Speculah:Madoka Magica and John Gabriel Borkman

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This article is a fan-made analysis. Please do not treat is as official material.
For other analysis and articles, see Articles. For speculations and theories, see Theories.

In Episode 4, the line "Ich will nicht arbeiten" shows up on the TV screen of the witch Elly. Translated, it means "I do not want to work." Though it may be a stretch to connect them, this line exists verbatim in a tragic play by Norwegian author Henrik Ibsen, John Gabriel Borkman.


It is somewhat plausible that Henrik Ibsen's work would be referenced in Madoka, similar to the inclusion of Goethe's Faust. Goethe was widely known for his contributions to German Literature, and is considered pivotal in the formation of the European Classicism known as Weimar Classicism, and Sturm und Drang literary movement. Ibsen, on the other hand, was very influential in founding theater Modernism, and is also referred to as the father of modern drama. Essentially, both were immensely skilled writers, and both are very well known within the realm of plays and poems.

Henrik's play in this case may refer to a very small part of Madoka; namely, it possibly foreshadows Madoka's family, and may hint at overall theme for the characters.

Summary of the Play

John Gabriel Borkman details the story of its titular character, Borkman. Borkman is a disgraced bank manager with a shattered reputation after his arrest sixteen years before for financial fraud, but believes he can make a comeback; Borkman does not believe that he committed any crime. His high-strung and sullen wife Gunhild equally plots her return to the light of society.

Gunhild's sister, Ella, arrives, and somehow a power struggle is instigated between the two women--before Borkman's marriage, both of them fought for his attention, and now, both of them struggle for possession of his son Erhart.

Erhart's Idealism

Notably, Erhart is characterized by his recklessness, naivete, and idealistic view of his life. In the play, Erhart becomes taken with the idea of happiness, without worries for the future or practicality. He says the quote seen in Madoka, "Ich bin jung, ich will nicht arbeiten, ich will leben!," of which the translation is "Yes, but I don't want to work now![...] I will not work! I will only live, live, live!" The adults have pinned their hopes for 'redemption' on Erhart's education and future, but he destroys their expectations by choosing a path of his own that disregards work and a stable future.

Events progress fairly quickly after Erhart reveals his dreamer's hopes, and in the end Borkman flees out into the cold and dies of hypothermia or a heart attack.

The focus here is on Erhart's characterization. Thematically, the play touches on issues such as idealistic expectations against harsh realities, denial of wrongdoing, the subjectivity of ethics, and ambition's contrast with hedonism.

Relation with Madoka Magica

All of these thematic elements can relate to Puella Magi Madoka Magica. However, as stated before, this play is connected in terms of theme, and not with plot. Possibly the play echoes or accentuates parts of Madoka, such as Madoka's early idealism, her mother's ambition and clear desire for work, Kyubey's morally dubious urges for the girls to become Mahou Shoujo, and the upcoming new character Kyoko's methods of defeating witches that are implied to be nonheroic in nature.