August Strindberg

August Strindberg

August Strindberg

August Strindberg


Dramatist, theatre practitioner, novelist, and painter, August Strindberg's diverse dramatic output embodied the modernist sensibility. He was above all one of the most radical innovators of Western theatre.

This book provides an insightful assessment of Strindberg's vital contribution to the dramatic arts, while placing his creative process and experimental approach within a wider cultural context. Eszter Szalczer explores Strindberg's re-definition of drama as a fluid, constantly evolving form that profoundly influenced playwriting and theatrical production from the German Expressionists to the Theatre of the Absurd. Key productions of Strindberg's plays are analysed, examining his theatre as a living voice that continues to challenge audiences, critics, and even the most innovative directors.

August Strindberg provides an essential and accessible guide to the playwright's work and illustrates the influence of his drama on our understanding of contemporary theatre.


While there are a great number of Strindberg biographies and a massive body of Strindberg criticism incorporating a biographical approach to Strindberg’s work, Strindberg ‘the person’ still remains an elusive figure and many factual details of his life are still disputed. There have been contradicting reports, for example, of the author’s mental health throughout his life, the circumstances of his childhood, his relationship to his mother, and the ups and downs of his various marriages. Thus, for instance, symptoms of insanity described in Strindberg’s autobiographical novels, A Madman’s Defence (1887–88) and Inferno (1897), convinced several critics of the author’s actual mental illness (see Brandell 1974: 66–97 and Jaspers 1977), while at least one biographer, Jan Myrdal, considers them as signs of normal, though most often repressed, reactions of an average person, and maintains that Strindberg exposes typical Swedish male attitudes and experiences still relevant at the end of the twentieth century (Myrdal 2000: 12–18, 72–82).

Another representative approach is that which demands adherence to factual truth from the autobiographical works. In his book exploring the author’s psychological evolution as reflected in his writings, Torsten Eklund, for example, notes that facts of Strindberg’s first marriage are clearly falsified in A Madman’s Defence (Eklund 1948: 195). Some thirty years later Michael Meyer, who contends in his biography that Strindberg’s autobiographies illustrate ‘his unreliability as a witness’ (Meyer 1985: 27), prefers to use his letters, diaries, and the testimonies of his contemporaries. But . . .

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