(SCENE-The sitting-room at Rosmersholm. The window and the hall-
door are open. The morning sun is seen shining outside. REBECCA,
dressed as in ACT I., is standing by the window, watering and
arranging the flowers. Her work is lying on the armchair. Mrs
HELSETH is going round the room with a feather brush, dusting the
Rebecca (after a short pause)
I wonder why Mr. Rosmer is so late
in coming down to-day?
Oh, he is often as late as this, miss. He is sure
to be down directly.
No, miss, except that as I took his coffee into his
study he went into his bedroom to finish dressing.
The reason I ask is that he was not very well yesterday.
No, he did not look well. It made me wonder whether
something had gone amiss between him and his brother-in-law.
What do you suppose could go amiss between them?
I can't say, miss. Perhaps it was that fellow
Mortensgaard set them at loggerheads.
It is quite possible. Do you know anything of this Peter
Not I! How could you think so, miss--a man like
Because of that horrid paper he edits, you mean?
Not only because of that, miss. I suppose you have
heard that a certain married woman, whose husband had deserted
her, had a child by him?
I have heard it; but of course that was long before I
Bless me, yes--he was quite a young man then. But
she might have had more sense than he had. He wanted to marry
her, too, but that could not be done; and so he had to pay
heavily for it. But since then--my word!--Mortensgaard has risen in
the world. There are lots of people who run after him now.
I believe most of the poor people turn to him first when
they are in any trouble.
Oh, you can tell me. You and I are such friends, you
Heaven forbid I should tell you anything about
that, miss. I shall not tell you anything, except that it was
some dreadful idea that they had gone and put into my poor sick
Oh, you mustn't sit there and make game of me,
miss. (Listens.) Hush, hush--Mr. Rosmer is coming down. He doesn't
like to see brooms about. (Goes out by the door on the right.
ROSMER, with his stick and hat in his hand, comes in from the
Well, let us see. (Takes up the paper and stands by the
table reading it.) What!--"cannot pronounce too emphatic a warning
against unprincipled deserters." (Looks at her.) They call me a
It comes to the same thing. (Goes on reading.) "Secret
traitors to the good cause."--"Judas-like creatures, who
shamelessly confess their apostasy as soon as they think the most
opportune and most profitable moment has arrived."--"A reckless
outrage on the fair fame of honoured ancestors"--"in the
expectation that those who are enjoying a brief spell of
authority will not disappoint them of a suitable reward." (Lays
the paper down on the table.) And they write that of me--these men
who have known me so long and so intimately--write a thing that
they do not even believe themselves! They know there is not a
single word of truth in it--and yet they write it.
ROSMER(taking up the paper again)
"Make some allowance for
inexperience and want of judgment"--"a pernicious influence which,
very possibly, has extended even to matters which for the present
we will refrain from publicly discussing or condemning." (Looks
at her.) What does that mean?
ROSMER(laying down the paper)
Rebecca, this is the conduct of
Yes, it seems to me they have no right to talk about
ROSMER(walking up and down the room)
They must be saved from
this sort of thing. All the good that is in men is destroyed, if
it is allowed to go on. But it shall not be so! How happy--how
happy I should feel if I could succeed in bringing a little light
into all this murky ugliness.
I am sure of it. There is something great,
something splendid, for you to live for!
Just think of it--if I could wake them to a real knowledge
of themselves--bring them to be angry with and ashamed of
themselves--induce them to be at one with each other in
toleration, in love, Rebecca!
Yes! Give yourself up entirely to that task, and you
will see that you will succeed.
I think it might be done. What happiness it would be to
live one's life, then! No more hateful strife--only emulation;
every eye fixed on the same goal; every man's will, every man's
thoughts moving forward-upward--each in its own inevitable path
Happiness for all--and through the efforts of all! (Looks out of
the window as he speaks, then gives a start and says gloomily:)
Ah! not through me.
ROSMER(laying his hat down on the table)
This is the question I
have been wrestling with--whether we two have deluded ourselves
the whole time, when we have been calling the tie between us
Do you mean, then, that the right name for it would have
Love. Yes, dear, that is what I mean. Even while Beata
was alive, it was you that I gave all my thoughts to. It was you
alone I yearned for. It was with you that I experienced peaceful,
joyful, passionless happiness. When we consider it rightly,
Rebecca, our life together began like the sweet, mysterious love
of two children for one another--free from desire or any thought
of anything more. Did you not feel it in that way too? Tell me.
REBECCA(struggling with herself)
Oh, I do not know what to
And it was this life of intimacy, with one another and
for one another, that we took to be friendship. No, dear--the tie
between us has been a spiritual marriage--perhaps from the very
first day. That is why I am guilty. I had no right to it--no right
to it for Beata's sake.
No right to a happy life? Do you believe that, John?
She looked at the relations between us through the eyes
of HER love--judged them after the nature of HER love. And it was
only natural. She could not have judged them otherwise than she
But how can you so accuse yourself for Beata's
It was for love of me--in her own way that--she threw
herself into the mill-race. That fact is certain, Rebecca. I can
never get beyond that.
Oh, do not think of anything else but the great,
splendid task that you are going to devote your life to!
ROSMER(shaking his head)
It can never be carried through. Not
by me. Not after what I know now.
Because no cause can ever triumph which has its
beginnings in guilt.
Oh, these are nothing but prejudices you
have inherited--these doubts, these fears, these scruples! You
have a legend here that your dead return to haunt you in the form
of white horses. This seems to me to be something of that sort.
Be that as it may, what difference does it make if I
cannot shake it off? Believe me, Rebecca, it is as I say--any
cause which is to win a lasting victory must be championed by a
man who is joyous and innocent.
But is joy so absolutely indispensable to you, John?
Very well. You are none the less always with me now.
(Goes out by the entrance hall. After a moment REBECCA peeps out
from behind the door which he has left open. Then she goes to the
door on the right, which she opens.)
REBECCA(in a whisper)
Now, Mrs Helseth. You can let him come
in now. (Crosses to the window. A moment later, KROLL comes in
from the right. He bows to her silently and formally and keeps
his hat in his hand.)
Yes, you did. I am no longer such a simpleton as to
suppose that sentiment entered into your little game at all. You
simply wanted to secure yourself admission to Rosmersholm--to
establish yourself here. That was what I was to help you to. I
see it now.
Then you have completely forgotten that it was Beata
that begged and entreated me to come and live here.
Yes, because you had bewitched her too. Are you going to
pretend that friendship is the name for what she came to feel
towards you? It was idolatry--adoration. It degenerated into a--
what shall I call, it?--a sort of desperate passion. Yes, that is
just the word for it.
Have the goodness to remember the condition your sister
was in. As far as I am concerned I do not think I can be said to
be particularly emotional in any way.
No, you certainly are not. But that makes you all the more
dangerous to those whom you wish to get into your power.
It comes easy to you to act with deliberation and careful
calculation, just because you have a cold heart.
I am certain of it now. Otherwise you could not have
pursued your object here so unswervingly, year after year. Yes,
yes--you have gained what you wanted. You have got him and
everything else here into your power. But, to carry out your
schemes, you have not scrupled to make him unhappy.
That is not true. It is not I; it is you yourself that
have made him unhappy.
Of course. A man of such gentle disposition as he--
I imagined that one of your so-called "emancipated" men
would know how to overcome any scruples. But there it is! Oh,
yes--as a matter of fact it turned out just as I expected. The
descendant of the men who are looking at us from these walls need
not think he can break loose from what has been handed down as an
inviolable inheritance from generation to generation.
REBECCA(looking thoughtfully in front of her)
nature is deeply rooted in his ancestors. That is certainly very
Yes, and you ought to have taken that into consideration,
if you had had any sympathy for him. But I dare say you were
incapable of that sort of consideration. Your starting-point is
so very widely-removed from his, you see.
And then he takes you to live with him, immediately upon
your mother's death. He treats you harshly, and yet you stay with
him. You know that he will not leave you a single penny--as a
matter of fact you only got a box of books--and yet you endure
living with him, put up with his behaviour, and nurse him to the
REBECCA(comes to the table and looks at him scornfully)
doing all that makes it clear to you that there was something
immoral--something criminal about my birth!
What you did for him, I attributed to an unconscious
filial instinct. And, as far as the rest of it goes, I consider
that the whole of your conduct has been the outcome of your
But there is not a single word of truth in what
you say! And I can prove it! Dr. West had not come to Finmark
when I was born.
Excuse me, Miss West. He went there a year before you were
born. I have ascertained that.
You are mistaken, I tell you! You are absolutely
You said here, the day before yesterday, that you were
twenty-nine--going on for thirty.
And it seems to me that very much the same applies to most
of this "emancipation" of yours, as you call it. Your reading
has introduced you to a hotch-potch of new ideas and opinions;
you have made a certain acquaintance with researches that are
going on in various directions--researches that seem to you to
upset a good many ideas that people have hitherto considered
incontrovertible and unassailable. But all this has never gone
any further than knowledge in your case, Miss West--a mere matter
of the intellect. It has not got into your blood.
Yes, only test yourself, and you will see! And if it is
true in your case, it is easy to recognise how true it must be in
John Rosmer's. Of course it is madness, pure and simple. He will
be running headlong to his ruin if he persists in coming openly
forward and proclaiming himself an apostate! Just think of it--he,
with his shy disposition! Think of HIM disowned--hounded out of
the circle to which he has always belonged--exposed to the
uncompromising attacks of all the best people in the place.
Nothing would ever make him the man to endure that.
He MUST endure it! It is too late now for him to draw
Not a bit too late--not by any means too late. What has
happened can be hushed up--or at any rate can be explained away as
a purely temporary, though regrettable, aberration. But--there is
one step that it is absolutely essential he should take.
Yes. You must see that you get him to do that.
Then you can't rid yourself of the conviction that the
relations between us need "legalising," as you say?
I do not wish to go any more precisely into the question.
But I certainly have observed that the conditions under which it
always seems easiest for people to abandon all their so-called
prejudices are when--ahem!
When it is a question of the relations between a man and
a woman, I suppose you mean?
Yes--to speak candidly--that is what I mean.
REBECCA(walks across the room and looks out of the window)
was on the point of saying that I wish you had been right, Mr.
What do you mean by that? You say it so strangely!
Oh, nothing! Do not let us talk any more about it. Ah,
there he is!
Did you take any steps to prevent its appearing?
That would have been acting unjustifiably towards the
cause I serve. And, besides that, I had no power to prevent it.
REBECCA(tears the newspaper into pieces, which she crumples up
and throws into the back of the stove)
There! Now it is out of
sight; let it be out of mind too. Because there will be no more
of that sort of thing, John.
When I came down here from Finmark with Dr. West, it
seemed to me that a new, great, wide world was opened to me. Dr.
West had given me an erratic sort of education--had taught me all
the odds and ends that I knew about life then. (Has an evident
struggle with herself, and speaks in barely audible tones.) And
Yes--that is true enough. You know
it only too well.
KROLL(looking fixedly at her)
Perhaps it would be better if I
No, stay where you are, dear Mr. Kroll. (To ROSMER.)
Well, this was how it was. I wanted to play my part in the new
day that was dawning--to have a share in all the new ideas. Mr.
Kroll told me one day that Ulrik Brendel had had a great
influence over you once, when you were a boy. I thought it might
be possible for me to resume that influence here.
What I wanted was that we two should go forward together
on the road towards freedom--always forward, and further forward!
But there was that gloomy, insurmountable barrier between you and
a full, complete emancipation.
I mean, John, that you could never have attained freedom
except in the full glory of the sunshine. And, instead of that,
here you were--ailing and languishing in the gloom of such a
marriage as yours.
You have never spoken to me of my marriage in that way,
No, I did not dare, for fear of frightening you.
Yes, John. (Gets up.) No, do not get up. Nor you either,
Mr. Kroll. But we must let in. the daylight now. It was not you,
John. You are innocent. It was I that lured--that ended by luring--
Beata into the tortuous path--
I did not want to. I wanted to remain where I was. But I
told her that it would be best for us all if I went away in time.
I let her infer that if I remained here any longer I could not
tell what-what-might happen.
REBECCA(looking at him in terror)
What else can there be?
Did you not eventually lead Beata to believe that it was
necessary--not merely that it should be best--but that it was
necessary, both for your own sake and for John's, that you should
go away somewhere else as soon as possible?--Well?
REBECCA(speaking low and indistinctly)
Perhaps I did say
something of the sort.
ROSMER(sinking into a chair by the window)
And she, poor sick
creature, believed in this tissue of lies and deceit! Believed in
it so completely--so absolutely! (Looks up at REBECCA.) And she
never came to me about it--never said a word! Ah, Rebecca--I see it
in your face--YOU dissuaded her from doing so.
You know she had taken it into her head that she, a
childless wife, had no right to be here. And so she persuaded
herself that her duty to you was to give place to another.
And you--you did nothing to rid her mind of such an idea?
Perhaps you encouraged her in the idea? Answer! Did you
not do so?
That was how she understood me, I believe.
Yes, yes--and she bowed to your will in everything. And so
she gave place. (Springs up.) How could you--how could you go on
with this terrible tragedy!
I thought there were two lives here to choose between,
KROLL(severely and with authority)
You had no right to make any
Surely you do not think I acted with cold
and calculating composure! I am a different woman now, when I am
telling you this, from what I was then. And I believe two
different kinds of will can exist at the same time in one person.
I wanted Beata away--in one way or the other; but I never thought
it would happen, all the same. At every step I ventured and
risked, I seemed to hear a voice in me crying: "No further! Not
a step further!" And yet, at the same time, I COULD not stop. I
HAD to venture a little bit further--just one step. And then
another--and always another--and at last it happened. That is how
such things go of themselves. (A short silence.)
And how do you think it will go with YOU in
the future?--after this?
Things must go with me as they can. It is of very little
Not a word suggestive of remorse! Perhaps you feel none?
REBECCA(dismissing his remark coldly)
Excuse me, Mr. Kroll,
that is a matter that is no concern of any one else's. That is an
account I must settle with myself.
And this is the woman you have been living
under the same roof with--in relations of the completest
confidence. (Looks up at the portraits on the walls.) If only
those that are gone could look down now!
KROLL(taking up his hat)
Yes. The sooner the better.
ROSMER(taking his hat also)
Then I will go with you.
You will! Ah, I thought we had not quite lost you.
Come, then, Kroll. Come! (They both go out into the hall
without looking at REBECCA. After a minute REBECCA goes
cautiously to the window and peeps out between the flowers.)
REBECCA(speaking to herself, half aloud)
Not over the bridge
to-day either. He is going round. Never over the millrace--never.
(Comes away from the window.) As I thought! (She goes over to the
bell, and rings it. Soon afterwards Mrs HELSETH comes in from