Ill, No. IT, july-Sep. Dramaten , Stockholm: Prisma, The illustrations have been made possible thanks to a generous grant from the Swedish Institute in Stockholm.
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Although Strindberg wrote some seventy dramatic pieces, he is best known outside his native Sweden for a small number of plays that represent the range of his achievement. The pre-Inferno plays are naturalistic in form and are insistently concerned with sexual and class struggles bringing to the philosophy of naturalism a psychological realism that validates his characters as among the most excitingly credible in modern drama.
These plays are important especially for the ways in which they extend the boundaries of dramatic form, introducing expressionism and Symbolism into the mainstream of world drama. The resulting complexity of character allowed Strindberg to approach with renewed intensity the two conflicts that for him both personally and artistically were never resolved.
In that play, as in a number of others that followed, Strindberg dramatizes a major concern of his life and work: the eternal power struggle between men and women.
Laura stands as a prototypical Strindbergian woman: immensely powerful and in control yet perhaps not so by design. A concurrent struggle in Miss Julie, which is a second preoccupation of Strindberg, is that between the classes. Julie may be seduced to her death by Jean, but she reestablishes class honor, whereas the intimidated servant reverts to subservience.
In those years, the playwright turned to mysticism and allegory, as in the Damascus trilogy. During this period, he also devoted considerable attention to Swedish history, dramatizing the lives of its people and several of its kings in such plays as The Saga of the Folkungs, Gustav Vasa, Gustav Adolf, and Carl XII.
In both A Dream Play and The Ghost Sonata, his two most successful efforts, the playwright violates the laws of causality and logic, creating a fluid and subjective sequence of events that is dominated by the vision of an implied dreamer. In A Dream Play, the Daughter of Indra visits Earth and both observes and participates in the activities of those she encounters.
In The Ghost Sonata, a young student passes through several rooms in a symbolic house en route to an encounter with a symbolic hyacinth girl. In The Ghost Sonata, a similar pessimism prevails but is redeemed in that play by a final tone of reconciliation. The Father Strindberg once remarked that he did not know whether The Father was an invention or a reflection of his own life.
The sexual power struggle that takes place between husband and wife when the two disagree on the future of their daughter, Bertha, forms the dramatic center of the play. Her goal is to have the Captain certified insane so that he loses his legal claim to their daughter. Her method is psychological torment: Only she, not he, can know whether Bertha is his natural child.
Made suspicious by her suggestion, the Captain becomes obsessed with the need to know, devising biological, experiential, and literary tests to affirm his paternity, only to be driven to madness by the impossibility of knowing.
My own child! Yet the play—and she herself— question how conscious her manipulations have been. Allusions throughout the play to Omphale and to other women in classical literature suggest that for Strindberg, Laura represents a prototypical evil, a curiously innocent power that is uniquely and naturally feminine.
Laura achieves control less by design than by instinct. In a letter to Friedrich Nietzsche , Strindberg reported the reaction to the production of his play: One woman died, another miscarried, and most of the audience ran from the theater, bellowing.
The battle, however, is a social conflict as well, and, in a dramatic suicide-seduction scene, Julie regains her social honor, leaving Jean to tremble at the return of her father, the count. Despite persistent climbing, however, he never arrives at the first branch, much less the top. When Jean was younger, he once found himself in a compromising position.
Since that time, he has been symbolically cleansing himself of the dirt and excrement that characterize his servile status, hoping to become proprietor of a Swiss hotel and, eventually, a Rumanian count.
She is on top of a pillar, longing to descend to the ground, but she does not have the courage to jump. Just as Julie had flaunted her superiority before the sexual act, Jean flaunts his now, ruthlessly abusing the younger woman by refusing to be tender and by calling her a whore. Julie reappears in traveling clothes, a smudge of dirt on her face, her pet bird in hand.
Asserting his masculine strength, Jean refuses to let Julie take the bird along, decapitating it as Julie expresses a brutal death wish for the entire male sex. Recovering from the fantasy that allowed her hope, she urges Jean to seduce her into killing herself.
Similarly, Miss Julie, as the dramatic representation of that theory, and as an emotionally and intellectually engaging play as well, has become an acknowledged masterpiece of world drama. Though seemingly random, spontaneous, and formless, the action of the play is carefully contrived to re-create the unconscious and reveal inner truth. A Dream Play has a cast of thirty-nine, as well as a sizable number of walk-on performers.
Its central character is the supernatural Daughter of Indra, who visits Earth both as an observer and as a participant. As emissary of her father, she is to report back to him on whether human complaint is justified; as a result of her sojourn, she concludes that humankind is to be pitied. Roses in hand, the officer awaits Miss Victoria, who never appears.
In the alley, there is a locked door with a cloverleaf cutout that presumably shields the mysteries of life, but a court order is needed to open it. The office is transformed into a church, where a commencement ceremony, presided over by four deans of the faculties, is in progress. When the lawyer steps forward to receive his laurels, he receives only a crown of thorns.
Unable to understand the cries for mercy that surround the lawyer or the tears dropping to the pavement, the Daughter of Indra offers to marry the lawyer to test the redemptive power of love, marriage, and home. Yet in the next scene, she is a poor, tired housewife, cooking over a hot stove while the baby screams. Announcing that he now has his degree, the lawyer offers to take his wife to Fairhaven, where the world is more pleasant. By mistake, however, they wind up in Foulstrand, a contemporary inferno, to be greeted by the Quarantine Master and an assortment of miserable people.
A dragon boat arrives with newlyweds at the helm, but the blissful couple kill themselves. At Fairhaven, strains of a Johann Sebastian Bach toccata and a waltz conflict to ruin the dance, while at a Mediterranean resort, two men shovel coal in the heat, complaining of their misfortune. Though much time has passed since her descent to Earth, a telescoping now takes place that transports the Daughter of Indra back to the opera house and the cloverleaf stage door.
She listens as the deans of the faculties quarrel over whether it should be opened, then watches as it swings ajar to reveal nothing. The Daughter of Indra returns to the Growing Castle that had appeared on her descent and prepares to return to the ethereal world. The Daughter of Indra departs, leaving behind the poet, the one visionary capable of articulating the coexistence of misery and joy that is the story of humankind.
Influenced by Indian religion and Oriental philosophy, Strindberg envisions the world in this play as a mirage, caught in the eternal conflict between spirit and form. The dominant consciousness in the play is a student named Arkenholz, who progresses through the symbolic episodes of the dream until he acquires understanding, at which point the dream ends through his awakening.
While he is in the dream, Arkenholz is poet-seeker, possessing exceptional acuity of perception. He is limited, however, by an equally powerful, ambivalently evil old man named Hummel, who guides Arkenholz into a house in which strange and symbolic characters reside.
In the deepest room of the house is the Hyacinth Girl, the vision of beauty and love that the student cannot resist. The Hyacinth Girl turns out to be an emaciated woman, drained of her strength by a vampire cook who boils the nourishment out of the meat, but the student is awed by her beauty.
When she hears that Arkenholz wants to marry her, the Hyacinth Girl reveals the secrets of the house, transforming his vision of innocence and beauty into a lamentation, then a plea for redemption.
As the student begins to awaken from his dream, he speaks of what he has learned, reconciling the woe that he has discovered and the innocence in which he had believed. Strindberg claimed that writing the play was a painful experience, that he hardly knew himself what he had written, but that he felt in it the sublime.
Bibliography Carlson, Harry Gilbert. Seattle: University ofWashington Press, Somerset, N. Marker, Frederick J. Buffalo, N. Martinus, Eivor. Strindberg and Love. Robinson, Michael. Studies in Strindberg. Norwich: Norvik Press, Robinson, Michael, and Sven Hakon Rossel, eds. Vienna: Edition Praesens, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press,
The Ghost Sonata
Although Strindberg wrote some seventy dramatic pieces, he is best known outside his native Sweden for a small number of plays that represent the range of his achievement. The pre-Inferno plays are naturalistic in form and are insistently concerned with sexual and class struggles bringing to the philosophy of naturalism a psychological realism that validates his characters as among the most excitingly credible in modern drama. These plays are important especially for the ways in which they extend the boundaries of dramatic form, introducing expressionism and Symbolism into the mainstream of world drama. The resulting complexity of character allowed Strindberg to approach with renewed intensity the two conflicts that for him both personally and artistically were never resolved. In that play, as in a number of others that followed, Strindberg dramatizes a major concern of his life and work: the eternal power struggle between men and women. Laura stands as a prototypical Strindbergian woman: immensely powerful and in control yet perhaps not so by design.
To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them. Occasionally the digitization process introduces transcription errors or other problems; we are continuing to work to improve these archived versions. The drama, one of four chamber plays written by the author in , is a phantasmagoric coda to a death-obsessed career. The setting for the C. The facade of the ominous house is in the background. As the evening begins, a milkmaid moves a cup toward the surface of a mirror on the ground. Like so much else in the evening, the milkmaid is an apparition.
THEATER: STRINDBERG'S 'GHOST SONATA'
Buy Study Guide The play begins with a Student entering the stage, which depicts a street outside the fancy townhouse of a Colonel. The Student approaches a water fountain and asks the Milkmaid standing nearby for a cup of water. He has had a sleepless night, after acting heroically the previous night at the site of a collapsing house in town. Nearby, the Old Man, Jacob Hummel, tells the Student he has been reading of his heroics in the newspaper.