Born in Stockholm on January 22, 1849, Johan August Strindberg was the fourth child of twelve born to Ulrika Eleonora Norling, formerly a waitress, and Carl Oscar Strindberg, a shipping agent. Strindberg’s early life was spent in poverty, in the aftermath of his father’s bankruptcy. When he was thirteen, his mother died, and his father married a housemaid. In 1867, Strindberg entered the University of Uppsala, where he studied, intermittently, until 1872, only to leave the university without a degree. In 1869, during one of his respites from university life, he tried acting at the Royal Theater and completed an acting course at the Dramatic Academy, though with little promise of success on the stage. By the following year, Strindberg had turned to playwriting, returned to the university, and had a modest theatrical success with the production of I Rom by Runa, a local literary club. The play had been preceded by several other dramatic efforts, and its production encouraged Strindberg to begin work on Master Olof, a play about the Swedish religious reformer Olaus Petri, on which Strindberg was to work for nearly a decade. When he left the university, Strindberg worked as a journalist in Stockholm. In 1874, following a second unsuccessful attempt at acting, he took a position at the Royal Library in Stockholm, which he retained for eight years as he continued writing plays.
In 1875, Strindberg met the first of his three wives, Siri von Essen, who was married at the time to Baron Carl Gustaf Wrangel. The actress divorced her husband following an attempted suicide by Strindberg and, late in 1877, married the man who had been a frequent guest in their home. The marriage lasted until 1891, producing three children (a fourth, born two months after the wedding, did not live). During this period, Strindberg...
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