The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Storm begins on a warm evening in late summer in a quiet, residential district of Stockholm. The set consists of the facade of a large apartment building called “The Silent House” by its tenants, who make it their business to avoid one another. Karl Fredrik attempts to solicit information from Starck about his brother, the Gentleman, who, along with Starck, has lived in the building for ten years. Starck is evasive in answering Karl Fredrik, noting only that new tenants have moved in.

The Gentleman comes to the window of his apartment to greet Karl Fredrik. Fond memories bind him to the Silent House, and he feels calm and serene and wants only peace in his old age. He believes that loneliness is the price that one must pay for freedom. The conversation shifts to Louise, the Gentleman’s young domestic. Karl Fredrik wonders if perhaps his brother is interested in her, but the Gentleman claims to be too old for that sort of thing. He does not want another “boss” to rule him in his home, his first marriage having failed. Karl Fredrik informs him that Gerda, the Gentleman’s former wife, has slandered him. The Gentleman explains that he was fifty-five years old when he married the relatively young Gerda; he had promised to set her free when his advancing age became too burdensome, and he believes that his abandonment of her saved rather than destroyed his honor. For five years he has suffered, missing the wife and child he loved.

A disheveled Gerda suddenly rushes out of the Silent House. The audience learns that the new tenants are Gerda, her daughter Anne-Charlotte, and her new husband Fischer. She has run out because Fischer struck her; Karl Fredrik pledges his help. Gerda wants to know if the Gentleman, now offstage, hates her, and Karl Fredrik assures her that his brother seems to subsist on fond memories. Karl Fredrik asks Gerda why she dishonored his brother with slanderous rumors—Karl himself having believed these rumors and defended...

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Dramatic Devices

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

In Öppna brev till Intima Teatern (1911-1912; Open Letters to the Intimate Theater, 1959), Strindberg articulated aesthetic principles which, he hoped, would inform a new, intimate, and more natural drama. He employed these principles in his chamber plays with the ultimate aim of transferring the virtues of chamber music to drama. Strindberg was particularly interested in “intimate action,” the “highly significant motif,” avoidance of “frivolity” and “calculated effort,” and dynamic interaction among all characters.

Storm, the second chamber play, well illustrates Strindberg’s modus operandi. In place of a well-developed, linear and narrative plot, the playwright explores the “highly significant motif” of human loneliness through a field of interrelationships rather than through a star protagonist to whom all other characters defer. The Gentleman only seems more important than other characters because he has more lines and echoes Strindberg’s point of view. Frivolity and calculated effort are also avoided—every line of dialogue, every nuance and metaphor, contribute to the unfolding of the meaning of the play.

The mode of Storm is the same lyrical naturalism that characterizes Fröken Julie (pb. 1888; Miss Julie, 1912) and other early plays. Naturalism is an inaccurate term for Strindberg’s work, which, even at its most realistic, relies upon symbolism and, to a...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Sources for Further Study

Adler, Stella. Stella Adler on Ibsen, Strindberg, and Chekhov. New York: Knopf, 1999.

Carlson, Harry G. Out of the Inferno: Strindberg’s Reawakening as an Artist. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996.

Johnson, Walter. August Strindberg. Boston: Twayne, 1978.

Johnson, Walter. Introduction to Stormy Weather. In A Dream Play and Four Chamber Plays. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1973.

Lagercrantz, Olof. August Strindberg. Translated by Anselm Hollo. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1983.

Robinson, Michael, ed. and trans. Strindberg and Genre. Chester Springs, Pa.: Dufour-Novik, 1991.

Sprigge, Elizabeth. The Strange Life of August Strindberg. New York: Macmillan, 1949.

Sprinchorn, Evert. Strindberg as Dramatist. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1982.

Steene, Birgitta. The Greatest Fire: A Study of August Strindberg. 2d rev. ed. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1982.