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August Strindberg's The Father
Henrik Ibsen may have attracted one section of the English people and established himself as the greatest dramatic poet, forging a kind of drama that strikes the reader with its profound hortatory undertones, but it is August Strindberg that has enjoyed considerable adulation for his expressionistic and palpably ironic plays, with the avant-garde characters and their existential problems measuring their strength against each other. In his sixty-three years from 1849 to 1912, he was the author of more than fifty plays, as well as short stories, poems, novels, and an autobiography. In short, he was a prolific writer. Nevertheless, it was on his plays that all his fame rests. These plays fall into well-defined categories: (1) Early Work; (2) Children’s Plays—which he fell back on in his happy moments; (3) Realistic Plays-which took a stab at the drab and stuffy theatrical conventions of his day, and to which belong two well-known plays, The Father and Miss Julia; (4) the Historical Cycle—in which he sought solace after a period of turmoil, trying to escape into the past; (5) the Mystical Plays—which he wrote later in his life, when he found relief and comfort in religion; and (6) his ‘Chamber Plays’—written for his Strindberg Theatre in Stockholm. The Father was written in a painful period of his life, when his marriage with Siri Von Essen had almost dissolved. One could contend that much of the torment of this period permeates the play; to my mind, a great deal of this torment was, to put it mildly, a figment of his fecund imagination. No doubt, the acrimonious marriage depicted in The Father has some bearing on Strindberg’s own married life with Siri, but the evil and petulant Laura is not to be taken as a portrait of his vivacious, albeit empty-headed, wife. On another note, fatherhood, one of Captain’s obsessions, was one of the predicaments that Strindberg himself often faced. His persecution complex led him to...
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