August Strindberg

August Strindberg Biography

Playwright (1849–1912)
Swedish writer August Strindberg is considered a master of early modern century drama for his daringly realistic plays like Miss Julie, The Father and The Dance of Death.


Writer August Strindberg was born on January 22, 1849, in Stockholm, Sweden. After an unfinished university education and brief careers as a journalist and librarian, he began writing naturalistic, often satirical fiction and dramas that would earn him recognition as one of Sweden's most important modern authors. Strindberg's plays Miss Julie and The Father, and his later, more mystical dramas A Dream Playand The Ghost Sonata, are still performed today. He died in Stockholm on May 14, 1912.


Early Life and Career

Johan August Strindberg was born in Stockholm, Sweden, on January 22, 1849. His father, Carl Oskar Strindberg, was a shipping merchant. His mother, Ulrika Eleanora (née Norling) Strindberg, was a former maidservant; she died in 1862, when Strindberg was a boy.

Strindberg attended the University of Uppsala in Uppsala, Sweden, studying religion and medicine. However, he left the university without graduating. To earn a living, he worked as a journalist in Stockholm. He also began writing fiction, and his historical drama Master Olof was published in 1872.

In 1874, Strindberg began working as a librarian at Stockholm's Royal Library, and in 1877 he married the divorced baroness and aspiring actress Siri von Essen. In 1879 he published his first novel, The Red Room, a satire of Swedish society; it was a success.

Literary Masterworks of the 1880s

Strindberg left the Royal Library in 1881 and continued to write scathing portrayals of contemporary Sweden, exposing what he perceived as the hypocrisies within class conflict, modern marriage and religion. He published a volume of short stories titled The New Kingdom in 1883 and some of his most important plays in the following years, including The Father (1887), a tragedy about a troubled family, and Miss Julie (1888), the psychological drama of an erotic liaison between a well-born young woman and her footman. In his work of this decade, Strindberg became known for the conversational dialogue of his plays, his harshly realistic plots and his antiestablishment sentiments. In 1884 he was put on trial for blasphemy in Stockholm but was acquitted.

During these years, Strindberg traveled extensively with his family, leaving Sweden and living in France, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark. His marriage to Siri von Essen (who played the title role in the first performances of Miss Julie) was unsettled and would end in 1891. After a brief return to Sweden in 1889, he again traveled to Germany, France and beyond. In 1893 he married an Austrian journalist named Frida Uhl, whom he would divorce a year later.

Crisis and Renewal in the 1890s and 1900s

For much of the 1890s, Strindberg struggled to write. He became interested in the Symbolist movement of the visual arts and was associated with such artists as Edvard Munch in Berlin and Paul Gauguin in Paris. He also immersed himself in alchemy and the occult and experienced a religious conversion, which he described in his autobiographical Inferno.

In 1899, Strindberg returned to Sweden, where he remained for the rest of his life. Recovering somewhat from his mental and emotional anguish, he began to write dramas based on events in Swedish history. After 1900 he worked in a new, more lyrical style that strove to convey emotional experience. His major late works included the plays The Dance of Death and The Dream Play; the former was a meditation on the war between the sexes and the latter attempted to evoke an actual dream through its disjointed structure and symbolic characters. The Ghost Sonata, written in 1907, was a "chamber play" with fantastic plot elements and themes of good and evil enacted by supernatural beings.

Later Life

Strindberg married his third wife, the actress Harriet Bosse, in 1901. He and Bosse had a daughter in 1902, before they parted ways in 1903; Strindberg was already a father to three children with van Essen and one with Uhl.

Strindberg lived the last few years of his life in a house in Stockholm called "The Blue Tower." At the time of his death, on May 14, 1912, he was hailed as a leading cultural figure and one of Sweden's greatest authors at the time of his death.

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