Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Two Plays by August Strindberg

August Strindberg is one of the great literary figures of Sweden and most of them love him beyond reproach. This year it’s the 100 year anniversary of his death and at the beginning of the year I was going to read all of his works, but after reading these two plays I remembered that I take issue with a lot of it, so I decided to save myself the trouble. He was, undoubtedly, a great writer, but there are so many gender issues in his work it becomes exhausting. I am not going to go into whether or not he hated women (it's been done to death), although I do find it interesting that everyone focuses on that and forgets that he was an anti-Semite and a racist.

Blah blah blah...
I should mention that I read these in Swedish and am yet to read the English translations, but I take it they're the same.

Fröken Julie/Miss Julie (2.5/5) is a sentimental tragedy about Miss Julie who has an affair with her servant Jean. There are a lot of issues and symbolism in this play, and having dissected it for school when I was 13, 16 and again this year at uni, I think I’ve had pretty much enough of these two. Strindberg deals with age, class, sex, morality and seen in the right light it is a good play, I’m just so sick and tired of it.

I’m giving it a 2.5 because they mostly talk and not much really happens, the characters are very stereotypical and the end always annoys me.

Fadren/The Father (4/5) is one of his better plays and also the most played one. It’s about a lady who, in order to be able to decide her daughter’s future, sets about to convince the doctor and priest (her brother) that her husband is insane, thus making her responsible for the child. At this time in Sweden the wife had no say concerning the children, so she resorts to saying that the daughter may not even be his. However, she then turns around to the doctor and priest and says that a proof of his insanity is that he doesn’t believe that it’s his daughter.

I’m not going to say anything else as that would be spoilery, but I really like this play because it gives us a glimpse of what Swedish society and law looked like in the late 1800s. According to the husband’s will, the wife will get nothing in the event of a divorce or if he commits suicide. He is convinced that the wife is only after his money and is using the daughter as an excuse, and I tend to agree with him; everything that she says and does points to this, and I truly felt sorry for the husband.

There’s a lot of psychology going on in both of these plays, and like I said, Strindberg was a great writer even though he wasn’t the most subtle of writers. However, there are always a lot of interesting issues in his plays that one could discuss for days – or, like in my case, year after year after year...

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