Gunhild and John Gabriel Borkman occupy a large estate, owned by her twin sister Ella who was Borkman's first love. Husband and wife have not spoken to each other in the eight years since he's been released from prison for embezzlement. Neither have they had any contact with sister Ella, who Borkman threw over to please a man in a position to advance his career. Ella remains unaffected by the fraud that ruined many others. That's why she took charge of her sister and brother-in-law's child Erhart and paid for their house and its upkeep. As the play opens, she has returned to claim Erhart (currently living in the same house as mum and dad) as her namesake and heir before she dies from an unnamed fatal disease. Naturally, she also wants a chance to tell Borkman how by killing love he has killed what's best in himself and her. The only outsider to break up the various confrontations, is the vivacious and worldly wise Mrs. Fanny Wilton. Her nearby house has clearly been an escape from the somber Borkman household for young Erhart and as soon as she enters the stage it's obvious that she's a stronger contender for his devotion than either Gunhild or Ella.
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