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In 1869, Ibsen abandoned writing in dramatic verse, preferring a more realistic prose form. In the same year, he wrote The League of Youth, a prose play that was a satire on small-town politics; it was a precursor to the more well known An Enemy of the People. The Pillars of Society (1877), which examines social pretensions and pride based on hypocrisy, is the first of his twelve great modern plays. It made him famous in Germany; it was also translated into English and became his first drama to be staged in London, where Ibsen stayed for a period of time. Ibsen returned to Rome in 1878 and completed A Doll's House in 1879. This play showed, for the first time on the stage, an intelligent woman leaving her husband to seek a more fulfilling life on her own; it firmly established Ibsen's international reputation and was staged in London in 1889. Ghosts, written in 1881, described the tragedy of a woman who chose to remain married to an unworthy man; the play created considerable difficulties and controversies. The booksellers returned the copies of the play to the publishers, and the theater-owners rejected producing it. The first performance of the play was in Chicago; later, it was staged in different parts of Europe. An Enemy of the People (1882) dealt with the evils of political hypocrisy and ignorant majority rule. The Wild Duck (1884) was an ironic drama about the conflict between idealism and the practical demands of everyday life. Rosmersholm (1886) was a tragedy of two lovers who unsuccessfully tried to combine moral tradition and progressive thought.
Ibsen's seventieth birthday was celebrated in 1898. A year later the National Norwegian Theater was dedicated in his honor. Ibsen then suffered a paralytic stroke in 1901. He died on May 23, 1906, at the age of seventy-eight, but his plays remained popular throughout the twentieth century.