The Pretenders (play)

The Pretenders (play)

The Pretenders, in original "Kongs-Emnerne", is a play (drama) by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, written in 1863.

The play opened at the old Christiania Theatre on the 19th of January 1864 and evolves around the historical conflict between Norwegian King Håkon Håkonsson and his father-in-law; Earl Skule Bårdsson. It is one of Ibsen's lesser known plays.


"The Pretenders" was written in bursts during 1863, but Ibsen claims to have had sources and the idea back in 1858. A five-act play in prose set in the thirteenth-century, and the plot is commonly ascribed to the rivalry between Ibsen and Bjornson for a role something like that or our poet laureate.

Partial List of Characters

Earl Skule, The Pretender, a talented man hobbled by self-doubt who becomes King of Norway at the beginning of the play.

Jatgeir, a skald, a man who never reveals himself in public

Hakon Skule's main rival, becomes King on Skule's death


The Pretenders was lauded for presenting a nuanced psychoanalysis of male characters, just as Ibsen presented complicated female characters in Hedda Gabler and Pillars of Society.

Resources/Further Reading

Ferguson, Robert, Robert Ferguson "Green in the Buttonhole, "The League of Youth", "Henrik Ibsen, A New Biography". Richard Cohen Books, London, 1996, 147-167.

References [1] Ferguson, Robert, "Green in the Buttonhole, "The League of Youth", "Henrik Ibsen, A New Biography". Richard Cohen Books, London, 1996, 152.

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