Towards Total Theatre: ‘A Dream Play’

  • Margery Morgan
Part of the Macmillan Modern Dramatists book series (MD)


Strindberg acknowledged Maeterlinck’s influence on his peasant play, The Crown Bride, and on A Dream Play. In a third work, Swanwhite, he created an example of the same genre as Maeterlinck’s The Blue Bird and its sequel, The Betrothal, but antedating them. This was one of his most popular plays, a fairytale piece, half-intended for children, like the earlier Lucky Peter’s Travels and The Keys of the Kingdom. Unlike the realistically framed Blue Bird, it is not technically a dream play, but is set entirely in a fairytale palace (for which young Knut Ström designed a charming art nouveau set). Its young lovers are hardly more than children; indeed it is the resolution of the relationship between Swanwhite and the mother image, split between stepmother and guardian angel, which has to be achieved before her love of the Prince can be fulfilled. The elegance of the play’s structure and stagecraft goes far to guard against sentimentality. ‘Eros is not the main theme’, explained Strindberg to Anna Flygare, who was to play Swanwhite, ‘the symbolism relates to Caritas, the great love which suffers everything, forgives, hopes, and believes, however much it is betrayed.


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Notes and References

  1. 4.
    Ingmar Bergman’s Malmö production is described by Henrik Sjögren, Stage and Society in Sweden (Stockholm: The Swedish Institute, 1979), pp. 48–9.Google Scholar
  2. Eric Bentley, In Search of Theatre (New York: Atheneumed., 1975), pp. 139–43, reprinted in Strindberg, ed. Reinert, pp. 102–4, praises highly Berthold Viertel’s Vienna production of The Crown Bride. Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    See Raymond Jarvi, ‘Ett drömspel: a symphony for the stage’, Scandinavian Studies XLIV (1972), pp. 28–42, andGoogle Scholar
  4. R. B. Vowles, ‘Strindberg and Beethoven’ in Växelverken mellan skönlitteraturen och andra konstarter, ed. G. Svanfeldt (Uppsala: Student Service, 1967), pp. 163–82.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Margery Morgan 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margery Morgan
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LancasterUK

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