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Teaching Guide

Teaching A Doll's House

Keeping it real(ism).

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You won't find Barbie and Ken in this doll's house—although you might find LEGOs…but more on that in a minute.

Ibsen was the king of keeping it real. As in realism. And we're the kings and queens of helping you help your students connect the realism of the Victorian era with realism today—and we don't mean "reality" TV.

In this guide you will find

  • activities in which students write the characters' secret diaries, satisfying everyone's need to be nosy.
  • reading quizzes for each of the play's three acts, so you can tell if your students are just "acting" like they read it or if they really did.
  • the aforementioned LEGOs in a video recreating A Doll's House with LEGO minifigurines…and other resources to modernize this dusty old—but still relevant!—play.

We have enough material here that even if you do have to teach Barbie—who is a veterinarian, astronaut, and model, but definitely not a playwright—you can.

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Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop’s teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

Objective: Much attention has been paid to the end of Ibsen's play, but what about what comes after the end? Nora slams the door…and then what? Ibsen's ending is powerful, but the audience is certainly left with a lot to wonder about. Where does Nora go? What will she do? Does she regret her decision? And what about Torvald? How does he deal with being a single father? Does Nora's dramatic exit change him? Does he try to win her back, or does he let her go? The possibilities are endless, and Ibsen leaves a lot to the reader's imagination, so let's allow your students to exercise theirs.

In this lesson, students will write a scene that takes place after Ibsen's final scene. Students will use their analysis of plot and character—and of course their mad inference skills—to create an authentic, believable scene in keeping with the original play. If you're feeling especially theatrical, you can even have groups of students perform a small selection of their scenes for the class.

This lesson will take about a week to complete, but much of the work can be completed out of class if needed.

Materials Needed:

  • Copies of A Doll's House

Step 1: So, what does happen after Nora leaves? Let's find out what your kiddos think about this one:

  • Where does Nora go after she leaves?
  • What does she plan to do with the rest of her life?
  • Do you think she'll get remarried, or is she done with Victorian marriage for good?
  • Will she see her children again or does she leave them behind?
  • How will Torvald take care of the kids?
  • Does Torvald end up resenting Nora, or wishing he had her back?
  • How does he explain things to the kids?
  • What do the children grow up thinking about their mother?
  • How does this change Torvald? How does it impact the role he has traditionally played?

We'll say it again; the possibilities are endless, but these discussion questions should help students to begin thinking about cause/effect relationships in the text. Help your students to analyze the short and long-term implications of the decisions these characters make. What consequences (good and bad) might be waiting for these characters down the road? How do their (sometimes seemingly small) choices impact the course of their lives? There are some life lesson opportunities tucked in here, so don't pass up the chance to remind students that just a few choices can alter their lives in really big ways. Maybe some of your students will even have a personal connection with this idea from their own experience. It never hurts to remind teenagers to be smart about things, and to prove that really old literature is actually relevant, even now, even for them.

Step 2: Explain that students will be writing a scene to illustrate some aspect of what they believe happens after the play ends. Students will need to mimic Ibsen's language and style so that the scene is a believable addition to the play. They should also carefully consider their choices. Does the text of the play support their inference for what might happen next? Are the characters' actions in their scenes consistent with who the characters are in the rest of the play? Remind students to don their playwright caps and complete their scenes with stage directions and scenery descriptions where needed.

Some ideas to get the ball rolling. Perhaps:

  • Torvald goes to Nora to try and win her back.
  • Torvald and Nora run into each other months later at an event.
  • Nora comes back to visit her children.
  • Nora comes back at some point to take her children with her.

Step 3: Metacognition: Once students have completed their scenes, they will write a brief (about a page) explanation of the choices they made, complete with text evidence to support their inferences for what happens next and how these characters would respond. This is also the point at which students should consider how their new final scene would impact the theme of the play. What message does their new ending send to the audience? What does their scene reveal about their own interpretation of the big ideas in this play? Check out Shmoop on themes for some inspiration.

Optional Extension: Feeling especially theatrical? Finishing up this unit with a bit of time to kill? Need something fun and interactive to combat various forms of Senioritis, spring fever, or pre-summer/winter break madness? Shmoop prescribes the following:

Put students into small groups to share their finished scenes. Then ask students to choose one scene from their group to rehearse and present to the class. The rehearsal process can include small, group-advised revisions to the scene, and you can make this project as elaborate or simple as your needs demand. Allow students to spend a few days rehearsing in their groups, and then hold a "One Scene Festival" day where your students perform for each other.

To wrap this up you might have students vote Tony Awards-style for the best performances, best script, best costumes, etc., or you could ask students to write a review of one of the other groups' performances. Check out some sample reviews in the New York Times theater section or take a look at this review of a production of A Doll's House.

There are also tons of great discussion opportunities here, so get your students talking:

  • What do these scenes reveal about how the writer interprets the themes of the play?
  • How do these scenes alter the way we view the characters or the message of the play?
  • Which scenes were most surprising? Which seemed most like something Ibsen himself might have written?
  • What can you learn from this play and from the process of writing these scenes about the consequences of our actions and choices?
  • What wisdom can be gained here?

Instructions for Your Students

A Doll's House ends with a bang! as Nora slams the door and marches out into the cold cruel world, alone. When you think about it, this is a high-stakes decision for Nora; she's never lived on her own before, and she doesn't exactly have a lot of disposable income. So ... what happens to her? 

And what about Torvald? He's just been abandoned by his wife—unheard of at the time—and left with the kids to take care of as a single dad (doubly unheard of, if that's possible). How do you suppose he handles it? Ibsen has definitely left a lot to the imagination. Let's see where yours takes us.

For our next assignment, you will write a scene that takes place after Ibsen's final scene. But don't go getting all sci-fi or fantasy on us. This should be an authentic, believable scene that's in keeping with the original play. Also, keep in mind as you write that you may have a chance to perform a few of your scenes to inspire further analysis and discussion, so be sure to include a little stage direction for your actors.

Step 1: Let's talk. Your teacher will give you time to discuss some of the questions below in class. 

  • Where does Nora go after she leaves?
  • What does she plan to do with the rest of her life?
  • Might she get remarried, or do you think she's done with Victorian marriage for good?
  • Does she ever see her children again or does she completely leave them behind?
  • How does Torvald take care of the kids?
  • Does Torvald end up resenting Nora, or wishing he had her back?
  • How does he explain things to the kids?
  • What do the children grow up thinking about their mother?
  • How does Nora's desertion change Torvald? How does it impact the role he has traditionally played?

Are you beginning to see the cause/effect relationships at work here? Nora can't make such a big decision without setting other events in motion, and we're curious what some of those events might be. What are the short and long-term implications of the decisions these characters make? What consequences (good and bad) might be waiting for these characters down the road? How do their (sometimes seemingly small) choices impact the course of their lives?

Step 2: Now it's time to write your scene (or scenes, if you're on a roll) to illustrate some aspect of what you believe happens after the play ends. You will need to mimic Ibsen's language and style so that the scene is a believable addition to the play. You should also carefully consider your choices. 

  • Does the text of the play support your inference for what might happen next? 
  • Are the characters' actions in your scene consistent with who the characters are in the rest of the play? 

Also, remember to don your playwright cap and complete your scene(s) with stage directions and scenery descriptions where needed. We want even Ibsen to be impressed.

If you already have an idea, run with it. If not, here are some ideas to get the ball rolling. Perhaps:

  • Torvald goes to Nora to try and win her back.
  • Torvald and Nora run into each other months later at an event.
  • Nora comes back to visit her children.
  • Nora comes back at some point to take her children with her.
  • Torvald turns into a vampire. Wait! No text evidence for that one. Remember, don't let your creative juices run you totally away from the original text. Keep it real, people.

Step 3: Think about your thinking. Once you've completed your scenes, write a brief (about a page) explanation of the choices you made, complete with text evidence to support your inferences for what happens next and how these characters would respond. Your explanation should also consider how your new final scene would impact the theme of the play. What message does your new ending send to the audience? What does your scene reveal about your own interpretation of the big ideas in this play? Check out Shmoop on themes for some inspiration.

Optional Extension: Places everyone, and…Action! In small groups, you'll share your finished scenes with one another. Then you'll choose (via some type of democratic method—or, you know, thumb wrestling) one scene from your group to rehearse and present to the class. The rehearsal process can include small, group-advised revisions to the scene as needed, and you'll need to consider costumes and staging as well. You'll have a few days to rehearse in your groups, and then we'll hold a "One Scene Festival" day where you'll perform for each other.

As you watch the other groups perform, think about the following questions:

  • What do these scenes reveal about how the writer interprets the themes of the play?
  • How do these scenes alter the way we view the characters or the message of the play?
  • Which scenes were most surprising? Which seemed most like something Ibsen himself might have written?
  • What can you learn from this play and from the process of writing these scenes about the consequences of our actions and choices?
  • What wisdom can be gained here?

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WANT MORE HELP TEACHING A DOLL'S HOUSE?

Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

Intro    Summary    Themes    Quotes    Characters    Analysis    Questions    Quizzes    Flashcards    Best of the Web    Write Essay    
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