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Miss Julie


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AT: Lady/Countess Julie/Julia A: August Strindberg Pf: 1889, Copenhagen Pb: 1888 Tr: 1912 G: Trag. in 1 act; Swedish prose S: The kitchen of a count's home, Norway, Midsummer's Eve, 1880s C: 1m, 2f, extrasThe Count's valet Jean gossips with his fiancée, the kitchen maid Kristin, about the Count's daughter Miss Julie. Having recently broken off her engagement, she is now behaving wildly at the servants' dance in the barn. She drags Jean off for another dance with him. They return to the kitchen, and, when Kristin falls asleep eventually retiring to bed, Julie flirts outrageously with Jean, who confesses that he used to yearn for her. The dancers approach the kitchen, and Jean hides with Julie in his room. When the dancers retire, it is clear that Jean and Julie have had sex, and his subservient attitude changes. He demands that she run away with him and that they open a hotel in Switzerland together. Though full of remorse, she obeys Jean and steals her father's money. Only when Jean insists that she cannot take her little bird with her and kills it, does she lose self-control, declaring her hatred of all men. Emerging from her room, Kristin is disgusted at their behaviour, haughtily refuses their invitation to leave with them, and goes to church. Unexpectedly, the Count summons Jean to clean his boots, and he becomes the dutiful servant once more. Julie begs him to order her to kill herself. He gives her a razor, and she goes out to commit suicide.

AT: Lady/Countess Julie/Julia A: August Strindberg Pf: 1889, Copenhagen Pb: 1888 Tr: 1912 G: Trag. in 1 act; Swedish prose S: The kitchen of a count's home, Norway, Midsummer's Eve, 1880s C: 1m, 2f, extras

Miss Julie (Fröken implies higher status than that contained in ‘Miss’, hence the alternative titles of Lady or Countess Julie) is the best known of Strindberg's plays. It stands as a model of naturalist drama, set in one realistic location, and with stage time coinciding with real time. In his Introduction to the play, Strindberg insisted on the need for theatre to create rounded characters speaking everyday language in place of conventional stock types uttering neatly polished phrases. He urged his performers to imitate real life by daring to turn their backs on the audience and to make up their faces naturally. For us the main interest of the piece is now in the sexual tension between Jean and Julie, and in the way in which their respective status changes. Although coloured by Strindberg's fear of the growing power of women and his view that destructive man-haters like Julie are commonplace, the play still offers an intense experience in performance.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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August Strindberg (1849—1912) Swedish dramatist and novelist


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