There Are Crimes and Crimes Further Critical Evaluation of the Work - Essay

August Strindberg

Further Critical Evaluation of the Work

(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES stands on a thin line between the naturalism of August Strindberg’s early works and the expressionism of his later plays. Although it lacks either the dramatic intensity and psychological complexity of the former or the poetic imagination and intellectual density of the latter, THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES shares many of the qualities of both in a most provocative manner.

The realistic side of the play resembles a typical French sexual intrigue and crime melodrama. In part stimulated by his Paris sojourn of a few years earlier, Strindberg called THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES his “boulevard play” and loosely modeled it on a contemporary potboiler, Octave Feuillet’s DALILA (1850). It contains all of the standard type characters: the honest artist (Maurice), the devoted woman (Jeanne), the femme fatale (Henriette), the faithful friend (Adolphe), the common-sense matron (Madame Catherine), and the good priest (The Abbe). The plot is also a melodramatic cliche: the innocent is lured away from his devoted lady by a designing woman; she involves him in a crime; he is charged, harassed, and finally exonerated; penitent, he returns to his first love for a happy reunion.

Thus, as an example of realism, THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES is a very thin, trite drama; but Strindberg never intended it to be judged by that criterion. What gives the play its unique interest is not its realism as such, but the way Strindberg has used a realistic context to present what is essentially a symbolic action.

When Maurice and Henriette talk about their “evil dreams” near the end of the first act, they articulate the mood and atmosphere of the play: it is like a dream which turns into a...

(The entire section is 723 words.)