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Hadda Pada   By: (1888-1945)

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By Godmunder Kamban


The value of this play lies in the fact that, beneath the surface, it vibrates with the quivering, intensely pulsating forces of life. The speeches breathe. The leading characters not only have perspicuity, but each has its own representative melodic theme. There is as music under the text, a constant accompaniment of exquisite passion, rising, sinking, and now rising once more, in a struggle with vacillating sensual pleasure and base inclination to supersede others. Around the simple action there is an atmosphere of poetry. The play opens with the superstition of olden times, in the old nurse's tale about the life egg, suggested to her by a crystal ball, with which the sisters are playing. Modern superstition is woven into the beautiful scene, where Hadda Padda, with heroically mastered despair, meets the herborist who talks of her plants in a calm poetic manner, reminiscent of the way Ophelia speaks of the flowers she has picked and collected.

The drama stands or falls with Hadda Padda, that is to say, it STANDS. She holds it with a firm hand, as the Saint in the old paintings bears the church. In her, the Iceland of ancient and modern times meets. She has more warmth, more kindness of heart, more womanly affection, than any antique figure from a Saga. She gives herself completely, resignedly. She is tender and she is mild, without being meek. In her inmost self, however, she is proud. When first this pride is touched, then hurt, and finally the very woman in her is mortally wounded, it is at once perceptible that she descends from the strong, wild women of olden times. The wildness has become resolution, the pride has become poise, the strength has remained unchanged. She plays with life and death like the heroes of a thousand years ago. She faces death without flinching, and despite all her goodness, her delicacy, her kindly love for the old and the young, for the humble and the poor, for animals and plants, at the bottom of her nature she is heathen. In life's last moments, with death and revenge in mind, she can still pretend, invent, dupe. Such profound and exquisite womanhood, such inflexible masculine will, have hardly ever been seen combined on the stage before.



Iceland has always been famous for the quality of her literature, although nowadays but little of it comes to our shores. It is, therefore, an especial pleasure to introduce the author of "Hadda Padda."

Godmundur Kamban, son of a merchant of an old and well known Icelandic family, was born near Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, on June 8, 1888. He was graduated twenty two years later from the College of Reykjavik, where he received honoris causa in literature and language, the first and only time this prize has ever been awarded. While still at college, he was made assistant editor of the best known newspaper in Iceland, edited by Bjorn Jonsson, the late Prime Minister, in whose home Mr. Kamban lived during his college career. In 1910, he proceeded to the University of Copenhagen, where he specialized in literature and received his Master's degree. In Copenhagen, Peter Jerndorff, the famous Acteur Royal, practically regarded him as his own son. Under Jerndorff's direction for five years, he obtained that thorough dramatic education which is so essential to the fastidious Scandinavian Theatre, and to which Ibsen also served an apprenticeship.

"Hadda Padda," Mr. Kamban's first dramatic work, was written in Denmark in 1912, while he was still a student at the University of Copenhagen. Originally written in Icelandic, it was translated into Danish and submitted to the Royal Theatre, a fortress difficult of access to the newcomer. This theatre did not even fully recognise such masters as Ibsen and Bjornson until they stood on the heights of achievement. Our author was but twenty four years old, unknown, and offering his first play.

From the outset "Hadda Padda" caused the directors unexpected trouble... Continue reading book >>

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