Hovstad. And that is--?
Dr. Stockmann. That is, the doctrine you have inherited from your
forefathers and proclaim thoughtlessly far and wide--the doctrine
that the public, the crowd, the masses, are the essential part of
the population--that they constitute the People--that the common
folk, the ignorant and incomplete element in the community, have
the same right to pronounce judgment and to, approve, to direct
and to govern, as the isolated, intellectually superior
personalities in it.
Billing. Well, damn me if ever I--
Hovstad (at the same time, shouting out). Fellow-citizens, take
good note of that!
A number of voices (angrily). Oho!--we are not the People! Only
the superior folk are to govern, are they!
A Workman. Turn the fellow out for talking such rubbish!
Another. Out with him!
Another (calling out). Blow your horn, Evensen!
(A horn is blown loudly, amidst hisses and an angry uproar.)
Dr. Stockmann (when the noise has somewhat abated). Be
reasonable! Can't you stand hearing the voice of truth for once?
I don't in the least expect you to agree with me all at once; but
I must say I did expect Mr. Hovstad to admit I was right, when he
had recovered his composure a little. He claims to be a
Voices (in murmurs of astonishment). Freethinker, did he say? Is
Hovstad a freethinker?
Hovstad (shouting). Prove it, Dr. Stockmann! When have I said so
Dr. Stockmann (reflecting). No, confound it, you are right!--you
have never had the courage to. Well, I won't put you in a hole,
Mr. Hovstad. Let us say it is I that am the freethinker, then. I
am going to prove to you, scientifically, that the "People's
Messenger" leads you by the nose in a shameful manner when it
tells you that you--that the common people, the crowd, the
masses, are the real essence of the People. That is only a
newspaper lie, I tell you! The common people are nothing more
than the raw material of which a People is made. (Groans,
laughter and uproar.) Well, isn't that the case? Isn't there an
enormous difference between a well-bred and an ill-bred strain of
animals? Take, for instance, a common barn-door hen. What sort of
eating do you get from a shrivelled up old scrag of a fowl like
that? Not much, do you! And what sort of eggs does it lay? A
fairly good crow or a raven can lay pretty nearly as good an egg.
But take a well-bred Spanish or Japanese hen, or a good pheasant
or a turkey--then you will see the difference. Or take the case
of dogs, with whom we humans are on such intimate terms. Think
first of an ordinary common cur--I mean one of the horrible,
coarse-haired, low-bred curs that do nothing but run about the
streets and befoul the walls of the houses. Compare one of these
curs with a poodle whose sires for many generations have been
bred in a gentleman's house, where they have had the best of food
and had the opportunity of hearing soft voices and music. Do you
not think that the poodle's brain is developed to quite a
different degree from that of the cur? Of course it is. It is
puppies of well-bred poodles like that, that showmen train to do
incredibly clever tricks--things that a common cur could never
learn to do even if it stood on its head. (Uproar and mocking
A Citizen (calls out). Are you going to make out we are dogs,
Another Citizen. We are not animals, Doctor!
Dr. Stockmann. Yes but, bless my soul, we are, my friend! It is
true we are the finest animals anyone could wish for; but, even
among us, exceptionally fine animals are rare. There is a
tremendous difference between poodle-men and cur-men. And the
amusing part of it is, that Mr. Hovstad quite agrees with me as
long as it is a question of four-footed animals--
Hovstad. Yes, it is true enough as far as they are concerned.
Dr. Stockmann. Very well. But as soon as I extend the principle
and apply it to two-legged animals, Mr. Hovstad stops short. He
no longer dares to think independently, or to pursue his ideas to
their logical conclusion; so, he turns the whole theory upside
down and proclaims in the "People's Messenger" that it is the
barn-door hens and street curs that are the finest specimens in
the menagerie. But that is always the way, as long as a man
retains the traces of common origin and has not worked his way up
to intellectual distinction.
Hovstad. I lay no claim to any sort of distinction, I am the son
of humble country-folk, and I am proud that the stock I come from
is rooted deep among the common people he insults.
Voices. Bravo, Hovstad! Bravo! Bravo!
Dr. Stockmann. The kind of common people I mean are not only to
be found low down in the social scale; they crawl and swarm all
around us--even in the highest social positions. You have only to
look at your own fine, distinguished Mayor! My brother Peter is
every bit as plebeian as anyone that walks in two shoes--
(laughter and hisses)
Peter Stockmann. I protest against personal allusions of this
Dr. Stockmann (imperturbably).--and that, not because he is like
myself, descended from some old rascal of a pirate from Pomerania
or thereabouts--because that is who we are descended from--
Peter Stockmann. An absurd legend. I deny it!
Dr. Stockmann. --but because he thinks what his superiors think,
and holds the same opinions as they, People who do that are,
intellectually speaking, common people; and, that is why my
magnificent brother Peter is in reality so very far from any
distinction--and consequently also so far from being liberal-
Peter Stockmann. Mr. Chairman--!
Hovstad. So it is only the distinguished men that are liberal-
minded in this country? We are learning something quite new!
Dr. Stockmann. Yes, that is part of my new discovery too. And
another part of it is that broad-mindedness is almost precisely
the same thing as morality. That is why I maintain that it is
absolutely inexcusable in the "People's Messenger" to proclaim,
day in and day out, the false doctrine that it is the masses, the
crowd, the compact majority, that have the monopoly of broad-
mindedness and morality--and that vice and corruption and every
kind of intellectual depravity are the result of culture, just as
all the filth that is draining into our Baths is the result of
the tanneries up at Molledal! (Uproar and interruptions. DR.
STOCKMANN is undisturbed, and goes on, carried away by his
ardour, with a smile.) And yet this same "People's Messenger" can
go on preaching that the masses ought to be elevated to higher
conditions of life! But, bless my soul, if the "Messenger's"
teaching is to be depended upon, this very raising up the masses
would mean nothing more or less than setting them straightway
upon the paths of depravity! Happily the theory that culture
demoralises is only an old falsehood that our forefathers
believed in and we have inherited. No, it is ignorance, poverty,
ugly conditions of life, that do the devil's work! In a house
which does not get aired and swept every day--my wife Katherine
maintains that the floor ought to be scrubbed as well, but that
is a debatable question--in such a house, let me tell you, people
will lose within two or three years the power of thinking or
acting in a moral manner. Lack of oxygen weakens the conscience.
And there must be a plentiful lack of oxygen in very many houses
in this town, I should think, judging from the fact that the
whole compact majority can be unconscientious enough to wish to
build the town's prosperity on a quagmire of falsehood and