Krogstad: Not as Bad as He Seems?

         In Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play, A Doll's House, filmed twice in 1973 by Joseph Losey and Patrick Garland respectively, the character of Krogstad (Edward Fox/Denholm Elliot) is much maligned. He is the catalyst for all of the action that takes place in the play. Unfortunately for him, most people take the role he plays and automatically consider him to be a "bad guy." I do not necessarily share this opinion.

         Let us begin our observation of this character by looking at what got him into his unpleasant social situation. He was looked down upon socially because he had tried to cheat in an attempt to save the life of his wife and was unsuccessful. He was caught; and his wife died, leaving him a widower and a father of two. Clearly he was not in a situation where he could afford to be without a job, and consequently he was not in a position where he could really afford to care about Nora (Jane Fonda/Claire Bloom) and her family situation. It was time for Krogstad to fight for his job and the welfare of his children, and all is fair in love and war.

         Those in "proper" society consider Krogstad be morally corrupt and reprehensible. It seems that in the culture presented by Ibsen in his play, the means never justify the end. Regardless of who might suffer or die, one does not break social taboos. The very thing that Nora is afraid of is being looked at in the same light as Krogstad. He had crossed over one of these invisible societal lines in his attempt to save his wife, and Nora had done the same thing in borrowing the money to save her husband Torvald's David Warner/Anthony Hopkins) life.

         I thought that both actors who portrayed Krogstad did a good job, yet they were quite different. The first Krogstad, Edward Fox, was more convincing to me, in that he seemed very competent and capable of both justice and blackmail. The second Krogstad, Denholm Elliot, was much less appealing to me because he was so timid and incompetent. He seemed to be a crushed man with little spirit, whereas the first Krogstad was presented as a man who still had drive and wanted to make something of himself. The initial Krogstad also seems much more capable of compassion, and his conversion struck me as much more convincing.

         When it all comes down to it, I think Krogstad gets a bad rap. In the worst-case scenario, he simply tells the truth about Nora and makes her deal with the consequences of her actions. He has worked hard in life to get back to some sort of moral standing, and she can too. To see Nora as the heroine and Krogstad as the villain for committing the same crime is to create an incredibly dynamic double standard.

Josh Gibson

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