Holberg, Ludvig

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Holberg, Ludvig


Born Dec. 3, 1684, in Bergen, Norway; died Jan. 28, 1754, in Copenhagen. Danish writer.

Holberg was the most prominent figure of the Enlightenment in Scandinavia. He graduated from the University of Copenhagen in 1704 and became a professor there in 1714. A Norwegian by descent, Holberg inherited the democratic traditions of the Norwegian peasantry, who had never known serfdom. He was an advocate of enlightened monarchy.

In 1719–20, Holberg published the satirical narrative poem Peder Paars (vols. 1–4) under the pseudonym of Hans Mikkel-sen, a brewer from Kalundborg; he employed motifs from this work in later writings. Drawing on the traditions established by Moliere and the commedia dell’arte, Holberg ridiculed his contemporaries who aped the French nobility (Jean de France, 1722), arrogant nobles (Don Ranudo, 1723), moneygrubbers (The 11th of July, 1723), and vainglorious warriors (Jakob von Thyboe, 1723). In the satirical play Jeppe of the Hill (1722) he portrayed a downtrodden peasant who retains his native wit. The comedy Erasmus Montanus (1723; Russian translation, 1902) has tragic undertones.

Holberg expressed aristocratic sociopolitical views in The Political Tinker (c. 1722; Russian translation, 1830). However, his comedies and the work of the Danish Theater, which he founded in 1722, were repressed by reactionary Danish circles. The theater was closed in 1730 and did not reopen until 1748. Holberg wrote historical and philosophical works, including History of the Kingdom of Denmark (vols. 1–3, 1732–35; Russian translation parts 1–2, 1765–66). His Nils Klim’s Journey Under the Ground (1741; written in Latin; Russian translation, 1762) was a sociopolitical satire of contemporary Europe.

Holberg had imitators in many European countries. He was well known in Russia, where his fables were translated by D. I. Fonvizin. His plays, which remain fundamental works in the classical repertoire of Danish and Norwegian theaters, had a considerable influence on the development of realist literature in Scandinavia.


Samleder skrifter, vols. 1–17. Copenhagen, 1913–40.
In Russian translation:
Komedii. Introductory article by A. Gozenpud. Leningrad-Moscow, 1957.


Brandes, G. “L. Gol’berg.” Sobr. soch., 2nd ed., vol. 3, part 3. St. Petersburg, 1906.
Gozenpud, A. “Datskii teatr.” In Istoriia zapadnoevropeiskogo teatra, vol. 4. Moscow, 1964.
Mortensen, K. L. Holberg. Copenhagen, 1925.
Brix, H. Holbergs komedier. Copenhagen, 1942.
TopsRe-Jensen, H. H. C. Andersen og Holberg. Copenhagen, 1956.
Olrik, H. G. L. Holberg—undersRgelser og kroniker. Copenhagen, 1959.
Ehrencron-Müller, H. Bibliografi over Holbergs skrifter, vols. 1–3. Copenhagen, 1933–35.
Ludvig Khol’berg: Biobibliograficheslii ukazatel’. Moscow, 1970.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.