Master Olof : a Drama in Five Acts
111 Pages

Master Olof : a Drama in Five Acts


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Published 08 December 2010
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Language English
The Project Gutenberg EBook of Master Olof, by August Strindberg This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at Title: Master Olof A Drama in Five Acts Author: August Strindberg Release Date: August 7, 2009 [EBook #7363] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK MASTER OLOF *** Produced by Nicole Apostola, and David Widger MASTER OLOF A DRAMA IN FIVE ACTS By August Strindberg Contents INTRODUCTION MASTER OLOF ACT I ACT II ACT III ACT IV ACT V INTRODUCTION The original prose version of Master Olof, which is here presented for the first time in English form, was written between June 8 and August 8, 1872, while Strindberg, then only twenty-three years old, was living with two friends on one of the numerous little islands that lie between Stockholm and the open sea. Up to that time he had produced half-a-dozen plays, one of which had been performed at the Royal Theatre of Stockholm and had won him the good-will and financial support of King Carl XV. Thus he had been able to return to the University of Upsala, whence he had been driven a year earlier by poverty as well as by spiritual revolt. During his second term of study at the old university Strindberg wrote some plays that he subsequently destroyed. In the same period he not only conceived the idea later developed in Master Olof, but he also acquired the historical data underlying the play and actually began to put it into dialogue. During that same winter of 1871-72 he read extensively, although his reading probably had slight reference to the university curriculum. The two works that seem to have taken the lion's share of his attention were Goethe's youthful drama Goetz von Berlichingen and Buckle's History of Civilization in England. Both impressed him deeply, and both became in his mind logically connected with an external event which, perhaps, had touched his supersensitive soul more keenly than anything else: an event concerning which he says in the third volume of The Bondwoman's Son, that "he had just discovered that the men of the Paris Commune merely put into action what Buckle preached." Such were the main influences at work on his mind when, early in 1872, his royal protector died, and Strindberg found himself once more dependent on his own resources. To continue at the university was out of the question, and he seems to have taken his final departure from it without the least feeling of regret. Unwise as he may have been in other respects, he was wise enough to realize that, whatever his goal, the road to it must be of his own making. Returning to Stockholm, he groped around for a while as he had done a year earlier, what he even tried to eke out a living as the editor of a trade journal. Yet the seeds sown within him during the previous winter were sprouting. An irresistible impulse urged him to continue the work of Buckle. History and philosophy were the ultimate ends tempting his mind, but first of all he was impelled to express himself in terms of concrete life, and the way had been shown him by Goethe. Moved by Goethe's example, he felt himself obliged to break through the stifling forms of classical drama. "No verse, no eloquence, no unity of place," was the resolution he formulated straightway. [Note: See again The Bondwoman's Son, vol. iii: In the Red Room.] Having armed himself with a liberal supply of writing-paper, he joined his two friends in the little island of Kymmendö. Of money he had so little that, but for the generosity of one of his friends, he would have had to leave the island in the autumn without settling the small debt he owed for board and lodging. Yet those months were happy indeed—above all because he felt himself moved by an inspiration more authentic than he had ever before experienced. Thus page was added to page, and act to act, until at last, in the surprisingly brief time of two months, the whole play was ready —mighty in bulk and spirit, as became the true firstling of a young Titan. Strindberg had first meant to name his play "What Is Truth?" For a while he did call it "The Renegade," but in the end he thought both titles smacked too much of tendency and decided instead, with reasoned conventionalism, to use the title of Master Olof after its central figure, the Luther of Sweden. From a dramatic point of view it would have been hard to pick a more promising period than the one he had chosen as a setting for his play. The early reign of Gustaf Vasa, the founder of modern Sweden, was marked by three parallel conflicts of equal intensity and interest: between Swedish and Danish nationalism; between Catholicism and Protestantism; and, finally, between feudalism and a monarchism based more or less on the consent of the governed. Its background was the long struggle for independent national existence in which the country had become involved by its voluntary federation with Denmark and Norway about the end of the fourteenth century. That Struggle—made necessary by the insistence of one sovereign after another on regarding Sweden as a Danish province rather than as an autonomous part of a united Scandinavia—had reached a sort of climax, a final moment of utter blackness just before the dawn, when, at Stockholm in 1520, the Danish king, known ever afterward as Christian the Tyrant, commanded the arbitrary execution of about eighty of Sweden's most representative men. Until within a few months of that event, named by the horror-stricken people "the blood-bath of Stockholm," the young Gustaf Eriksson Vasa had been a prisoner in Denmark, sent there as a hostage of Swedish loyalty. Having obtained his freedom by flight, he made his way to the inland province of Dalecarlia, where most of the previous movements on behalf of national liberty had originated, and having cleared the country of foreign invaders, chiefly by the help of an aroused peasantry that had never known the yoke of serfdom, he was elected king at a Riksdag held in the little city of Strängnäs, not far from Stockholm, in 1523. Strängnäs was a cathedral city and had for several years previous been notorious for the Lutheran leanings of its clergy. After the death of its bishop as one of the victims of King; Christian,