Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Storm is one of Strindberg’s late chamber plays. Only four plays in his canon are so designated, each of which was designed to be staged at the Intimate Theater, which Strindberg and an associate founded. However, even a cursory examination of Strindberg’s work reveals that he was experimenting with theatrical intimacy from the beginning. The methods, style, and feel of the relatively early Miss Julie are remarkably similar to those of Storm.

It is generally assumed, however, that Strindberg began as a naturalist of sorts and progressed toward both expressionism—Ett drömspel (pb. 1902, pr. 1907; A Dream Play, 1912) and Spöksonaten (pb. 1907, pr. 1908; The Ghost Sonata, 1916)—and mythic-historical drama—the three Till Damaskus plays (pb. 1898, 1904; To Damascus, 1913) and Gustav Adolf (pb. 1900, pr. 1903; English translation, 1957). The work can also be divided into four distinct chronological periods that reflect varied life circumstances of the playwright.

The first period (pre-1891) includes apprenticeship pieces reflecting the influence of Henrik Ibsen and William Shakespeare. Their subject matter is largely restricted to historical concerns and the conflicts of youthful artists. From 1886 to 1892 Strindberg’s work matured considerably. He experimented with naturalism, as well as with comedies and pilgrimage plays. The third phase (1898-1903) was largely influenced by personal events in Strindberg’s life. Divorce, poverty, and bouts of madness prompted his interest in atonement and salvation; he wrote chronicle and historical plays. The final phase of Strindberg’s work is astonishingly varied and experimental. It includes expressionistic work and the four chamber plays, including Storm. Once again the thematic emphasis is on atonement and refuge from life’s miseries.

Given the breadth and variety of Strindberg’s achievement, and the fact that he was able to produce work of radically different modes and forms at virtually the same time, it is probably most productive to categorize his work by dramatic genre. Considered to be the most important of these genres are the naturalistic plays in contemporary settings, the period plays related to Swedish history, the pilgrimage plays, and the expressionistic plays. Storm is a late naturalist play in a contemporary setting, with the added distinction of being one of the four experimental chamber plays.