Thus it happened that the fermenting, formless design for the tragedy, The Vikings at Helgeland, transformed itself temporarily into the lyric drama, The Feast at Solhoug.
The two female characters, the foster sisters Hiordis and Dagny, of the projected tragedy, became the sisters Margit and Signe of the completed lyric drama. The derivation of the latter pair from the two women of the Saga at once becomes apparent when attention is drawn to it. The relationship is unmistakable. The tragic hero, so far only vaguely outlined, Sigurd, the far-travelled Viking, the welcome guest at the courts of kings, became the knight and minstrel, Gudmund Alfson, who has likewise been long absent in foreign lands, and has lived in the king’s household. His attitude towards the two sisters was changed, to bring it into accordance with the change in time and circumstances; but the position of both sisters to him remained practically the same as that in the projected and afterwards completed tragedy. The fateful banquet, the presentation of which had seemed to me of the first importance in my original plan, became in the drama the scene upon which its personages made their appearance; it became the background against which the action stood out, and communicated to the picture as a whole the general tone at which I aimed. The ending of the play was, undoubtedly, softened and subdued into harmony with its character as drama, not tragedy; but orthodox aestheticians may still, perhaps, find it indisputable whether, in this ending, a touch of pure tragedy has not been left behind, to testify to the origin of the drama.
Upon this subject, however, I shall not enter at present. My object has simply been to maintain and prove that the play under consideration, like all my other dramatic works, is an inevitable outcome of the tenor of my life at a certain period. It had its origin within, and was not the result of any outward impression or influence.
This, and no other, is the true account of the genesis of The Feast at Solhoug.
Rome, April, 1883.
Heinrich von Kleist, Henrik Hertz, Henrik Ibsen.
BENGT GAUTESON, Master of Solhoug.
MARGIT, his wife.
SIGNE, her sister.
GUDMUND ALFSON, their kinsman.
KNUT GESLING, the King’s sheriff.
ERIK OF HEGGE, his friend.
THE KING’S ENVOY.
AN OLD MAN.
GUESTS, both MEN and LADIES.
MEN of KNUT GESLING’S TRAIN.
SERVING-MEN and MAIDENS at SOLHOUG.
The action passes at Solhoug in the Fourteenth Century.
PRONUNCIATION OF NAMES: Gudmund=Goodmund. The g in “Margit” and in “Gesling” is hard, as in “go,” or in “Gesling,” it may be pronounced as y—“Yesling.” The first o in Solhoug ought to have the sound of a very long “oo.”