Study Guide

A Dream Play

by August Strindberg

A Dream Play Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

A Dream Play is an expressionistic drama built on a montage of scenes following the journey of a central character. The Daughter of Indra is a goddess who comes down to earth in the form of a beautiful woman to find out why humanity is so discontent. Like Christ, she experiences the pain of being human. At first, she is hopeful that love will conquer all, but after she listens to the anguished cries of humanity, experiences the pain of family life, and discovers that reform will always be stifled by the self-righteous, she can only look upon humanity with compassion. She finally realizes that human beings are creatures who hopelessly harbor spiritual aspirations but are held down by the weight of their fleshly existence. When she ascends back into the heavens, she throws her shoes into the fire of purification as she leaves a world of never-ending conflicts and contradictions.

The play is built around the disappointments and dreams of three men: an officer, an attorney, and a poet. The officer is a high-ranking military officer and teacher. As the action of the play progresses, he changes from a youthful, effervescent, well-groomed soldier to an aging, weary, unkempt derelict as he hopelessly spends a lifetime waiting for his dream lover, the opera singer Victoria. Restless and self-pitying, he is constantly irritated by the injustice and repetitiveness of life but continues to hold on to the romantic notion that love will cure all ills. When he...

(The entire section is 540 words.)