(SCENE. ROSMER'S study. The door into it is in the left-hand
wall. At the back of the room is a doorway with a curtain drawn
back from it, leading to his bedroom. On the right, a window, in
front of which is a writing-table strewn with books and papers.
Bookshelves and cupboards on the walls. Homely furniture. On the
left, an old-fashioned sofa with a table in front of it. ROSMER,
wearing a smoking-jacket, is sitting at the writing-table on a
high-backed chair. He is cutting and turning over the leaves of a
magazine, and dipping into it here and there. A knock is heard at
the door on the left.)
I went to sleep feeling so secure and happy. I did not
even dream. (Turns round.) And you?
Thanks, I got to sleep in the early morning.
I do not think I have felt so light-hearted for a long
time as I do to-day. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to
say what I did.
Yes, you should not have been silent so long, John.
I cannot understand how I came to be such a coward.
I am sure it was not really from cowardice.
Yes, indeed. I can see that at bottom there was some
cowardice about it.
So much the braver of you to face it as you did. (Sits
down beside him on a chair by the writing-table.) But now I want
to confess something that I have done--something that you must not
be vexed with me about.
Last night, when that Ulrick Brendel was going, I wrote
him a line or two to take to Mortensgaard.
ROSMER(a little doubtfully)
But, my dear Rebecca--What did you
I wrote that he would be doing you a service if he
would interest himself a little in that unfortunate man, and help
him in any way he could.
My dear, you should not have done that. You have only
done Brendel harm by doing so. And besides, Mortensgaard is a
man I particularly wish to have nothing to do with. You know I
have been at loggerheads once with him already.
But do you not think that now it might be a very good
thing if you got on to good terms with him again?
I? With Mortensgaard? For what reason, do you mean?
Well, because you cannot feel altogether secure now--
since this has come between you and your friends.
ROSMER(looking at her and shaking his head)
Is it possible that
you think either Kroll or any of the others would take a revenge
on me--that they could be capable of--
In their first heat of indignation dear. No one can be
certain of that. I think, after the way Mr. Kroll took it--
Oh, you ought to know him better than that. Kroll is an
honourable man, through and through. I will go into town this
afternoon, and have a talk with him. I will have a talk with them
all. Oh, you will see how smoothly everything will go. (Mrs
HELSETH comes in by the door on the left.)
He asks if he may come up and speak to Mr. Rosmer.
What did I say! (To Mrs HELSETH). Of course
he may. (Goes to the door and calls down the stairs.) Come up, my
dear fellow! I am delighted to see you! (He stands holding the
door open. Mrs HELSETH goes out. REBECCA draws the curtain over
the doorway at the back, and then begins to tidy the room. KROLL
comes in with his hat in his hand.)
ROSMER(quietly, and with some emotion)
I knew quite well it
would not be the last time--
To-day I see the matter in quite a different light from
Of course you do, Kroll! Of course you do! You have been
thinking things over--
You misunderstand me altogether. (Puts his hat down on the
table.) It is important that I should speak to you alone.
No. He took up his quarters in a low-class tavern--in the
lowest kind of company, of course; drank, and stood drinks to
others, as long as he had any money left; and then began to abuse
the whole lot of them as a contemptible rabble--and, indeed, as
far as that goes he was quite right. But the result was, that he
got a thrashing and was thrown out into the gutter.
It is this; that certain games are going on behind your
back in this house.
How can you think that? Is it Rebec--is it Miss West you
are alluding to?
Precisely. And I can quite understand it on her part; she
has been accustomed, for such a long time now, to do as she likes
here. But nevertheless--
My dear Kroll, you are absolutely mistaken. She and I
have no secrets from one another about anything whatever.
Then has she confessed to you that she has been
corresponding with the editor of the "Searchlight"?
Oh, you mean the couple of lines she wrote to him on
Ulrik Brendel's behalf?
You have found that out, then? And do you approve of her
being on terms of this sort with that scurrilous hack, who almost
every week tries to pillory me for my attitude in my school and
out of it?
My dear fellow, I don't suppose that side of the question
has ever occurred to her. And in any case, of course she has
entire freedom of action, just as I have myself.
Indeed? Well, I suppose that is quite in accordance with
the new turn your views have taken--because I suppose Miss West
looks at things from the same standpoint as you?
She does. We two have worked our way forward in complete
KROLL(looking at him and shaking his head slowly)
blind, deluded man!
Yes, if I ask you questions about one or two things that
it may be painful for you to recall to mind. For instance, the
matter of your apostasy--well, your emancipation, if you choose to
call it so--is bound up with so much else for which, for your own
sake, you ought to account to me.
My dear fellow, ask me about anything you please. I have
nothing to conceal.
Well, then, tell me this--what do you yourself believe was
the real reason of Beata's making away with herself?
Can you have any doubt? Or perhaps I should rather say,
need one look for reasons for what an unhappy sick woman, who is
unaccountable for her actions, may do?
Are you certain that Beata was so entirely unaccountable
for her actions? The doctors, at all events, did not consider
that so absolutely certain.
If the doctors had ever seen her in the state in which I
have so often seen her, both night and day, they would have had
no doubt about it.
Of course not. It was impossible to doubt it,
unfortunately. You remember what I told you of her ungovernable,
wild fits of passion--which she expected me to reciprocate. She
terrified me! And think how she tortured herself with baseless
self-reproaches in the last years of her life!
Yes, when she knew that she would always be childless.
Well, think what it meant--to be perpetually in the
clutches of such--agony of mind over a thing that she was not in
the slightest degree responsible for--! Are you going to suggest
that she was accountable for her actions?
Hm!--Do you remember whether at that time you had, in the
house any books dealing with the purport of marriage--according to
the advanced views of to-day?
I remember Miss West's lending me a work of the kind. She
inherited Dr. West's library, you know. But, my dear Kroll, you
surely do not suppose that we were so imprudent as to let the
poor sick creature get wind of any such ideas? I can solemnly
swear that we were in no way to blame. It was the overwrought
nerves of her own brain that were responsible for these frantic
There is one thing, at any rate, that I can tell you now,
and that is that your poor tortured and overwrought Beata put an
end to her own life in order that yours might be happy--and that
you might be free to live as you pleased.
ROSMER(starting half up from his chair)
What do you mean by
You must listen to me quietly, Rosmer--because now I can
speak of it. During the last year of her life she came twice to
see me, to tell me what she suffered from her fears and her
Do you think I had a moment's doubt, at that time, that
her mind was unhinged? Such an accusation as that, against a man
like you! Well, she came to see me again, about a month later.
She seemed calmer then; but, as she was going away, she said:
"They may expect to see the White Horse soon at Rosmersholm."
Yes, I know--the White Horse. She often used to talk about
And then, when I tried to distract her from such unhappy
thoughts, she only answered: "I have not much time left; for
John must marry Rebecca immediately now."
What are you saying! I marry--!
That was on a Thursday afternoon. On the Saturday evening
she threw herself from the footbridge into the millrace.
ROSMER(standing face to face with him)
Listen to me. For
considerably more than a year to be precise, since Beata's death--
Rebecca West and I have lived here alone at Rosmersholm. All that
time you have known of the charge Beata made against us; but I
have never for one moment seen you appear the least scandalised
at our living together here.
I never knew, till yesterday evening, that it was a case
of an apostate man and an "emancipated" woman living together.
Ah! So then you do not believe in any purity of life
among apostates or emancipated folk? You do not believe that they
may have the instinct of morality ingrained in their natures?
I have no particular confidence in the kind of morality
that is not rooted in the Church's faith.
And you mean that to apply to Rebecca and myself?--to my
relations with Rebecca?
I cannot make any departure, in favour of you two, from my
opinion that there is certainly no very wide gulf between free
And free love, since you force me to say it.
And you are not ashamed to say that to me!--you,
who have known me ever since I was a boy.
It is just for that reason. I know how easily you allow
yourself to be influenced by those you associate with. And as for
your Rebecca--well, your Miss West, then--to tell the truth, we
know very little about her. To cut the matter short, Rosmer--I am
not going to give you up. And you, on your part, ought to try and
save yourself in time.
Save myself? How--? (Mrs HELSETH looks in through the
door on the left.) What do you want?
I wanted to ask Miss West to come down, sir.
Listen to me. As to what may have gone on here in secret
while Beata was alive, and as to what may be still going on here,
I have no wish to inquire more closely. You were, of course,
extremely unhappy in your marriage--and to some extent that may be
urged in your excuse--
Do not interrupt me. What I want to say is this. If you
definitely must continue living with Miss West, it is absolutely
necessary that you should conceal the revolution of opinion--I
mean the distressing apostasy--that she has beguiled you into. Let
me speak! Let me speak! I say that, if you are determined to go
on with this folly, for heaven's sake hold any variety of ideas
or opinions or beliefs you like--but keep your opinions to
yourself. It is a purely personal matter, and there is not the
slightest necessity to go proclaiming it all over the
It is a necessity for me to abandon a false and equivocal
But you have a duty towards the traditions of your family,
Rosmer! Remember that! From time immemorial Rosmersholm has been
a stronghold of discipline and order, of respect and esteem for
all that the best people in our community have upheld and
sanctioned. The whole neighbourhood has taken its
tone from Rosmersholm. If the report gets about that you
yourself have broken with what I may call the Rosmer family
tradition, it will evoke an irreparable
state of unrest.
My dear Kroll, I cannot see the matter in that light. It
seems to me that it is my imperative duty to bring a little light
and happiness into the place where the race of Rosmers has spread
darkness and oppression for all these long years.
KROLL(looking severely at him)
Yes, that would be a worthy
action for the man with whom the race will disappear. Let such
things alone, my friend. It is no suitable task for you. You were
meant to lead the peaceful life of a student.
Yes, that may be so. But nevertheless I want to try and
play my humble part in the struggles of life.
The struggles of life! Do you know what that will mean for
you? It will mean war to the death with all your friends.
I do not imagine they are all such fanatics as
You are a simple-minded creature, Rosmer--an inexperienced
creature. You have no suspicion of the violence of the storm that
will burst upon you. (Mrs HELSETH slightly opens the door on the
KROLL(to Mrs HELSETH)
No; show him up, please. (Mrs HELSETH
goes out. KROLL takes up his hat.) I quit the field--temporarily.
But we have not fought the decisive action yet.
As truly as I stand here, Kroll, I have absolutely
nothing to do with Mortensgaard.
I do not believe you any longer on any point. Under no
circumstances shall I have any faith in you after this. It is war
to the knife now. We shall try if we cannot make you powerless to
do any harm.
Oh, Kroll--how you have sunk! How low you have sunk!
I? And a man like you has the face to say so? Remember
No. You must solve the riddle of the millrace as your
conscience will allow you--if you have any conscience still left.
(PETER MORTENSGAARD comes in softly and quietly, by the door on
the left. He is a short, slightly built man with sparse reddish
hair and beard. KROLL gives him a look of hatred.) The
"Searchlight" too, I see. Lighted at Rosmersholm! (Buttons up his
coat.) That leaves me no doubt as to the course I should steer.
The "Searchlight" will always be ready
burning to light Mr. Kroll home.
Yes, you have shown me your goodwill for a long time. To
be sure there is a Commandment that forbids us to bear false
witness against our neighbour--
Mr. Kroll has no need to instruct me in the
If I needed such instruction, Mr. Rosmer is the
most suitable person to give it me.
KROLL(with scarcely concealed scorn)
Mr. Rosmer? Oh yes, the
Reverend Mr. Rosmer is undoubtedly the most suitable man for
that! I hope you will enjoy yourselves, gentlemen. (Goes out and
slams the door after him.)
ROSMER(stands looking at the door, and says to himself)
yes--it had to be so. (Turns round.) Will you tell me, Mr.
Mortensgaard, what has brought you out here to see me?
It was really Miss West I wanted to see. I thought
I ought to thank her for the kind letter I received from her
I know she has written to you. Have you had a talk with
Yes, a little. (Smiles slightly.) I hear that there
has been a change of views in certain respects at Rosmersholm.
My views have changed to a very considerable extent; I
might almost say entirely.
That is what Miss West said. And that was why she
thought I ought to come up and have a little chat with you about
May I have your permission to announce in the
"Searchlight" that you have altered your opinions, and are going
to devote yourself to the cause of free thought and progress?
By all means. I will go so far as to ask you to make the
Then it shall appear to-morrow. It will be a great
and weighty piece of news that the Reverend Mr. Rosmer of
Rosmersholm has made up his mind to join the forces of light in
that direction too.
What I mean is that it implies the gain of strong
moral support for our party every time we win over an earnest,
ROSMER(with some astonishment)
Then you don't know--? Did Miss
West not tell you that as well?
What, Mr. Rosmer? Miss West was in a considerable
hurry. She told me to come up, and that I would hear the rest of
it from yourself.
Very well, then; let me tell you that I have cut myself
free entirely--on every side. I have now, no connection of any
kind with the tenets of the Church. For the future such matters
have not the smallest signification for me.
MORTENSGAARD(looking at him in perplexity)
Well, if the moon
had fallen down from the sky, I could not be more--! To think that
I should ever hear you yourself renounce--!
Yes, I stand now where you have stood for a long time.
You can announce that in the "Searchlight" to-morrow too.
That, too? No, my dear Mr. Rosmer--you must excuse
me--but it is not worth touching on that side of the matter.
Well, it is like this, Mr. Rosmer. You are not as
familiar with all the circumstances of the case as I am, I
expect. But if you, too, have joined the forces of freedom--and if
you, as Miss West says you do, mean to take part in the movement--
I conclude you do so with the desire to be as useful to the
movement as you possibly can, in practice as well as, in theory.
Yes, you may be certain that there is not much that
you would be able to do hereabouts. And besides, Mr. Rosmer, we
have quite enough freethinkers already--indeed, I was going to say
we have too many of those gentry. What the party needs is a
Christian element--something that every one must respect. That is
what we want badly. And for that reason it is most advisable that
you should hold your tongue about any matters that do not concern
the public. That is my opinion.
I see. Then you would not risk having anything to do with
me if I were to confess my apostasy openly?
MORTENSGAARD(shaking his head)
I should not like to, Mr.
Rosmer. Lately I have made it a rule never to support anybody or
anything that is opposed to the interests of the Church.
Have you, then, entered the fold of the Church again
Mortensgaard. That is another matter altogether.
Oh, that is how it is. Yes, I understand you now.
Mr. Rosmer--you ought to remember that I, of all
people, have not absolute freedom of action.
A marked man, Mr. Rosmer. And you, of all people,
ought to remember that--because you were responsible, more than
any one else, for my being branded.
If I had stood then where I stand now, I should have
handled the affair more judiciously.
I think so too. But it is too late now; you have
branded me, once for all--branded me for life. I do not suppose
you can fully realise what such a thing means. But it is possible
that you may soon feel the smart of it yourself now, Mr. Rosmer.
Yes. You surely do not suppose that Mr. Kroll and
his gang will be inclined to forgive a rupture such as yours? And
the "County News" is going to be pretty bloodthirsty, I hear. It
may very well come to pass that you will be a marked man, too.
On personal grounds, Mr. Mortensgaard, I feel myself to
be invulnerable. My conduct does not offer any point of attack.
MORTENSGAARD(with a quiet smile)
That is saying a good deal,
Perhaps it is. But I have the right to say as much.
Even if you were inclined to overhaul your conduct
as thoroughly as you once overhauled mine?
You say that very strangely. What are you driving at?--is
it anything definite?
Yes, there is one definite thing--no more than a
single one. But it might be quite awkward enough if malicious
opponents got a hint of it.
Will you have the kindness to tell me what on earth it
It was during the poor lady's last days. It must be
about a year and a half ago now. And that is the letter that is
Surely you know that my wife's mind was affected at that
I know there were a great many people who thought
so. But, in my opinion, no one would have imagined anything of
the kind from the letter. When I say the letter is a remarkable
one, I mean remarkable in quite another way.
And what in the world did my poor wife find to write to
I have the letter at home. It begins more or less
to the effect that she is living in perpetual terror and dread,
because of the fact that there are so many evilly disposed people
about her whose only desire is to do you harm and mischief.
Yes, so she says. And then follows the most
remarkable part of it all. Shall I tell you, Mr. Rosmer?
Of course! Tell me everything, without any reserve.
The poor lady begs and entreats me to be
magnanimous. She says that she knows it was you, who got me
dismissed from my post as schoolmaster, and implores me most
earnestly not to revenge myself upon you.
What way did she think you could revenge yourself, then?
The letter goes on to say that if I should hear
that anything sinful was going on at Rosmersholm, I was not to
believe a word of it; that it would be only the work of wicked
folk who were spreading the rumours on purpose to do you harm.
Well, in the next place she writes--though rather
confusedly--that she has no knowledge of any sinful relations
existing at Rosmersholm; that she has never been wronged in any
way; and that if any rumours of that sort should get about, she
entreats me not to allude to them in the "Searchlight".
Yes. You must remember that for the future you will
not be unassailable.
So you persist in thinking that I have something to
I do not see any reason why a man of emancipated
ideas should refrain from living his life as fully as possible.
Only, as I have already said, you should be cautious in future.
If rumours should get about of anything that offends people's
prejudices, you may be quite certain that the whole cause of
freedom of thought will suffer for it. Good-bye, Mr. Rosmer.
Do anything that you think right and proper. You have
full freedom of action.--But what do you say to it all, Rebecca?
Ah, I do not think I have ever stood so much in need of you as I
Surely both you and I have been prepared for what would
happen some day.
It is true that I used to think that sooner or later our
beautiful pure friendship would come to be attacked by calumny
and suspicion--not on Kroll's part, for I never would have
believed such a thing of him--but on the part of the coarse-minded
and ignoble-eyed crowd. Yes, indeed; I had good reason enough for
so jealously drawing a veil of concealment over our compact. It
was a dangerous secret.
Why should we pay any heed to what all these other
people think? You and I know that we have nothing to reproach
I? Nothing to reproach myself with? It is true enough
that I thought so until to-day. But now, now, Rebecca--
You may be sure she did not fail to notice that we read
the same books; that we sought one another's company, and
discussed every new topic together. But I cannot understand it--
because I was always so careful to spare her. When I look back,
it seems to me that I did everything I could to keep her apart
from our lives. Or did I not, Rebecca?
And so did you, too. And notwithstanding that--! Oh, it is
horrible to think of! To think that here she was--with her
affection all distorted by illness --never saying a word--watching
us--noticing everything and--and--misconstruing everything.
REBECCA(wringing her hands)
Oh, I never ought to have come to
Just think what she must have suffered in silence! Think
of all the horrible things her poor diseased brain must have led
her to believe about us and store up in her mind about us! Did
she never speak to you of anything that could give you any kind
REBECCA(as if startled)
To me! Do you suppose I should have
remained here a day longer, if she had?
No, no--that is obvious. What a fight she must have
fought--and fought alone, Rebecca! In despair, and all alone. And
then, in the end, the poignant misery of her victory--which was
also her accusation of us--in the mill-race! (Throws himself into
a chair, rests his elbows on the table, and hides his face in his
REBECCA(coming quietly up behind him)
Listen to me, John. If it
were in your power to call Beata back--to you--to Rosmersholm--would
you do it?
How can I tell what I would do or what I would not do! I
have no thoughts for anything but the one thing which is
You ought to be beginning to live now, John. You were
beginning. You had freed yourself completely on all sides. You
were feeling so happy and so light--hearted
I know--that is true enough. And then comes this
REBECCA(standing behind him, with her arms on the back of his
How beautiful it was when we used to sit there downstairs
in the dusk--and helped each other to plan our lives out afresh.
You wanted to catch hold of actual life--the actual life of the
day, as you used to say. You wanted to pass from house to house
like a guest who brought emancipation with him--to win over men's
thoughts and wills to your own --to fashion noble men all around
you, in a wider and wider circle--noble men!
ROSMER(shaking his head sadly)
I shall never conquer this
completely. There will always be a doubt confronting me--a
question. I shall never again be able to lose myself in the
enjoyment of what makes life so wonderfully beautiful.
REBECCA(speaking over the back of his chair, softly)
you mean, John?
ROSMER(looking up at her)
Calm and happy innocence.
REBECCA(taking a step backwards)
Of course. Innocence. (A short
ROSMER(resting his head on his hands with his elbows on the
table, and looking straight in front of him)
systematically--she must have put one thing together with another!
First of all she begins to have a suspicion as to my orthodoxy.
How on earth did she get that idea in her mind? Any way, she did;
and the idea grew into a certainty. And then--then, of course, it
was easy for her to think everything else possible. (Sits up in
his chair and, runs his hands through his hair.) The wild fancies
I am haunted with! I shall never get quit of them. I am certain
of that--certain. They will always be starting up before me to
remind me of the dead.
Yes, new ties with the outside world. Live, work, do
something! Do not sit here musing and brooding over insoluble
New ties! (Walks across the room, turns at
the door and comes back again.) A question occurs to my mind. Has
it not occurred to you too, Rebecca?
REBECCA(catching her breath)
Let me hear what it is.
What do you suppose will become of the tie between us,
I think surely our friendship can endure, come what may.
Yes, but that is not exactly what I meant. I was thinking
of what brought us together from the first, what links us so
closely to one another--our common belief in the possibility of a
man and a woman living together in chastity.
But now I see stretching before me a life of strife and
unrest and violent emotions. For I mean to live my life, Rebecca!
I am not going to let myself be beaten to the ground by the dread
of what may happen. I am not going to have my course of life
prescribed for me, either by any living soul or by another.
No, no--do not! Be a free man in everything, John!
Do you understand what is in my Mind, then? Do you not
know? Do you not see how I could best win my freedom from all
these harrowing memories from the whole sad past?
And then that chapter of my life will be closed--
completely closed, never to be reopened.
Rebecca (in a low, trembling voice)
Do you think so, John?
It must be so! It must! I cannot--I will not--go through
life with a dead body on my back. Help me to throw it off,
Rebecca; and then let us stifle all memories in our sense of
freedom, in joy, in passion. You shall be to me the only wife I
have ever had.
Never speak of this, again. I will
never be your wife.
What! Never? Do you think, then, that you could not learn
to love me? Is not our friendship already tinged with love?
REBECCA(stopping her ears, as if in fear)
Don't speak like
that, John! Don't say such things!
ROSMER(catching her by the arm)
It is true! There is a growing
possibility in the tie that is between us. I can see that you
feel that, as well as I--do you not, Rebecca?
REBECCA(controlling herself completely)
Listen. Let me tell you
this--if you persist in this, I shall leave Rosmersholm.
Leave Rosmersholm! You! You cannot do that. It is
It is still more impossible for me to become your wife.
Never, as long as I live, can I be that.
ROSMER(looks at her in surprise)
You say "can" --and you say it
so strangely. Why can you not?
REBECCA(taking both his hands in hers)
Dear friend --for your
own sake, as well as for mine, do not ask me why. (Lets go of his
hands.) So, John. (Goes towards the door on the left.)
For the future the world will hold only one question for
REBECCA(turns and looks at him)
In that case everything is at