August Strindberg Biography

(Father of Modern Swedish Literature)

Birthday: January 22, 1849 (Aquarius)

Born In: Stockholm, Sweden

Johan August Strindberg was a Swedish playwright and often referred to as the ‘Father of modern Swedish literature’. Though he is reputed for his plays outside Sweden, nationally he is equally recognised as a poet, painter, essayist and novelist. His contribution as a writer in a career span of around four decades include more than thirty works of friction, sixty plays, historical works, autobiographies, political writings and cultural analysis. He experimented and delved into vast spectrum of dramatic techniques including melodramatic, tragic, historical, surrealist and naturalistic styles. His real breakthrough in theatres came in 1881 with ‘Master Olof’, his first prominent play that was premiered at the ‘New Theatre’. A new composite form of Expressionist drama evolved in European field of drama with his experimental fusion of Naturalism with psychology. For some time in the 1890s he stayed abroad and got hooked with occult science. After suffering from bouts of psychotic attacks leading to hospitalisation, he came back to Sweden. Later upon his recovery he was fascinated by the views of Emanuel Swedenborg and made up his mind to become "the Zola of the Occult". He got back to playwriting in 1898. Some of his noted plays like ‘The Father’ (1887), ‘Miss Julie’ (1888), ‘A Dream Play’ (1902), and ‘The Ghost Sonata’ (1907) are performed till date.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Johan August Strindberg

Died At Age: 63


Spouse/Ex-: Siri von Essen (1877–91) Frida Uhl

father: Carl Oscar Strindberg

mother: Eleonora Ulrika Norling

Born Country: Sweden

Poets Novelists

Died on: May 14, 1912

place of death: Stockholm, Sweden

Diseases & Disabilities: Pneumonia

Cause of Death: Stomach Cancer

City: Stockholm, Sweden

More Facts

education: Uppsala University

Childhood & Early Life
He was born on January 22, 1849, in Stockholm, Sweden to Carl Oscar Strindberg and Eleonora Ulrika Norling. His father was a shipping agent while his mother was a waitress.
He faced a challenging childhood with poverty, emotional insecurity, neglect and religious fanaticism of his grandmother which finds place in his autobiography ‘Tjänstekvinnans son’.
In his childhood he was an enthusiast of photography, religion and natural science.
His family was on the move, first to Norrtullsgatan, then near Sabbatsberg and after three years back to Norrtullsgatan. His spell at a school in Klara was crude, memory of which disturbed him even during adulthood.
In 1860 he studied in a school in Jakob for a year and thereafter joined a private middle-class progressive school for boys where he studied for six years.
When he was around thirteen years of age his mother died and soon after his father married Emilia Charlotta Pettersson, the governess of the children.
In May 1867 he completed his graduation and on September 13 he joined the ‘Uppsala University’. While studying intermittently in the university and preparing for exam he endeavoured into non-academic activities and also worked in Stockholm in varied jobs including freelance journalist.
He served as pharmacy assistant in Lund, as substitute primary teacher and as private teacher.
He served as a school teacher after leaving Uppsala in 1868 and later joined the ‘Institute of Technology’ in Stockholm to study chemistry to prepare for medical studies. During this period he also worked as an extra at Stockholm’s ‘Royal Theatre’. After he failed to qualify in chemistry exam in May 1869, his inclination towards academics went down.
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In January 1870 he revisited ‘Uppsala University’ to learn modern languages and aesthetics.
He was the co-founder of a small scholarly club, the ‘Rune Society’. As other members, Strindberg also used pseudonym adopted from runes of age-old ‘Teutonic’ alphabet. His pseudonym was ‘Frö’ meaning ‘Seed’.
One of his early plays that was premiered by ‘Royal Theatre’ on September 13, 1870 was a comedy theatre piece about Bertel Thorvaldsen called ‘In Rome’ that he completed writing on March 30. Although it garnered favourable reviews, he was disappointed after watching the show.
He was influenced by the writings of Georg Brandes and Søren Kierkegaard. Encouraged by Shakespearean style, he started using more realistic and colloquial dialogues instead of the conventional ones.
On October 16, 1871 his one-act play ‘The Outlaw’, that he re-wrote as a prose from the historical tragedy ‘Sven the Sacrificer’, was premiered at the ‘Royal Theatre’. The play caught attention of King Charles XV, who aided Strindberg with a grant of 200 riksdaler.
During late 1871 he penned down the first draft of his play ‘Master Olof’ based on Olaus Petri. After being rejected by the ‘Royal Theatre’ in September 1872, it went through a number of rewrites.
He went back to the ‘Uppsala University’ to complete his final term but dropped out on March 2, 1872 before completing his graduation.
From December 1874 he served the ‘Royal Library’ for eight years as an assistant librarian. This time he approached director Edvard Stjernström of ‘New Theatre’ for his play ‘Master Olof’ but met with rejection again.
He penned down a compilation of short stories ‘Town and Gown’ in 1877 where he made contemptuous fun of Uppsala and the professors there.
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He was declared bankrupt on January 9, 1879 and in November that year his novel ‘The Red Room’, a satire of the Stockholm society that is often been considered as first modern novel of Sweden, was published. Though it garnered mixed reviews in his own country, it was highly appreciated in Denmark and earned him fame across Scandinavia.
On May 3, 1880, after a gap of nine years his historical drama ‘The Secret of the Guild’ was premiered in the ‘Royal Theatre’, where his the then wife Siri played Margaretha.
At the behest of Edvard Brandes he penned down articles for the Copenhagen daily newspaper, ‘Morgenbladet’ in 1881 and in April he started writing on a series ‘The Swedish People’ based on historical culture of natives since ninth century.
On December 30 1881 he finally got his breakthrough when ‘Master Olaf’ was premiered at ‘New Theatre’ under its new artistic director, Ludvig Josephson. The play directed by August Lindberg received positive response.
In 1882 he penned down ‘The New Kingdom’, a compilation of short stories.
His major success however came with ‘Lucky Peter's Journey’, a fairy tale play that was premiered on December 22, 1883.
During the 1880s he moved to different places with his family including Grez-sur-Loing, Paris, Switzerland, Denmark and Germany.
He faced trial in Sweden with charges of blasphemy for his 1884 short stories collection, ‘Getting Married’ where he portrayed women in an equitable platform.
Many of his notable works were produced in the late 1880s including naturalistic plays like ‘The Father’ (1887) and ‘Miss Julie’ (1888). His four part autobiographical ‘The Son of a Servant’ and ‘The Confession of a Fool’ (a narrative of his married life with Siri von Essen) were also penned down during this time.
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Many of his works including ‘On Psychic Murder’ (1887) and ‘’The Stronger’ (1889) reflects psychological theories and power struggles.
His writings ‘Creditors’ (1889), ‘Pariah’ (1889), ‘By the Open Sea’ (1890) and ‘The Defence of a Fool’ (1893) reflects influence of philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche.
‘The Father’ that became quite a success was premiered at Copenhagen’s ‘Casino Theatre’ on November 14, 1887.
In 1888 he set up the ‘Scandinavian Experimental Theatre’ in Copenhagen but it was short-lived.
He published an essay ‘On Modern Drama and the Modern Theatre’, in 1889 that conveyed his disconnect from naturalism which he opinionated as insignificant and banal reality.
He went into a phase of “Inferno crisis” which was marked with religious and psychological catastrophe and experiments with occult science, a period that was embodied with paranoia and visions. After suffering from bouts of psychotic attacks leading to hospitalisation, he came back to Sweden.
Some of his works during the 1890s are ‘Facing Death’, ‘The Keys of Heaven’, ‘Motherly Love’ and ‘Debit and Credit’ in 1892 and ‘The First Warning’ and ‘Playing with Fire’ in 1893.
His later works include the ‘Vasa Triology’ (1899) encompassing ‘The Saga of the Folkungs’, ‘Gustavus Vasa’ and ‘Erik XIV’.
His works during 1900s include ‘Days of Loneliness’ (1903), ‘The Gothic Rooms’ (1904), ‘The Roofing Ceremony’ (1907), ‘The Last of the Knights’ (1908) and ‘Earl Birger of Bjalbo’ (1909).
In November 1906 his play ‘Miss Julie’ was premiered at ‘The People’s Theatre’. He applied the theory of ‘survival of the fittest’ by Charles Darwin in this play.
In 1907 he established ‘The Intimate Theatre’ with the view of exclusively showcasing his plays and outlined a set of rules to be followed. ‘The Pelican’, a chamber play was the first play performed in the theatre that became a hit. However in 1910 the theatre became bankrupt and was closed in 1912 after his death.
Personal Life & Legacy
From 1877 to 1891 he was married to Siri von Essen with whom he had three children, daughters Karin (February 26, 1880) and Greta (June 9, 1881) and son Hans (April 3, 1884).
He was married to Frida Uhl from 1893 to 1895 and they had a daughter Krestin.
From 1901 to 1904 he was married with Harriet Bosse and had a daughter Anne-Marie.
He had a pneumonic attack in late 1911 and also suffered from stomach cancer. On May 14, 1912 he died and was buried in Stockholm’s Norra begravningsplatsen.
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