Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Miss Julia: A Naturalistic Tragedy
by [?]

TRANSLATED WITH INTRODUCTIONS BY EDWIN BJOeRKMAN

INTRODUCTION

The volume containing the translation of “There Are Crimes and Crimes” had barely reached the public when word came across the ocean that August Strindberg had ended his long fight with life. His family had long suspected some serious organic trouble. Early in the year, when lie had just recovered from an illness of temporary character, their worst fears became confirmed. An examination disclosed a case of cancer in the stomach, and the disease progressed so rapidly that soon all hope of recovery was out of the question. On May 14, 1912, Strindberg died.

With his death peace came in more senses than one. All the fear and hatred which he had incurred by what was best as well as worst in him seemed to be laid at rest with his own worn-out body. The love and the admiration which he had son in far greater measure were granted unchecked expression. His burial, otherwise as simple as he himself had prescribed, was a truly national event. At the grave of the arch-rebel appeared a royal prince as official representative of the reigning house, the entire cabinet, and numerous members of the Riksdag. Thousands of men and women representing the best of Sweden’s intellectual and artistic life went to the cemetery, though the hour of the funeral was eight o’clock in the morning. It was an event in which the masses and the classes shared a common sorrow, the standards of student organizations mingling with the banners of labour unions. And not only the capital, but the whole country, observed the day as one of mourning.

A thought frequently recurring in the comment passed on Strindberg’s death by the European press was that, in some mysterious manner, he, more than any other writer, appeared to be the incarnation of the past century, with its nervous striving after truth, its fear of being duped, and its fretting dread that evolution and progress might prove antagonistic terms. And at that simple grave in Stockholm more than one bareheaded spectator must have heard the gravel rattle on the coffin-lid with a feeling that not only a great individual, but a whole human period–great in spite of all its weaknesses–was being laid away for ever.

Among more than half a hundred plays produced by Strindberg during his lifetime, none has won such widespread attention as “Miss Julia,” both on account of its masterful construction and its gripping theme. Whether liking or disliking it, critics have repeatedly compared it with Ibsen’s “Ghosts,” and not always to the advantage of the latter work. It represents, first of all, its author’s most determined and most daring endeavour to win the modern stage for Naturalism. If he failed in this effort, it must be recalled to his honour that he was among the first to proclaim his own failure and to advocate the seeking of new paths. When the work was still hot from his hands, however, he believed in it with all the fervour of which his spirit was capable, and to bring home its lesson the more forcibly, he added a preface, a sort of dramatic creed, explaining just what he had tried to do, and why. This preface, which has become hardly less famous than the play itself, is here, as I believe, for the first time rendered into English. The acuteness and exhaustiveness of its analysis serves not only to make it a psychological document of rare value, but also to save me much of the comment which without it might be deemed needful.

Years later, while engaged in conducting a theatre for the exclusive performance of his own plays at Stockholm, Strindberg formulated a new dramatic creed–that of his mystical period, in which he was wont to sign himself “the author of ‘Gustavus Vasa,’ ‘The Dream Play,’ ‘The Last Knight,’ etc.” It took the form of a pamphlet entitled “A Memorandum to the Members of the Intimate Theatre from the Stage Director” (Stockholm, 1908). There he gave the following data concerning “Miss Julia,” and the movement which that play helped to start: