothing for such formalities. Such outer things matter nothing, I think. What I want is that we should, of our own free will, release each other.

Wangel (bitterly, nods slowly). To cry off the bargain again—yes.

Ellida (quickly). Exactly. To cry off the bargain.

Wangel. And then, Ellida? Afterwards? Have you reflected what life would be to both of us? What life would be to both you and me?

Ellida. No matter. Things must turn out afterwards as they may. What I beg and implore of you, Wangel, is the most important. Only set me free! Give me back my complete freedom!

Wangel. Ellida, it is a fearful thing you ask of me. At least give me time to collect myself before I come to a decision. Let us talk it over more carefully. And you yourself—take time to consider what you are doing.

Ellida. But we have no time to lose with such matters. I must have my freedom again today.

Wangel. Why today?

Ellida. Because he is coming tonight.

Wangel (starts). Coming! He! What has this stranger to do with it?

Ellida. I want to face him in perfect freedom.

Wangel. And what—what else do you intend to do?

Ellida. I will not hide behind the fact that I am the wife of another man; nor make the excuse that I have no choice, for then it would be no decision.

Wangel, You speak of a choice. Choice, Ellida! A choice in such a matter!

Ellida. Yes, I must be free to choose—to choose for either side. I must be able to let him go away—alone, or to go with him.

Wangel. Do you know what you are saying? Go with him—give your whole life into his hands!

Ellida. Didn’t I give my life into your hands, and without any ado?

Wangel. Maybe. But he! He! an absolute stranger! A man of whom you know so little!

Ellida. Ah! but after all I knew you even less; and yet I went with you.

Wangel. Then you knew to some extent what life lay before you. But now? Think! What do you know? You know absolutely nothing. Not even who or what he is.

Ellida (looking in front of her). That is true; but that is the terror.

Wangel. Yes, indeed, it is terrible!

Ellida. That is why I feel I must plunge into it.

Wangel (looking at her). Because it seems terrible?

Ellida. Yes; because of that.

Wangel (coming closer). Listen, Ellida. What do you really mean by terrible?

Ellida (reflectively). The terrible is that which repels and attracts.

Wangel. Attracts, you say?

Ellida. Attracts most of all, I think.

Wangel (slowly). You are one with the sea.

Ellida. That, too, is a terror.

Wangel. And that terror is in you. You both repel and attract.

Ellida. Do you think so, Wangel?

Wangel. After all, I have never really known you—never really. Now I am beginning to understand.

Ellida. And that is why you must set me free! Free me from every bond to you—and yours. I am not what you took me for. Now you see it yourself. Now we can part as friends—and freely.

Wangel (sadly). Perhaps it would be better for us both if we parted— And yet, I cannot! You are the terror to me, Ellida; the attraction is what is strongest in you.

Ellida. Do you say that?

Wangel. Let us try and live through this day wisely—in perfect quiet of mind. I dare not set you free, and release you today. I have no right to. No right for your own sake, Ellida. I exercise my right and my duty to protect you.

Ellida. Protect? What is there to protect me from? I am not threatened by any outward power. The terror lies deeper, Wangel. The terror is—the attraction in my own mind. And what can you do against that?

Wangel. I can strengthen and urge you to fight against it.

Ellida. Yes; if I wished to fight against it.

Wangel. Then you do not wish to?

Ellida. Oh! I don’t know myself.

Wangel. Tonight all will be decided, dear Ellida-

Ellida (bursting out). Yes, think! The decision so near—the decision for one’s whole life!

Wangel. And then tomorrow—Ellida. Tomorrow! Perhaps my real future will have been ruined.

Wangel. Your real—Ellida. The whole, full life of freedom lost— lost for me, and perhaps for him also.

Wangel (in a lower tone, seizing her wrist). Ellida, do you love this stranger?

Ellida. Do I? Oh, how can I tell! I only know that to me he is a terror, and that—

Wangel. And that—

Ellida (tearing herself away). And that it is to him I think I belong.

Wangel (bowing his head). I begin to understand better.

Ellida. And what remedy have you for that? What advice to give me?

Wangel (looking sadly at her). Tomorrow he will be gone, then the misfortune will be averted from your head; and then I will consent to set you free. We will cry off the bargain tomorrow, Ellida.

Ellida. Ah, Wangel, tomorrow! That is too late.

Wangel (looking towards garden). The children—the children! Let us spare them, at least for the present.

(ARNHOLM, BOLETTE, HILDE, and LYNGSTRAND come into the garden. LYNGSTRAND says goodbye in the garden, and goes out. The rest come into the room.)

Arnholm. You must know we have been making plans.

Hilde. We’re going out to the fjord tonight and—

Bolette. No; you mustn’t tell.

Wangel. We two, also, have been making plans.

Arnholm. Ah!—really?

Wangel. Tomorrow Ellida is going away to Skjoldviken for a time.

Bolette. Going away?

Arnholm. Now, look here, that’s very sensible, Mrs. Wangel.

Wangel. Ellida wants to go home again—home to the sea.

Hilde (springing towards ELLIDA). You are going away—away from us?

Ellida (frightened). Hilde! What is the matter?

Hilde (controlling herself). Oh, it’s nothing. (In a low voice, turning from her.) Are only you going?

Bolette (anxiously). Father—I see it—you, too, are going—to Skjoldviken!

Wangel. No, no! Perhaps I shall run out there every now and again.

Bolette. And come here to us?

Wangel. I will—Bolette. Every now and again!

Wangel. Dear child, it must be. (He crosses the room.)

Arnholm (whispers). We will talk it over later, Bolette. (He crosses to WANGEL. They speak in low tones up stage by the door.)

Ellida (aside to BOLETTE). What was the matter with Hilde? She looked quite scared.

Bolette. Have you never noticed what Hilde goes about here, day in, day out, hungering for?

Ellida. Hungering for?

Bolette. Ever since you came into the house?

Ellida. No, no. What is it?

Bolette. One loving word from you.

Ellida. Oh! If there should be something for me to do here!

(She clasps her hands together over her head, and looks fixedly in front of her, as if torn by contending thoughts and emotions. WANGEL and ARNHOLM come across the room whispering. BOLETTE goes to the side room, and looks in. Then she throws open the door.)

Bolette. Father, dear—the table is laid—if you—

Wangel (with forced composure). Is it, child? That’s well. Come, Arnholm! We’ll go in and drink a farewell cup—with the "Lady from the Sea." (They go out through the right.)


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Chicago: Henrik Ibsen, "Act IV," The Lady from the Sea, ed. Maurice, Paul and trans. Marx-Aveling, Eleanor in The Lady from the Sea (New York: The Modern Library Publishers, 1918), Original Sources, accessed May 30, 2023,

MLA: Ibsen, Henrik. "Act IV." The Lady from the Sea, edited by Maurice, Paul, and translated by Marx-Aveling, Eleanor, in The Lady from the Sea, New York, The Modern Library Publishers, 1918, Original Sources. 30 May. 2023.

Harvard: Ibsen, H, 'Act IV' in The Lady from the Sea, ed. and trans. . cited in 1918, The Lady from the Sea, The Modern Library Publishers, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 30 May 2023, from