The word "criminal" has a tendency to echo in the mind unpleasantly. It carries in it's definition cruelty, ignorance, violence, and hatred. Criminals are labeled, however, in countless numbers by all cultures throughout history. Playwright Henrik Ibsen, once accused of being somewhat "criminal" himself, forced us to look at the mindset of the criminal themselves. Criminals of society's morals created a driving force for Ibsen. In two such works, A Doll's House and Ghosts, Ibsen illustrates uncommon, nearly loveable criminals, much to the horror of his audience. In the plays, Ibsen poses an interesting question: Is it the individual, or society who is the criminal? .
Both Ghosts and A Doll's House bear a striking similarity to the "perfect play". The curtain opens, and the audience is introduced to the one room which will serve as the setting for the entire production. There is nothing particularly extraordinary about either room; on the contrary, the room appears to be average. In creating an eerily common scene, Ibsen works to break down the invisible fourth wall between audience and character. By placing the story in a place so familiar and personal as an upper middle class living room, he has given the audience a sense of comfort. He has also ensured that they won't be distracted by the setting and can easily relate to at very least the social status of his characters. In A Doll's House, Ibsen's next maneuver introduces Nora, a seemingly bubble-headed housewife, and her husband Torvald. We are quick to forgive Nora's absent-minded qualities when her husband so blatantly dotes on her. In the first dialogue between Nora and Torvald, there is a significant amount of relationship background established. Through it, the audience comes to the conclusion that the man controls the woman but lovingly, and within reason. We may almost compare their relationship to that of father and daughter.