August Strindberg wrote A Dream Play in 1901. The play sought to break from the past aiming to find its own unique niche. While most former plays had a cast of well-developed characters, A Dream Play lacks such characters. The play’s characters are many and fascinating as well. This paper seeks to critically analyze the literal work with the aim of bringing out a clear understanding of the themes.
In the short foreword of the play, August Strindberg acquaints the readers with the setting and characters found in the play. He says that the characters possess the ability to take any form or number whatsoever. This is entertained by their nature of multiplying, evaporating, splitting, condensing, dispersing as well as assembling. This is exceedingly intriguing.
The nature of these characters is due to the existentialistic nature of life that August Strindberg led for a better part of his life. August Strindberg struggled much in his marital life. The Swedish playwright had an unhappy childhood devoid of parental love. This was as a result of his mother’s death at a remarkably tender age in his life and the rejection by his father. As if this was not enough, August Strindberg tried his hand in marital life with dismal failure – he married and divorced equally. Because of his unjust life, August ended up narrating these frustrations in most of his works, particularly in A Dream Play.
A Dream Play, as a mythological masterpiece penned in 1902, highlights pertinent life issues such as life, family values, joys, and sorrows. I t survives in this by interrogating philosophical reflections, religious views, the mid and late 19th century defining values (Churchill, Strindberg and Group.).
The play is seen in movements, expeditions, and adventures of Agnes, the daughter of Indra. From Venus, Agnes in an attempt to remain loyal to the directives of his father sets out to explore the cause of humanity. Agnes is to identify whether the sorrows, litanies and lamentations of people are justifiable and whether they are genuinely founded on firm grounds.
Agnes’ visit has to end with a report to Indra. Does this happen? What is the report? These are the question s that will guide this argument further. According to psychologists, dreams happen by their sheer intermittent nature. They are not continuous. They are constructive as well as destructive in the same capacity. Characters in dreams are capable of dying and resurrecting without hurdles. They can choose to suffer or to victimize. In short, life of dreams is the one that is truly empty. It is devoid of reality and can never be taken seriously although it can be used to unearth some underlying issues. August Strindberg understands this. To him, life is an illusion similar to the world of dreams. There will always be someone on the earth undergoing suffering as there will be a person talking off the suffering. Sad people, August believes, must exist in the midst of happy persons.
It is inevitable to escape ill fate no matter how a person attempts to deny it or ran away from it. This, August believes, is a good indicator that life is extremely unfair if not meaningless. This is what puzzles Agnes in her quest for the absolute truth. Increase in Agnes’ contact with the dilapidated souls of the people escalates her pessimistic perception on her mission. She finally opts to be confident that the plight of humanity is not only unknowable but inescapable. This is evidenced by the characters’ ability of mutating, metamorphosing and hibernating mysteriously.
In this play, which interrogates the authenticity of life itself as religion asserts, a sad tone has dominated the play. The narrating voice chooses not to condemn or praise. Life has condemned itself.