- An Enemy of the People
(SCENE.--A big old-fashioned room in CAPTAIN HORSTER'S house. At
the back folding-doors, which are standing open, lead to an ante-
room. Three windows in the left-hand wall. In the middle of the
opposite wall a platform has been erected. On this is a small
table with two candles, a water-bottle and glass, and a bell. The
room is lit by lamps placed between the windows. In the
foreground on the left there is a table with candles and a chair.
To the right is a door and some chairs standing near it. The room
is nearly filled with a crowd of townspeople of all sorts, a few
women and schoolboys being amongst them. People are still
streaming in from the back, and the room is soon filled.)
1st Citizen (meeting another). Hullo, Lamstad! You here too?
2nd Citizen. I go to every public meeting, I do.
3rd Citizen. Brought your whistle too, I expect!
2nd Citizen. I should think so. Haven't you?
3rd Citizen. Rather! And old Evensen said he was going to bring a
cow-horn, he did.
2nd Citizen. Good old Evensen! (Laughter among the crowd.)
4th Citizen (coming up to them). I say, tell me what is going on
2nd Citizen. Dr. Stockmann is going to deliver an address
attacking the Mayor.
4th Citizen. But the Mayor is his brother.
1st Citizen. That doesn't matter; Dr. Stockmann's not the chap to
Peter Stockmann. For various reasons, which you will easily
understand, I must beg to be excused. But fortunately we have
amongst us a man who I think will be acceptable to you all. I
refer to the President of the Householders' Association, Mr.
Several voices. Yes--Aslaksen! Bravo Aslaksen!
(DR. STOCKMANN takes up his MS. and walks up and down the
Aslaksen. Since my fellow-citizens choose to entrust me with this
duty, I cannot refuse.
(Loud applause. ASLAKSEN mounts the platform.)
Billing (writing), "Mr. Aslaksen was elected with enthusiasm."
Aslaksen. And now, as I am in this position, I should like to say
a few brief words. I am a quiet and peaceable man, who believes
in discreet moderation, and--and--in moderate discretion. All my
friends can bear witness to that.
Several Voices. That's right! That's right, Aslaksen!
Aslaksen. I have learned in the school of life and experience
moderation is the most valuable virtue a citizen can possess--
Peter Stockmann. Hear, hear!
Aslaksen. --And moreover, that discretion and moderation are what
enable a man to be of most service to the community. I would
therefore suggest to our esteemed fellow-citizen, who has called
this meeting, that he should strive to keep strictly within the
bounds of moderation.
A Man by the door. Three cheers for the Moderation Society!
A Voice. Shame!
Several Voices. Sh!-Sh!
Aslaksen. No interruptions, gentlemen, please! Does anyone wish
to make any remarks?
Peter Stockmann. Mr. Chairman.
Aslaksen. The Mayor will address the meeting.
Peter Stockmann. In consideration of the close relationship in
which, as you all know, I stand to the present Medical Officer of
the Baths, I should have preferred not to speak this evening. But
my official position with regard to the Baths and my solicitude
for the vital interests of the town compel me to bring forward a
motion. I venture to presume that there is not a single one of
our citizens present who considers it desirable that unreliable
and exaggerated accounts of the sanitary condition of the Baths
and the town should be spread abroad.
Several Voices. No, no! Certainly not! We protest against it!
Peter Stockmann. Therefore, I should like to propose that the
meeting should not permit the Medical Officer either to read or
to comment on his proposed lecture.
Dr. Stockmann (impatiently). Not permit--! What the devil--!
Mrs. Stockmann (coughing). Ahem!-ahem!
Dr. Stockmann (collecting himself). Very well, Go ahead!
Peter Stockmann. In my communication to the "People's Messenger,"
I have put the essential facts before the public in such a way
that every fair-minded citizen can easily form his own opinion.
From it you will see that the main result of the Medical
Officer's proposals--apart from their constituting a vote of
censure on the leading men of the town--would be to saddle the
ratepayers with an unnecessary expenditure of at least some
thousands of pounds.
(Sounds of disapproval among the audience, and some cat-calls.)
Aslaksen (ringing his bell). Silence, please, gentlemen! I beg to
support the Mayor's motion. I quite agree with him that there is
something behind this agitation started by the Doctor. He talks
about the Baths; but it is a revolution he is aiming at--he wants
to get the administration of the town put into new hands. No one
doubts the honesty of the Doctor's intentions--no one will
that there can be any two opinions as to that, I myself am a
believer in self-government for the people, provided it does not
fall too heavily on the ratepayers. But that would be the case
here; and that is why I will see Dr. Stockmann damned--I beg your
pardon--before I go with him in the matter. You can pay too
dearly for a thing sometimes; that is my opinion.
(Loud applause on all sides.)
Hovstad. I, too, feel called upon to explain my position. Dr.
Stockmann's agitation appeared to be gaining a certain amount of
sympathy at first, so I supported it as impartially as I could.
But presently we had reason to suspect that we had allowed
ourselves to be misled by misrepresentation of the state of
Dr. Stockmann. Misrepresentation--!
Hovstad. Well, let us say a not entirely trustworthy
representation. The Mayor's statement has proved that. I hope no
one here has any doubt as to my liberal principles; the attitude
of the "People's Messenger "towards important political questions
is well known to everyone. But the advice of experienced and
thoughtful men has convinced me that in purely local matters a
newspaper ought to proceed with a certain caution.
Aslaksen. I entirely agree with the speaker.
Hovstad. And, in the matter before us, it is now an undoubted
fact that Dr. Stockmann has public opinion against him. Now, what
is an editor's first and most obvious duty, gentlemen? Is it not
to work in harmony with his readers? Has he not received a sort
of tacit mandate to work persistently and assiduously for the
welfare of those whose opinions he represents? Or is it possible
I am mistaken in that?
Voices from the crowd. No, no! You are quite right!
Hovstad. It has cost me a severe struggle to break with a man in
whose house I have been lately a frequent guest--a man who till
today has been able to pride himself on the undivided goodwill
of his fellow-citizens--a man whose only, or at all events whose
essential, failing is that he is swayed by his heart rather than
A few scattered voices. That is true! Bravo, Stockmann!
Hovstad. But my duty to the community obliged me to break with
him. And there is another consideration that impels me to oppose
him, and, as far as possible, to arrest him on the perilous
course he has adopted; that is, consideration for his family--
Dr. Stockmann. Please stick to the water-supply and drainage!
Hovstad. --consideration, I repeat, for his wife and his children
for whom he has made no provision.
Morten. Is that us, mother?
Mrs. Stockmann. Hush!
Aslaksen. I will now put the Mayor's proposition to the vote.
Dr. Stockmann. There is no necessity! Tonight I have no
intention of dealing with all that filth down at the Baths. No; I
have something quite different to say to you.
Peter Stockmann (aside). What is coming now?
A Drunken Man (by the entrance door). I am a ratepayer! And
therefore, I have a right to speak too! And my entire--firm--
inconceivable opinion is--
A number of voices. Be quiet, at the back there!
Others. He is drunk! Turn him out! (They turn him out.)
Dr. Stockmann. Am I allowed to speak?
Aslaksen (ringing his bell). Dr. Stockmann will address the
Dr. Stockmann. I should like to have seen anyone, a few days ago,
dare to attempt to silence me as has been done tonight! I would
have defended my sacred rights as a man, like a lion! But now it
is all one to me; I have something of even weightier importance
to say to you. (The crowd presses nearer to him, MORTEN Kiil
conspicuous among them.)
Dr. Stockmann (continuing). I have thought and pondered a great
deal, these last few days--pondered over such a variety of things
that in the end my head seemed too full to hold them--
Peter Stockmann (with a cough). Ahem!
Dr. Stockmann. --but I got them clear in my mind at last, and
then I saw the whole situation lucidly. And that is why I am
standing here to-night. I have a great revelation to make to you,
my fellow-citizens! I will impart to you a discovery of a far
wider scope than the trifling matter that our water supply is
poisoned and our medicinal Baths are standing on pestiferous
A number of voices (shouting). Don't talk about the Baths! We
won't hear you! None of that!
Dr. Stockmann. I have already told you that what I want to speak
about is the great discovery I have made lately--the discovery
that all the sources of our moral life are poisoned and that the
whole fabric of our civic community is founded on the pestiferous
soil of falsehood.
Voices of disconcerted Citizens. What is that he says?
Peter Stockmann. Such an insinuation--!
Aslaksen (with his hand on his bell). I call upon the speaker to
moderate his language.
Dr. Stockmann. I have always loved my native town as a man only
can love the home of his youthful days. I was not old when I went
away from here; and exile, longing and memories cast as it were
an additional halo over both the town and its inhabitants. (Some
clapping and applause.) And there I stayed, for many years, in a
horrible hole far away up north. When I came into contact with
some of the people that lived scattered about among the rocks, I
often thought it would of been more service to the poor half-
starved creatures if a veterinary doctor had been sent up there,
instead of a man like me. (Murmurs among the crowd.)
Billing (laying down his pen). I'm damned if I have ever heard--!
Hovstad. It is an insult to a respectable population!
Dr. Stockmann. Wait a bit! I do not think anyone will charge me
with having forgotten my native town up there. I was like one of
the cider-ducks brooding on its nest, and what I hatched was the
plans for these Baths. (Applause and protests.) And then when
fate at last decreed for me the great happiness of coming home
again--I assure you, gentlemen, I thought I had nothing more in
the world to wish for. Or rather, there was one thing I wished
for--eagerly, untiringly, ardently--and that was to be able to be
of service to my native town and the good of the community.
Peter Stockmann (looking at the ceiling). You chose a strange way
of doing it--ahem!
Dr. Stockmann. And so, with my eyes blinded to the real facts, I
revelled in happiness. But yesterday morning--no, to be precise,
it was yesterday afternoon--the eyes of my mind were opened wide,
and the first thing I realised was the colossal stupidity of the
authorities--. (Uproar, shouts and laughter, MRS. STOCKMANN
Peter Stockmann. Mr. Chairman!
Aslaksen (ringing his bell). By virtue of my authority--!
Dr. Stockmann. It is a petty thing to catch me up on a word, Mr.
Aslaksen. What I mean is only that I got scent of the
unbelievable piggishness our leading men had been responsible for
down at the Baths. I can't stand leading men at any price!--I
have had enough of such people in my time. They are like billy-
goats on a young plantation; they do mischief everywhere. They
stand in a free man's way, whichever way he turns, and what I
should like best would be to see them exterminated like any other
Peter Stockmann. Mr. Chairman, can we allow such expressions to
Aslaksen (with his hand on his bell). Doctor--!
Dr. Stockmann. I cannot understand how it is that I have only now
acquired a clear conception of what these gentry are, when I had
almost daily before my eyes in this town such an excellent
specimen of them--my brother Peter--slow-witted and hide-bound in
prejudice--. (Laughter, uproar and hisses. MRS. STOCKMANN Sits
coughing assiduously. ASLAKSEN rings his bell violently.)
The Drunken Man (who has got in again). Is it me he is talking
about? My name's Petersen, all right--but devil take me if I--
Angry Voices. Turn out that drunken man! Turn him out. (He is
turned out again.)
Peter Stockmann. Who was that person?
1st Citizen. I don't know who he is, Mr. Mayor.
2nd Citizen. He doesn't belong here.
3rd Citizen. I expect he is a navvy from over at--(the rest is
Aslaksen. He had obviously had too much beer. Proceed, Doctor;
but please strive to be moderate in your language.
Dr. Stockmann. Very well, gentlemen, I will say no more about our
leading men. And if anyone imagines, from what I have just said,
that my object is to attack these people this evening, he is
wrong--absolutely wide of the mark. For I cherish the comforting
conviction that these parasites--all these venerable relies of a
dying school of thought--are most admirably paving the way for
their own extinction; they need no doctor's help to hasten their
end. Nor is it folk of that kind who constitute the most pressing
danger to the community. It is not they who are most instrumental
in poisoning the sources of our moral life and infecting the
ground on which we stand. It is not they who are the most
dangerous enemies of truth and freedom amongst us.
Shouts from all sides. Who then? Who is it? Name! Name!
Dr. Stockmann. You may depend upon it--I shall name them! That is
precisely the great discovery I made yesterday. (Raises his
voice.) The most dangerous enemy of truth and freedom amongst us
is the compact majority--yes, the damned compact Liberal
majority--that is it! Now you know! (Tremendous uproar. Most of
the crowd are shouting, stamping and hissing. Some of the older
men among them exchange stolen glances and seem to be enjoying
themselves. MRS. STOCKMANN gets up, looking anxious. EJLIF and
MORTEN advance threateningly upon some schoolboys who are playing
pranks. ASLAKSEN rings his bell and begs for silence. HOVSTAD and
BILLING both talk at once, but are inaudible. At last quiet is
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