Wednesday, February 22, 2012

August Strindberg's To Damascus

Sweden celebrates Strindberg year in 2012. The drama “To Damascus” from 1898 is a wonderful and enjoyable read as fiction. It is together with “A Dreamplay” from 1902 an attempt to capture the logic of the dream in a play. It draws extensively on Stringberg’s life and in the first public presentation in 1900 “The Lady” was played by his wife Harriet Bosse (image above).

The dramatic structure of the first part utilises a circular, palindromic form of the Medieval "station drama.” The protagonist, The Stranger, on his way to an asylum, passes through seven "stations;" having reached the asylum, he then returns to each in reverse order, before arriving at his starting-point on a street corner. Peter Szondi describes this form as a type of subjective theatre in which the classical "unity of action" is replaced with a "unity of the self":

In the "station drama," the hero, whose development is described, is separated in the clearest possible manner from the other figures he meets at the stations along his way. They appear only in terms of his encounters with them and only from his perspective. They are, thus, references to him.

This technique affects radically the way in which time operates in the drama, producing a static and episodic quality to the scenes. It belongs to what came to be known as "I-dramaturgy."
(Latter part of the text from Wikipedia.)

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