Where Henrik Ibsen had hit his stride with realistic drama and then developed a naturalism in his later work, August Strindberg hit his stride with naturalistic drama—for example, Fadren (pr., pb. 1887; The Father, 1899) and Fröken Julie (pb. 1888; Miss Julie, 1912)—and turned, after a particularly harrowing period in his life, to expressionist drama. The turning-point period lasted from 1894 through 1897 and is detailed in his autobiographical work, Inferno (1897; English translation, 1912). During this period, which followed the divorce from his first wife in 1891 and separation from his second wife in 1894, he existed in a state marked by hallucinations, near madness, and odd pursuits, including occultism and alchemy. His unhappy marriages—he later, in fact, had a third unhappy marriage ending in divorce—contributed to the sense of incompatibility between the sexes that is much in evidence in A Dream Play.
The canon of Strindberg’s expressionist plays include one early work, Lycko-Pers resa (pr., pb. 1883; Lucky Peter’s Travels, 1912; better known as Lucky Per’s Journey), a play modeled less on expressionism than on Ibsen’s Peer Gynt (pb. 1867; English translation, 1892). The others, along with A Dream Play, are Himmelrikets nycklar (pb. 1892; The Keys of Heaven, 1965); Till Damaskus (parts 1 and 2, pb. 1898;...
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