Naturalism in Miss Julie Essay
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Naturalism in Miss Julie
Writers involved in the naturalist movement believed that actors' lines should be spoken naturally, and that mechanical movements, vocal effects, and irrational gestures should be banished. A return to reality was proposed, with the old theatrical attitudes replaced with effects produced solely by the voice. There was a call to individualise characters, instead of generalising them, to produce characters whose minds and bodies would function as they would in real life. Strindberg's 'Miss Julie' has been said to be an excellent example of this movement, as it involves stress on multiple motivation of action; a departure from the stereotypical depictions of character; and random, illogical…show more content…
There is also the bluntly overt exchange of lines such as, 'Beast!' 'Menial! Lackey!' 'Menial's whore, lackey's harlot!' It has been proposed that this retreat to the characteristics of old theatricality is perhaps only redeemed in the last minutes, when the stage action becomes solemnly symbolic. The end of the relationship is represented by the decapitation of Julie's songbird; the sudden ring of the Count's bell introduces a character that has been silent throughout, present only in spirit. Jean places a razor in Julie's hand, and she walks out to her death in silence, as if in a hypnotic trance. Her death is not as melodramatic or theatrical as her previous behaviour, so this goes some way to compensate for earlier lapses.
Strindberg expressed an aversion to dividing his play into acts, as he believed that, "the declining capacity for illusion is possibly affected by intervals, which give spectators the time to reflect and thereby withdraw from the suggestive influence of the author hypnotist." His theory centres on the assumption that by eliminating intervals, which act as breaks from the action, continuity would improve, thereby increasing the intense nature of the plays action and creating a claustrophobic environment. In order not to break the illusion, he also wanted to be rid of any musicians that the audience could see, and would not
August Strindberg was born in 1849 to an unhappy family of ten in Stockholm, Sweden. His father was a shipping merchant and his mother a former servant, and Strindberg later attributed much of the family's strife to the social differences between them. Bitter sibling rivalry, the death of Strindberg's mother in 1851, and Mr. Strindberg's immediate remarriage to the housekeeper did little to improve the situation. As a youth, August Strindberg held a variety of odd jobs, briefly attended the University of Uppsala. He worked as an actor, journalist, and librarian at the Royal Library while pursuing his writing career. Though his first literary success, Red Room (1879), was a novel, Strindberg is primarily remembered as a chief founder of the modern prose play.
Miss Julie (1888) remains Strindberg's most famous work. In the history of drama, it is primarily canonized for its stylistic innovations. Its preface serves as a classic manifesto of late-nineteenth century naturalism. In defining the new naturalist theater, Strindberg makes two major demands of contemporary playwrights. First, he demands that they adhere to an unflinching realism, whether in content (for example the explicit references to menstruation, blasphemy, lust, and bodily functions in Miss Julie); staging (the elimination of footlights and makeup); and time (Miss Julie, for example, takes place over a single, compressed, and unbroken ninety-minute episode). Strindberg also demands that the naturalist playwright strive toward a new conception of character. Eschewing the one-dimensional stock figure of the melodrama, the playwright must people his stage with full, lively beings. Characters must not be collections of idiosyncrasies and catch phrases coupled with simple motivations. Instead, the playwright must craft a psychology, a "soul". Strindberg is also venerated as a progenitor of the expressionist theater, though he did explicitly theorize about expressionism as he did about naturalism. Expressionist devices are present throughout Miss Julie and Strindberg's other works. Key examples include continual allusions to mystical forces, the use of symbology and ritualized dance, the backdrop of the pagan festival, and the construction of an absent, shadowy, and yet precipitating center of authority in the figure of the Count.
Censored for its shocking content, Miss Julie revolves around a familiar Strindbergian encounter: a quasi-Darwinian struggle across sex and class lines. Strindberg scholars believe that a short story by Zola, "The Sin of Father Mouret," served as direct inspiration for the play. Zola's tale tells of a priest who abandons his order to take up with a virgin but returns to the cloth upon being "caught in the act" by a fellow clergyman. Grief-stricken, the maiden commits suicide by suffocating herself in a bed of rose petals. There is also some evidence that Strindberg intended the play as a warning to the first of his three unfortunate wives, the Baronness Siri von Essen. When confronted with the suggestion that the play is a warning to his wife, Strindberg reportedly answered that he could hardly be sure enough to deny it.
Strindberg was an infamous misogynist, and he intended to portray Miss Julie as a monster. One can trace the genealogy of his hatred for women in some of his early works, such as Getting Married (1884), which earned him a charge of blasphemy, and The Cloister (1886), a grim portrait of his second marriage. Strindberg's misogyny was central to the many psychotic episodes he suffered throughout the 1890s, episodes that put a stop to his dramatic production altogether. In 1898, however, Strindberg took up his pen anew, writing 36 plays in the following decade. In 1907, he began experimenting with what he called an "intimate theater" based on the structures of chamber music, turning from the conventional figure of the protagonist in favor of a small and more balanced group of characters to direct his plays. The following year, Strindberg retired to his house, the famous "Blue Tower," where he lived until his death in 1912.