August Strindberg wrote the naturalistic tragedy Miss Julie, which is recognized as one of the playwright’s greatest, for André Antoine’s avant-garde Theatre Libre in Paris. Strindberg’s power, complexity, and originality of technique and vision have led such later writers as Eugene O’Neill to consider him the most progressive and influential playwright of his time.
Strindberg’s achievements are all the more remarkable in view of the squalor of his upbringing. Born in Stockholm into a bankrupt family, one of twelve children, Strindberg was neglected even by his own mother. After her death when he was thirteen years old, his new stepmother added harshness to neglect. This early experience developed in him a strong, lifelong dislike of conventional authority figures. In his writing this is evident in his rejection of traditional stage techniques and traditional societal beliefs and conventions.
Strindberg’s private life was equally unconventional. Each of his three marriages was characterized by an intense component of love-hate dichotomy. Strindberg was prosecuted for blasphemy upon the publication of his collection of short stories Giftas II (1886; Married, 1913). The combination of these personal and public tensions led to an unstable psychological state marked by spells of insanity and delusions of persecution. Between the years 1894 and 1896, the increasing violence of his hallucinations led to the...
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