Deeper into Jeopardy! XXX: Henrik Ibsen – $400

So, apparently I’ve done thirty installments of this already? That’s 30 whole Jeopardy! categories, plus a bunch more FJ! clues. Where does the time go? Anyway, despite this week’s Roman numeral, I assure you that this triple-X installment is entirely safe for work, as we take a look at that mainstay of [his home country which I won’t tell you here], playwright Henrik Ibsen.

Jeopardy! category: HENRIK IBSEN (31-10-2014)

$400 clue: Ibsen was born in this country in 1828 but exiled himself in 1864 & didn’t return for almost 30 years

Correct response

The gist: Truly, a trivia classic if ever there was one. It’s one of those standard Scandinavian facts that hardcore trivia-ers all know; if the clue’s about a playwright from Norway, it’s always Ibsen.* He was born in the small town of Skien in Telemark county (of ski-jumping fame), where his family ran a successful shipping business. Sadly, however, his father’s fortunes took a severe downturn early in his childhood, and his family left town. At 15, he was forced to leave school, and took an apprenticeship under a pharmacist before attending university, which he never finished. Settling as a writer in the Norwegian capital of Oslo (then known as Christiania), he became involved in theatre and published plays to critical acclaim, giving his the confidence to inject more of his personal philosophies into his works. Not everyone thought that was such a good idea, however, and he moved, amid some controversy, to Dresden, Germany, in 1868. There he continued to write, and produced many of his most famous works, as well as his raciest and most controversial (and, without spoiling any of the future clues, we’ll see more on his courting of controversy later on in this installment). Ibsen returned to Norway in 1891, where he wrote and produced yet more well-received plays, including The Master Builder, often considered among his masterpieces. A stroke in 1900 ended his writing career, and he died in his native land in 1906.

A photograph of Ibsen taken in Dresden, with a more youthful version of his trademark facial hair

The clue: As I already said, that Ibsen is Norwegian is just one of those things that trivia types know – often called a “Pavlov,” since hearing “Norwegian playwright” should immediately trigger Ibsen in one’s mind. So well known is it that it can be an opening clue in a rather specific category without any other hint at all. The writers do take the opportunity to inform about his exile, which I was unaware of – it’s surprising that someone so closely associated with Norway would have spent most of his career in Germany.

In Jeopardy!: Naturally, Norway is in too many clues in the J!Archive to consider, but just to illustrate how common the Ibsen-Norway connection is, the two are mentioned together in a full 37 clues. Nearly all of them are the classic formula – the clue mentions some play or another plus Norway, and the correct response is Ibsen. A couple mention Ibsen and Norway outright, and are usually looking for either one of his plays (which, of course, tended to have Norwegian themes and settings themselves), or they’re looking for a very famous collaboration he undertook with a countryman… whose name shall not be spoiled here. But, once more for emphasis: Norway and plays is Ibsen.

* And if it’s a Finnish composer, it’s Sibelius. A Polish composer is Chopin more often than not.

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