The play is based on an incident that Ibsen recorded from an earlier period in his life, the attempted suicide of an army officer who had been accused of embezzlement. The Borkman family fortunes have been brought low by the imprisonment of John Gabriel who used his position as a bank manager to illegally speculate with his investors' money. The action of the play takes place eight years after Borkman's release when John Gabriel Borkman, Mrs. Borkman, and her twin sister Ella Rentheim battle over the future of young Erhart Borkman. Though John Gabriel Borkman continues the line of naturalism and social commentary that marks Ibsen's middle period, the final act suggests a new phase for the playwright, a phase brought to fruition in his final more symbolic work When We Dead Awaken. Excerpted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.