Drama: From Ibsen to Eliot

By Raymond Williams | Go to book overview

2
August Strindberg

(i)

" IBSEN," said Bjornson, "is not a man, but a pen." This unfortunate condition is not, of course, without its advantages. It serves at least to protect an artist from his biographers.

The velvet-coated Strindberg, his eyes fixed in "the diabolic expression", his hands burned by the crucibles of his experiments in alchemy; the rages, the passions, the renunciations; the series Siri von Essen, Harriet Bosse, Frieda Ulm; the pose at the window of the Blue Room in Stockholm above the triumphal torchlight procession; these phenomena, confronting us from scores of perfervid, illustrated pages, suggest irresistibly the advantages of being remembered as a mere pen. "Nobody would ever have heard of a Lawrence who was not an artist," wrote Mr. Aldous Huxley, criticising a similar beginning in hagiography. It is, after all, the pen for which we remember Strindberg.

Everyone who knows Strindberg knows that he drew directly on his personal experience in his writing. The biography can readily be used to gloss, but not to explain or judge, the literature. It is time to say, after fifteen wild Decembers, that criticism requires a different discipline. The present essay will be concerned solely with Strindberg as dramatist, and limitation of space is not pleaded as an apology.


(ii)

Strindberg, in a writing life of nearly forty years, wrote almost sixty plays, as well as more than thirty works of fiction, autobiography, politics, and history. By any serious standard this is a very prolific output indeed, and it is understandable that most of us, in England, know only a part of it.

Mention of Strindberg, to the average theatregoer, usually brings as narrowly defined a response as does mention of Ibsen.

-98-

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Drama: From Ibsen to Eliot
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 11
  • Part I 39
  • I - Henrik Ibsen 41
  • 2 - August Strindberg 98
  • 3 - Anton Chekhov 126
  • 4 - Bernard Shaw 138
  • 5 - J. M. Synge 154
  • 6- Two Social Plays 175
  • 7 - Luigi Pirandello 185
  • 8 - Jean Anouilh: a Comment 196
  • Part II 203
  • I - W. B. Yeats 205
  • 2 - T. S. Eliot 223
  • 3 - Some Verse Dramatists 247
  • 4 - Criticism into Drama 269
  • Index 279
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