Saturday, April 20, 2013

On "The Dance of Death" by August Stringberg **

Here's Strindberg's extremely negative take on life and marriage. For him, it seems, marriage is full of the most intense of hates and the most intense of loves--but the play focuses almost entirely on the hate. Why stay together, if there is so much hate? Because, it seems, the characters fear worse being alone.

The play revolves around an army captain and his wife, Alice. The captain, in the first half of the play, is growing sick. A friend named Curt comes to visit. It turns out that the captain has in times past fathered Curt's children and had a relationship with Curt's wife. Alice is not allowed to talk on the phone--the captain has installed a telegraph machine, believing she won't understand it. Alice and Curt begin an affair, once the captain notes some particularly horrible things he's done or doing to both of them. Turns out the captain is lying, and then Curt regrets his fling; Alice, however, claims that the captain is lying about lying. In the end, once Curt goes off, the captain and Alice sort of reconcile.

Part two involves the captain and Alice's daughter Judith and Curt's son Allan. The latter has a crush on Judith, who plays the constant tease. Her interest, however, is in men who have higher positions in the army, one of whom the captain is to set her up with. The captain warns Curt of an impending financial disaster; Curt ignores the warning, knowing that were he to heed it, he'd be ruined. He is ruined anyway. More horrible stuff ensues until finally the captain dies, and Curt and Alice look back on his life--the life this man they've hated--with fondness (they once loved him after all). I'm okay with cynicism, but this one was even too cynical for me.

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