This essay will be focusing on three texts written over a three year period: Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler (1890) and August Strindberg’s The Father (1887) and Miss Julie (1888) . In approaching this topic, I have decided it best to confine my study to these three plays rather than attempt an overview of either playwright’s canon. I intend to focus on the relevance of the father in these plays, specifically analysing how the role of fatherhood is explored. Furthermore, instead of trying to take into account every possible reference to ‘family’, I will be limiting my focus to what I regard as the three central family relationships in these plays: Miss Julie and her father; Hedda and General Gabler; and finally, the Captain and his daughter Bertha. Though other characters will obviously be relevant in this study, it is the dramatic significance of these three relationships that I will be studying closely.
Both playwrights present families as institutions prone to major tensions. While Strindberg chooses to place family firmly in the context of an instinctive psychological war between the sexes where the protagonists are rendered almost helpless, Ibsen stresses how the accumulation of psychological, social and environmental factors all contribute but not necessarily determine the outcome of the play. Strindberg’s characters seem trapped in a natural pattern of motivations from which they cannot extricate themselves, and the audience are made aware that the characters onstage are in some sense archetypes, illustrating a central point about life’s absurd struggle. By contrast, Ibsen’s work is deliberately produced to emphasise that the circumstances portrayed, though... [continues]
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