Set on midsummer night of 1874 on the estate of a Count in Sweden, young Miss Julie (Meryl Streep), attempting to escape
an existence cramped by social mores and have a little fun, dances at the servants' annual midsummer party, where she is
drawn to a senior servant, a footman named Jean (Lee Devin), who is particularly well-traveled, well-mannered and well-read.
The action takes place in the kitchen of Miss Julie's father's manor - here Jean's fiancée, a servant named Christine (Judith
Metskas), cooks and sometimes sleeps while Jean and Miss Julie talk. The plot is primarily concerned with power in its
various forms. Miss Julie has power over Jean because she is upper-class. Jean has power over Miss Julie because he is
male and uninhibited by aristocratic values. On this night, behavior between Miss Julie and Jean rapidly escalates to a
love relationship. Over the course of the play, Miss Julie and Jean battle for control, which swings back and forth
between them until Jean convinces her that the only way to escape her predicament is to commit suicide.
Cast & Characters:
The Experimental Theatre of Vassar College
Clinton J. Atkinson
December 12 - 13, 1969
Meryl Streep (Miss Julie), Lee Dvin (Jean), Judith Metskas (Christine), Mary Ann Page (Dancers), Lise Ronning, Diana Spencer,
Sandra Kayden, Chuck Voss, Christopher Merchant, Peter McGanity, Christine Roelfs, Patricia Goldstone, Andrew Cohn, Albert
Wulff, Harry Barnes
In writing "Miss Julie" in 1888, Strindberg drew on all the advanced thinkers of the time: Darwin and the theory of evolution, Zola and the notion that the writer should function as a scientist, Charcot and the Nancy school of psychology, Ibsen and the drama that combined realism and symbolism. But the real inspiration came from his own life. He chose to regard himself as "the son of a servant" (which was only half true, since one of his parents had been a middle-class merchant), and as a young man he had fallen in love with a married woman, a baroness with aspirations as an actress. The end of the addair was different from that of Julie and Jean in his play. The baroness divorced her husband and married Strindberg. After a few years, connubial bliss gave way to bickering, scenes of jealousy, and mutual recriminations when Strindberg found himself virtually ostracized in his native Sweden for his anti-establishment satires and polemics.
In "Miss Julie", Strindberg seems to be reviewing the first years of his involvement with the woman who was to become his wife. The fearsome husband, the baron, is transformed into the count whose presence is felt throughout the play. The story of Jean and Julie is remarkably balanced, for Strindburg put much of himself in both characters, the coarse, virile valet with the slave mentality and the proud, young, aristocratic lady, obsessed with sex and disgusted with herself. Never before in the drama had class conflicht, the battle of brains, and the duel of the sexes been so skilfully blended. The play was a masterpiece, destined, as Strindberg predicted, "to be noted in the annals". Two years later, Ibsen stole a page from his young rival and created "Hedda Gabler", the second in a long line of neurotic women in which Julie is the first and Blanche du Bois in "A Streetcar Named Desire" one of the last.
Links & Research
entry on the play at the free encyclopedia
entry on August Strindberg at the free encyclopedia