according to Wikipedia, was known as the "'father' of
modern Swedish literature." An extremely prolific writer, he was important in his time because of his innovative and experimental writing, This particular
play is in the Naturalistic style, a movement in theatre which attempted to create an illusion of reality by using three-dimensional staging, common
language of the people, and subject matter that was local and contemporary.
Much of Strindberg's material for his works were drawn from personal experience, and it is apparent that he had issues with females in his formative years, feeling bitter toward his mother and hateful toward his step-mother. Later on, he went through three failed marriages. Conflicts over gender roles appear in his plays, (see The Father), and in Miss Julie it is not only gender, but social class that provides the dramatic struggle.
Perhaps it is difficult in modern times to realize what an impact this drama made on contemporary audiences. Roles of today's women are mostly accepted as equal with men (in theory, at least), and certainly sexuality and sexual freedom for both genders is part of our present-day social behavior. Of course, while there are still difference in social classes in Western civilization, the lines are not drown between them quite as severely as they were over a century ago.
Miss Julie is the daughter of a Swedish Count. He is away, and she remains at home. Having just had her engagement broken, she is dancing and flirting with the servants on the Midsummer's Eve celebration.
The attractive and well-educated valet, Jean, is in the kitchen with Christine, the cook, who is apparently engaged to Jean, though they don't appear to be lovers, or much in love.
Christine leaves, and Miss Julie enters the kitchen, where she becomes sexually aggressive with Jean, irregardless of his relationship to Christine. Furthermore, she behaves without regard to her social rank, because the daughter of a Count should never be flirting with a servant. Jean confesses he has always loved her, and they make "plans" to run away where Jean can achieve his dream of opening an inn. But there is little sincerity on either of their parts. When other servants from the dance approach the kitchen, obviously talking about Julie and her loose ways, she and Jean retreat to her bedroom, and when they return, it is apparent that they have had sex. But now she begins to feel she has stooped as low as she can go, and desperately looks for an escape.
Strindberg provides a long preface to this play, which appears in the Dover addition, not only about the characters and motives, but about the scenery and setting, and his ideas on Naturalistic theatre, plus commentary on contemporary audiences.
Only 36 pages long, this very short play takes place from evening to morning.
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