The action takes place in the modern Ibsen of Norway in the Fru Alwing Manor on the west coast of the country. There is a fine rain. With a rustle of wooden soles, Engstrand’s carpenter enters the house. The servant Regina orders him not to make noise: upstairs the son of Frou Alving Oswald, who has just arrived from Paris, is asleep. The joiner informs: the shelter, which he built, is ready for tomorrow’s opening. At the same time will be opened and a monument to Chamberlain Alving, the late husband of the mistress, in honor of whom the shelter is named. Engstrand decently worked on construction and is going to open his own institution in the city – a hotel for sailors. There just would be useful to a woman. Does the daughter want to move to him? In response, Engstrand
The joiner leaves. Pastor Manders appears in the living room; he discourages Frow Alving from the insurance of the constructed shelter – do not openly doubt the strength of the charitable cause. By the way, why does Frow Alving not want Regina to move to her father’s place in the city?
Oswald joins the mother and pastor. He argues with Manders, who denounces the moral character of bohemia. Morality among artists and artists is no better and no worse than in any other class. Had the pastor heard what the high-moral officials calling them in Paris say about them? Fru Alving supports the son: the pastor vainly condemns her for reading freethinking books – with her obviously unconvincing defense of church dogmas, he only arouses interest in them.
Oswald goes for a walk. The pastor is annoyed. Is it true that Alvin did not teach life to anything? Does she remember how, just one year after the wedding, she fled from her husband to the house of Manders and refused to return? Then the pastor still managed to get her out of the “exalted state” and return home, to the path of duty, to the home and the lawful spouse. Did not Chamberlain Alving behave like a real man? He multiplied the family
Frou Alving is touched by the words of the pastor for the living. Good! They can talk seriously! The pastor knows that she did not like her deceased husband: Chamberlain Alving had just bought it from her relatives. Handsome and charming, he did not stop drinking and debauched after the wedding. No wonder she ran away from him. She loved Manders, and, as it seems, he liked. And Manders is mistaken if he thinks that Alving has corrected himself – he died the same bullshit as he always was. Moreover, he introduced a flaw in his own house: she found him once on the balcony with the maid of Johanna. Alving has achieved the same. Does Manders know that their maid Regina is an illegitimate daughter of a chamberlain? For a round sum, the carpenter Engstrand agreed to cover up the sin of Johanna, although he does not know the whole truth about it – specifically for him, Johanna came up with a visiting American.
As for her son, she had to send him out of the house. When he was seven years old, he began to ask too many questions. After the story, with the maid of reign of the house, Frow Alving took over, and it was she, and not her husband, who was busy with the household! And she also made an incredible effort to hide her husband’s behavior from public, to observe external decorum.
After the confession, Frow Alving escorts him to the door. And they both hear, as they pass by the dining room, the exclamation of Regina, escaping from the embrace of Oswald. “Ghosts!” – breaks out from the Frow Alving. It seems to her that she was once again in the past and sees a couple on the balcony – chamberlain and maid Johanna.
Haunted Fru Alving calls not only “immigrants from the other world.” Ghosts, in her words, are in general “all old obsolete concepts, beliefs and the like.” They, Fru Alving believes, determined her fate, the nature and views of Pastor Manders and, finally, the enigmatic illness of Oswald. According to the diagnosis of the Parisian doctor, Oswald’s disease is hereditary, but Oswald, who practically did not know his father and who always idealized him, did not believe the doctor, he considers his frivolous adventures in Paris at the beginning of his studies as the cause of the disease. In addition, he is tormented by a constant inexplicable fear. She and her mother are sitting in the living room in the gathering twilight. A lamp is brought into the room, and Frow Alving, wanting to remove his guilt from his son, is going to tell him the whole truth about his father and Regina, which he frivolously already promised a trip to Paris. Suddenly, the conversation is interrupted by the appearance of a pastor in the living room and Regina’s cry. Not far from the house a fire! The newly built “The refuge of the name of Chamberlain Alving” is on fire.
Time is drawing to the morning. The same living room. The lamp is still on the table. Agile carpenter Engstrand in a veiled form blackmails Manders, arguing that it was him, the pastor, awkwardly taking off the candle from the candle, caused a fire. However, he should not worry, Engstrand will not tell anyone about this. But the pastor also will help him in a good endeavor – equipping the hotel in the city for seamen. The pastor agrees.
The joiner and the pastor leave, they are replaced in the living room by the Frew Alving and Oswald, who just returned from the fire, which could not be repaid. An interrupted conversation resumes. During the short night, Oswald’s mother had time to think about many things. Especially struck her one of the phrases of the son: “In their land people are taught to look at work as a curse, as a punishment for sins, but for life as a vale of sorrow, from which the sooner, the better to get rid of.” Now, telling his son the truth about his father, she does not judge her husband so strictly: his gifted and strong nature simply did not find use in their wilderness and was wasted on sensual pleasures. Oswald understands which ones. Let him know that the Regina present at their conversation is his sister. Hearing this, Regina hurriedly says goodbye and leaves them. She was about to leave when she found out that Oswald was ill. Only now does Oswald tell his mother why he asked her before, if she was ready to do anything for his sake. And why he, besides everything else, needed Regina so much. He did not fully tell his mother about the illness – he is doomed to insanity, the second fit will turn him into a senseless animal. Regina would easily give him a drink prepared in a bottle of morphine to get rid of the patient. Now he hands over the bottle to his mother.
Mother comforts Oswald. His fit has already passed, he is at home, he will recover. It is nice here. Yesterday it rained all day, but today he will see his homeland in all its real splendor, Frow Alving walks to the window and extinguishes the lamp. Let Oswald look at the rising sun and glistening mountain glaciers!
Oswald looks out the window, silently repeating “the sun, the sun,” but does not see the sun.
The mother looks at her son, clutching a bottle of morphine in her hands.