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
Aslaksen. As Chairman, I call upon the speaker to withdraw the
ill-considered expressions he has just used.
Dr. Stockmann. Never, Mr. Aslaksen! It is the majority in our
community that denies me my freedom and seeks to prevent my
speaking the truth.
Hovstad. The majority always has right on its side.
Billing. And truth too, by God!
Dr. Stockmann. The majority never has right on its side. Never, I
say! That is one of these social lies against which an
independent, intelligent men must wage war. Who is it that
constitute the majority of the population in a country? Is it the
clever folk, or the stupid? I don't imagine you will dispute the
fact that at present the stupid people are in an absolutely
overwhelming majority all the world over. But, good Lord!--you
can never pretend that it is right that the stupid folk should
govern the clever ones I (Uproar and cries.) Oh, yes--you can
shout me down, I know! But you cannot answer me. The majority has
might on its side--unfortunately; but right it has not. I am in
the right--I and a few other scattered individuals. The minority
is always in the right. (Renewed uproar.)
Hovstad. Aha!--so Dr. Stockmann has become an aristocrat since
the day before yesterday!
Dr. Stockmann. I have already said that I don't intend to waste a
word on the puny, narrow-chested, short-winded crew whom we are
leaving astern. Pulsating life no longer concerns itself with
them. I am thinking of the few, the scattered few amongst us, who
have absorbed new and vigorous truths. Such men stand, as it
were, at the outposts, so far ahead that the compact majority has
not yet been able to come up with them; and there they are
fighting for truths that are too newly-born into the world of
consciousness to have any considerable number of people on their
side as yet.
Hovstad. So the Doctor is a revolutionary now!
Dr. Stockmann. Good heavens--of course I am, Mr. Hovstad! I
propose to raise a revolution against the lie that the majority
has the monopoly of the truth. What sort of truths are they that
the majority usually supports? They are truths that are of such
advanced age that they are beginning to break up. And if a truth
is as old as that, it is also in a fair way to become a lie,
gentlemen. (Laughter and mocking cries.) Yes, believe me or not,
as you like; but truths are by no means as long-lived at
Methuselah--as some folk imagine. A normally constituted truth
lives, let us say, as a rule seventeen or eighteen, or at most
twenty years-- seldom longer. But truths as aged as that are
always worn frightfully thin, and nevertheless it is only then
that the majority recognises them and recommends them to the
community as wholesome moral nourishment. There is no great
nutritive value in that sort of fare, I can assure you; and, as a
doctor, I ought to know. These "majority truths "are like last
year's cured meat--like rancid, tainted ham; and they are the
origin of the moral scurvy that is rampant in our communities.
Aslaksen. It appears to me that the speaker is wandering a long
way from his subject.
Peter Stockmann. I quite agree with the Chairman.
Dr. Stockmann. Have you gone clean out of your senses, Peter? I
am sticking as closely to my subject as I can; for my subject is
precisely this, that it is the masses, the majority--this
infernal compact majority--that poisons the sources of our moral
life and infects the ground we stand on.
Hovstad. And all this because the great, broadminded majority of
the people is prudent enough to show deference only to well-
ascertained and well-approved truths?
Dr. Stockmann. Ah, my good Mr. Hovstad, don't talk nonsense about
well-ascertained truths! The truths of which the masses now
approve are the very truths that the fighters at the outposts
held to in the days of our grandfathers. We fighters at the
outposts nowadays no longer approve of them; and I do not believe
there is any other well-ascertained truth except this, that no
community can live a healthy life if it is nourished only on such
old marrowless truths.
Hovstad. But, instead of standing there using vague generalities,
it would be interesting if you would tell us what these old
marrowless truths are, that we are nourished on.
(Applause from many quarters.)
Dr. Stockmann. Oh, I could give you a whole string of such
abominations; but to begin with I will confine myself to one
well-approved truth, which at bottom is a foul lie, but upon
which nevertheless Mr. Hovstad and the "People's Messenger" and
all the "Messenger's" supporters are nourished.