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Manipulation in Henrik Ibsen, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

 “A doll’s House” and Shakespeare’s “Moor of the Venice”

Manipulation inhibits an individual’s ability to make rational decisions. It involves the use of treachery, tyranny, and blackmail to compel the desired action. Manipulation robs individuals’ sense of independent decision making. In the excerpts “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen and “Othello” by Shakespeare, characters employ manipulation for their benefit. Ibsen portrays Torvald, Nora, and Krogstad as the main propagators of manipulation. Shakespeare’s “Moor of the Venice” presents Iago as the main schemer.

In “A Doll’s house”, the theme of manipulation is reflected in Torvald’s household. Firstly, Torvald utilizes his position as the head of the family to control Nora’s decisions. He insinuates that he hates the idea of borrowing. Torvald’s statement, “Nora, Nora! What woman you are! But seriously Nora. you know my ideas on these points. No debts! No credit! Home ceases to be free and beautiful as soon as it is founded on debt and borrowing…” highlights that he intended Nora to align to his ideas and desist from borrowing money (Archer 4). Since they lived in a period where women were portrayed as homemakers, he aimed at swaying Nora’s idea of borrowing by expressing that it ruins a household’s beauty and freedom. With Torvald’s adamancy to borrowing money, Nora ended up forging her father’s signature.

Torvald manipulates Nora’s behavior. He treats her like a doll and forbids her from doing certain things. He controls her habits to the extent that he does not let her eat sweets or overspend (Archer 3). According to him, Nora was a property and a little child that needed guidance (Ghafourinia and Baradaran 428). He refers to her as a lark twittering and a squirrel skipping around (Archer 3). However, when he realizes that Nora acted contrary to his expectations, he kicks her out like a dog. He could not decipher why Nora would not act like a doll and the pampered wife he wanted her to be. He becomes helpless when he realized he could no longer manipulate her into his “perfect wife” the instant Nora refused to stay (Archer 121).

Nora used pet names to control Torvald’s decisions. (Ghafourinia and Baradaran428). She referred to herself as his songbird, lark, and squirrel to capture Torvald’s attention. She used the names to illustrate affection and influence Torvald to retain Krogstad’s position. She knows that he likes addressing her with the pet names and using them will sway his heart (Ghafourinia and Baradaran 428). She tells him that she will do anything for him if he grants her the favor.

Torvald tried to influence Nora’s decision to leave him. He used the analogy that women had a societal responsibility to her husband and children (Archer 116). Helmer tells Nora that being a wife and a mother should be her priority (Archer 117). He insinuates that Nora was leaving her holiest duty, and she should fear what the world would say (Archer 116). His words worsen the situation as Nora deciphers what she meant to him. She saw a stranger in him and became motivated to leave her matrimonial home.

Nora’s trial to impel Dr. Rank almost compromised her moral integrity. She flirts with him as a move to entice him. She shows him her stockings and hopes that he will fall into her trap (Archer 66). She wants him to convince Torvald on the aspect of keeping Krogstad as an employee of the bank. Her enticement resulted in Dr. Rank confessing his feelings for her (Archer 68). Loyalty to her marriage with Torvald became her saving grace.

Krogstad used Nora’s secret to manipulate her. He knew about Nora’s forgery. Since he desired a senior position in the bank, Torvald was a manager; he asked Nora to convince him to create one. He threatened Nora that he would expose her if she failed to convince Torvald to make him a high-ranking employee (Archer 74). He wrote a letter to Torvald explaining Nora’s forgery actions. (Archer 74). The threat forced Nora to entice Dr. Rank. She wanted him to talk to her husband on the issue of promoting Krogstad. The threat forces Nora to act weird when Krogstad sent the letter to her husband. She danced violently to distract her husband from accessing the mailbox (Archer 7).

Similarly, in “Othello Moor of the Venice,” manipulation is evident. Firstly, Iago deceived Brabantio that Othello had taken advantage of his daughter, Desdemona. Iago tells Brabantio, “Awake…look to your house, your daughter, your bags…Thieves…” (Mowat and Werstine 13). In the statement, Iago insinuates that Othello had stolen his daughter from him. When Brabantio questions him further, he tells him that “…comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs” (Mowat and Werstine 15). The incitement that Othello and Desdemona were making children that looked like beasts upset Brabantio. He immediately rose in search of Moor and his daughter. He says, “…where may we apprehend the Moor?” (Mowat and Werstine 19). Iago’s actions led to strained relations between Brabantio and Othello. Brabantio accused Moor of bewitching his daughter, and Othello had to prove that Desdemona truly loved him.

Iago’s manipulation plan is evident across all the scenes of the play. He tricked Roderigo that Cassio was in love with Desdemona (Mowat and Werstine 75). He knew that Roderigo was in love with Desdemona and that he would challenge any man who posed a threat. True to his analogy, Roderigo got into a fight with Cassio (Mowat and Werstine 91). With his evil intent, Iago had gotten Cassio drunk just before the fight. Since Cassio was drunk, he wounded Montano, one of Cyprus’s officials (Mowat and Werstine 93). When Othello questioned the incident, Iago feigned reluctance as he blamed Cassio for starting the fight (Mowat and Werstine 97). His treachery cost Cassio his lieutenant job.

Iago progressed his deceitfulness and advised Cassio to plead his case to Desdemona, who in turn, would talk to Othello (Mowat and Werstine 103). He then manipulated Othello into thinking Cassio was having an affair with his wife, Desdemona (Mowat and Werstine 119). When they saw Cassio and Desdemona leave together, Iago plants a seed of doubt in Othello’s mind (Vijay and Shannon 9). When Othello asked for prove, Iago stole Desdemona’s handkerchief and puts it in Cassio’s coat pocket. Othello became angry when his wife’s misplaced handkerchief is found in Cassio’s belonging (Mowat and Werstine 183). It confirmed his suspicions, and he ended up murdering his wife (Mowat and Werstine 243). However, later when Othello realized that Iago tricked him, he killed himself.

In conclusion, the theme of manipulation is evident in both narrations. However, in “A Doll’s House”, the act’s consequences were not as dire as in Shakespeare’s “Moor of Venice”. For instance, Nora’s attempt to influence Dr. Rank ended without anything happening. Iago’s manipulation caused the death of Othello and Desdemona. Most of the manipulative actions in Ibsen’s narration were unintentional attempts.  On the other hand, “Moor of the Vernice” depicts a well-laid out manipulation plan. Iago plotted against Othello from the onset of the play.

Works Cited

Archer, William. A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen. pp. 1-139, https://www2.hf.uio.no/polyglotta/public/media/libraries/file/10/A%20Dolls%20House-%20Henrik%20Ibsen.pdf. Accessed 10 Dec 2020.

Ghafourinia, Fatemeh, and Leila Baradaran Jamili. “The Women’s Right in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.” Journal of Novel Applied Sciences 3.4 (2014): 424-429.

Mowat, Barbara, and Paul Werstine. The Tragedy of Othello The Moor Of Venice By William Shakespeare. pp. 1-133, https://shakespeare.folger.edu/downloads/pdf/othello_PDF_FolgerShakespeare.pdf. Accessed 10 Dec 2020.

Vijay, Aarushi, and Shannon Kelley. “Racial Injustice in “Othello: The Moor of Venice”.” (2019).

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