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Reviews 181 Nevertheless, this collection of essays is well worth reading, if for nothing else than as a casebook on The Tempest. Also, each essay works towards a fresh interpretation of its play. There are many new ideas that could be fruitfully brought into the classroom because the essays are usually concerned with theme and larger ideas rather than the nasty little pedantic points that scholars too often pursue. Even Powlick’s essay, which I thought was the most wrong-headed (except for Frank’s), was stimulating because of its original point of view. Thus the essays as a whole reflect the broad interest of Crow’s humanistic approach to the plays—none of the essays treat trivia. The book demonstrates the permanent influence a great teacher can have on the critical approaches and attitudes of his students. STEPHANIE DEMETRAKOPOULOS Western Michigan University August Strindberg. Dramas of Testimony. Trans, and intro, by Walter Johnson. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1975. Pp. vi + 329. $12.50. “Strindberg was the precursor of all the modernity in our present theatre,” wrote Eugene O’Neill. And he is right. Strindberg’s plays express the pain, conflict, and evil plaguing modern man. They make us privy to the dichotomy existing between the ideal world, for which contemporary man yearns, and the workaday domain of which he is part. Like Pascal, Strindberg experienced chaos within his soul; and like the seventeenthcentury philosopher, he longed to assuage his agony through some transcendental healing force. Strindberg’s theater is carved out of his very substance: it enacts a psychological dismemberment (the destruction of self and of others). Humiliation, sin, guilt, and sacrifice are the pro­ tagonists. An inner inferno is molded into dramatic form through sharp, bone-hard dialogue accompanied at times with raw and haunting images. Strindberg’s corrosive personal experience is fleshed out in each of his plays: the individual event taking on collective power; the mortal becoming immortal. The fact that his mother had been a servant, bar­ maid, housekeeper, that he had lived his youth in poverty, that he had been deprived of love and affection because of the number of children in the household, mortified him. His vision of life grew distorted and morbid. His marriages were equally unhappy. His jealousy of his first wife, Siri von Essen, whom he accused of having male and female lovers, became so obsessive that after fourteen years of distrust it ended in divorce (1891). The Father and Miss Julie were in part concretizations of his passionate hatreds. His second marriage to Frida Uhl, an Austrian journalist, terminated at a time when Strindberg was going through his most harrowing mental crises. His third marriage to Harriet Bosse (twenty-two years old) also ended in divorce (1904). Walter Johnson’s translations and introductions to Strindberg’s Dramas of Testimony (The Dance of Death I and 11, Advent, Easter, 182 Comparative Drama There are Crimes and Crimes) are excellent. His discussion of theatrical conventions, however, are at times wanting. When he writes of Strind­ berg’s use of “new dramatic techniques” he neglects to tell the reader what these are and how they manifest themselves in the plays under consideration. Also lacking are definitions of certain phrases: “highly Strindbergian,” when used in such sentences as “the transformation of medieval dramatic ideas and devices into techniques that became highly Strindbergian,” the reader—unless well versed in the theater—will fail to understand the ramifications involved. Strindberg’s fascination with the Middle Ages is implicit in all of the Dramas of Testimony, as Johnson explains. The Medieval “Dance of Death,” known in French as the “Dance Macabre,” is an allegorical representation of all human classes from the Pope to beggar as they join in a fantastic dance in which Death is the leader. Strindberg’s death syn­ drome is not physical, however, but spiritual and psychological. It is symptomatic of an inner corrosion which occurs to the man who becomes alienated from society and from himself—a situation felt most acutely by O’Neill and modern man in general. A victim of his own frustrations, Strindberg experienced a need to hurt and be hurt, to possess others and to reject them...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 181-183
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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