Ghosts was written in 1881 and first staged in 1882. As a commentary on 19th century morality, the play was performed privately at the Royalty Theatre, London, so avoiding censorship by the Lord Chamberlain's office.
Helen Alving discovers shortly after her marriage that her husband is a drunkard and a philanderer. She attempts to save her son, Oswald, from the influence of his father by sending him away. However, when her husband finally dies and Oswald returns, she finds that her son has inherited his father's tendencies; he has contracted syphilis and has fallen in love with the maid, an illegitimate daughter of her late husband and therefore Oswald's own half-sister.