A Dream Play Characters
A Dream Play by August Strindberg is an expressionistic rather than realistic drama. This means that the characters often lack individual names and act symbolically as character types used to illustrate emotions, ideas, and spiritual realities rather than imitate ordinary people. The play has many minor characters, each illustrating a human type or situation. Some of the most important are discussed below:
Indra: Although the god Indra is not present on stage, he is important within the drama as the father of Agnes and as a symbol and concept. Within Hinduism and Buddhism, Indra is a sky god, somewhat like the Greek Zeus, associated with weather and the heavens. In Indian sacred literature, he has two daughters.
Daughter of Indra: This daughter of Indra, incarnated as a human woman Agnes, is the protagonist of the play. In her human form, the Daughter interacts with humans and shares their passions and suffering, functioning almost as a Christ-like figure, a divine being who lives and suffers in mortal form. Her experience leads her to compassion for human suffering. The other characters in the play are ones she encounters in her sojourn as a human and are, in a sense, part of her dream of mortal life from which she awakens at the end of the play as she returns to Heaven.
The Officer represents the romantic belief in the saving power of love. He is an idealist who believes that love will provide a solution to how to be happy in a world in which injustice and suffering are common. He becomes disillusioned over the course of the play.
The Lawyer: Axel, who marries Agnes, is a figure who also represents the goodness of humanity. Although himself a victim of injustice, he attempts to protect the poor and powerless and has a strong sense of duty.
The Poet: This character represents literature as human striving towards the spiritual. Although aware of the often flawed nature of the world and its inhabitants, the Poet believes in the possibility of redemption and sees suffering as having a spiritual purpose rather than simply being pointless misery.
The Deans: The four Deans in this play represent the futility of a certain type of human knowledge and pride. Petty and arrogant, they are blind to spiritual truths.
Daughter of Indra
Daughter of Indra, incarnated as Agnes, a goddess who comes down to Earth in the form of a beautiful woman to find out why humanity is so discontented. 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 always will be stifled by the self-righteous, she can look on humanity only 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 Officer, Alfred, a high-ranking military officer and teacher. As the action of the play telescopes in time, 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 rescues the Daughter of Indra (Agnes) from the drudgery of domestic life and takes her to Fairhaven, a romantic paradise, he lands in Foulstrand, where he witnesses the everlasting misery of the human condition. In his constant failure to find true love, he represents disillusioned romanticism.
The Attorney, Axel, a lawyer. Through his dealings with the crimes and viciousness of humanity, he has acquired a pale, haggard, and discolored face, along with...
(The entire section is 1,211 words.)