Literature Study GuidesGhostsAct 1 Regina And Engstrand Summary

Ghosts | Study Guide

Henrik Ibsen

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Ghosts | Act 1 (Regina and Engstrand) | Summary


Ghosts has one setting: all action takes place in a garden room in the home of Mrs. Helene Alving's estate in the late 19th century. Although there are no individual scenes in the play, this study guide has broken each of the three acts into sections based on character groupings for the purpose of analysis.


Mrs. Helene Alving's household is getting ready for the opening of the orphanage. Regina Engstrand has an unwelcome talk with Engstrand that shows they clearly have different views of Regina's future. She says she wants to see the world and improve her social position. Engstrand has no qualms with his daughter working at the "hotel for seamen" he wants to establish. He makes sly innuendos about Regina's parentage before she forces him to leave, worried that he will wake Osvald Alving. Engstrand goes out one door as Pastor Manders arrives through another.


Henrik Ibsen sets the stage with people and conversations that hint at topics to come. Conflict, secrets, and hypocrisy infuse even this brief conversation between Regina and Engstrand, whose physical deformity is quickly seen to mirror his moral depravity. Regina scorns her "father" and he curses her, showing little regard for her outside of how he can use her for his own ends. He seems to revel in his duplicity, mocking the idea of being a loving father as he looks for the next strategy he can pull on Pastor Manders. Regina Engstrand sees her father for what he is: a hypocrite and a drunkard.

Regina tries to distance herself from her past as it is represented by her father. Her use of French and her contempt for Engstrand's suggestion that she work in the brothel he wants to build reveal she has better plans for herself. There is the hint that her plans involve Osvald Alving. Her manner and ideals irritate Engstrand, in part because they remind him of her late mother, whom he also derides for attempting to "make herself so refined." Ibsen uses the gloomy rain outside and the ugliness between Regina and Engstrand inside to create a grim tone.

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