What are expressionistic elements in A Dream Play by August Strindberg?

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Both in overall conception and in staging, August Strindberg ’s play resonates with Expressionist attitudes toward the representation of interior states. The structure of the play also reflects those attitudes, as Strindberg altered it to remove the traditional division into acts. It calls attention to the playwright’s challenge to social...

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Both in overall conception and in staging, August Strindberg’s play resonates with Expressionist attitudes toward the representation of interior states. The structure of the play also reflects those attitudes, as Strindberg altered it to remove the traditional division into acts. It calls attention to the playwright’s challenge to social conventions attached to creative realms. A smoothly flowing plot is replaced with episodes that jump through time, so that characters may age several years within a few minutes.

The viewer is often uncertain if the scenery and visual effects are meant to convey the material world, or if everything shown is a single dream or projection of diverse characters’ mental states. The motivations of the characters are consistent with expressionist insistence on passion and unique devotion to the inward journey of self-knowledge.

The Expressionist vision of creative exploration emphasized passion, independence, and a desire to reach beyond the superficial to the essential aspect of all things. Rather than restrict such journeys to any one faith, such as Christianity, Strindberg draws on multiple religious traditions. While Christ appears in a vision, his suffering is further represented as a general condition, with his sacrifice indicated by the aspects of several characters. This multiplicity is connected to ancient Vedic traditions through Indra’s numerous incarnations. The unreliable reality of the material world is rendered through the castle, and the limitations of mortal form symbolized by Alfred’s imprisonment within it.

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