Jeff Wirth, Editor
The mortal conflict of the sexes, traced here by Strindberg in the clash between an aristocratic young woman and her valet. Plays for Performance Series.
Jeff Wirth, Editor
"Direct, accessible and strangely contemporary, [this adaptation of] Miss Julie is a blast of dramatic fresh air which retains its provocative power."
Halifax Chronicle Herald
Read an Excerpt
By August Strindberg, Philip Smith
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1992 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
A large kitchen: the ceiling and the side walls are hidden by draperies and hangings. The rear wall runs diagonally across the stage, from the left side and away from the spectators. On this wall, to the left, there are two shelves full of utensils made of copper, iron, and tin. The shelves are trimmed with scalloped paper.
A little to the right may be seen three-fourths of the big arched doorway leading to the outside. It has double glass doors, through which are seen a fountain with a cupid, lilac shrubs in bloom, and the tops of some Lombardy poplars.
On the left side of the stage is seen the corner of a big cook-stove built of glazed bricks; also a part of the smoke-hood above it.
From the right protrudes one end of the servants' dining-table of white pine, with a few chairs about it.
The stove is dressed with bundled branches of birch. Twigs of juniper are scattered on the floor.
On the table end stands a big japanese spice pot full of lilac blossoms.
An icebox, a kitchen-table, and a wash-stand.
Above the door hangs a big old-fashioned bell on a steel spring, and the mouthpiece of a speaking-tube appears at the left of the door.
CHRISTINE is standing by the stove, frying something in a pan. She has on a dress of light-coloured cotton, which she has covered up with a big kitchen apron.
JEAN enters, dressed in livery and carrying a pair of big, spurred riding-boots, which he places on the floor in such a manner that they remain visible to the spectators.
JEAN. To-night Miss Julie is crazy again; absolutely crazy.
CHRISTINE. So you're back again?
JEAN. I took the count to the station, and when I came back by the barn, I went in and had a dance, and there I saw the young lady leading the dance with the gamekeeper. But when she caught sight of me, she rushed right up to me and asked me to dance the ladies' waltz with her. And ever since she's been waltzing like—well, I never saw the like of it. She's crazy!
CHRISTINE. And has always been, but never the way it's been this last fortnight, since her engagement was broken.
JEAN. Well, what kind of a story was that anyhow? He's a fine fellow, isn't he, although he isn't rich? Ugh, but they're so full of notions. [Sits down at the end of the table] It's peculiar anyhow, that a young lady—hm!—would rather stay at home with the servants—don't you think?—than go with her father to their relatives!
CHRISTINE. Oh, I guess she feels sort of embarrassed by that rumpus with her fellow.
JEAN. Quite likely. But there was some backbone to that man just the same. Do you know how it happened, Christine? I saw it, although I didn't care to let on.
CHRISTINE. No, did you?
JEAN. Sure, I did. They were in the stable-yard one evening, and the young lady was training him, as she called it. Do you know what that meant? She made him leap over her horse-whip the way you teach a dog to jump. Twice he jumped and got a cut each time. The third time he took the whip out of her hand and broke it into a thousand bits. And then he got out.
CHRISTINE. So that's the way it happened! You don't say!
JEAN. Yes, that's how that thing happened. Well, Christine, what have you got that's tasty?
CHRISTINE. [Serves from the pan and puts the plate before Jean] Oh, just some kidney which I cut out of the veal roast.
JEAN. [Smelling the food] Fine! That's my great délice. [Feeling the plate] But you might have warmed the plate.
CHRISTINE. Well, if you ain't harder to please than the count himself!
[Pulls his hair playfully.
JEAN. [Irritated] Don't pull my hair! You know how sensitive I am.
CHRISTINE. Well, well, it was nothing but a love pull, you know.
CHRISTINE opens a bottle of beer.
JEAN. Beer—on Midsummer Eve? No, thank you! Then I have something better myself. [Opens a table-drawer and takes out a bottle of claret with yellow cap] Yellow seal, mind you! Give me a glass—and you use those with stems when you drink it pure.
CHRISTINE. [Returns to the stove and puts a small pan on the fire] Heaven preserve her that gets you for a husband, Mr. Finicky!
JEAN. Oh, rot! You'd be glad enough to get a smart fellow like me. And I guess it hasn't hurt you that they call me your beau. [Tasting the wine] Good! Pretty good! Just a tiny bit too cold. [He warms the glass with his hands] We got this at Dijon. It cost us four francs per litre, not counting the bottle. And there was the duty besides. What is it you're cooking—with that infernal smell?
CHRISTINE. Oh, it's some deviltry the young lady is going to give Diana.
JEAN. You should choose your words with more care, Christine. But why should you be cooking for a bitch on a holiday eve like this? Is she sick?
CHRISTINE. Ye-es, she is sick. She's been running around with the gatekeeper's pug—and now there's trouble—and the young lady just won't hear of it.
JEAN. The young lady is too stuck up in some ways and not proud enough in others—just as was the countess while she lived. She was most at home in the kitchen and among the cows, but she would never drive with only one horse. She wore her cuffs till they were dirty, but she had to have cuff buttons with a coronet on them. And speaking of the young lady, she doesn't take proper care of herself and her person. I might even say that she's lacking in refinement. Just now, when she was dancing in the barn, she pulled the gamekeeper away from Anna and asked him herself to come and dance with her. We wouldn't act in that way. But that's just how it is: when upper-class people want to demean themselves, then they grow—mean! But she's splendid! Magnificent! Oh, such shoulders! And—and so on!
CHRISTINE. Oh, well, don't brag too much! I've heard Clara talking, who tends to her dressing.
JEAN. Pooh, Clara! You're always jealous of each other. I, who have been out riding with her—And then the way she dances!
CHRISTINE. Say, Jean, won't you dance with me when I'm done?
JEAN. Of course I will.
CHRISTINE. Do you promise?
JEAN. Promise? When I say so, I'll do it. Well, here's thanks for the good food. It tasted fine!
[Puts the cork back into the bottle.
JULIE. [Appears in the doorway, speaking to somebody on the outside] I'll be back in a minute. You go right on in the meantime.
JEAN slips the bottle into the table-drawer and rises respectfully.
JULIE. [Enters and goes over to CHRISTINE by the wash-stand] Well, is it done yet?
CHRISTINE signs to her that JEAN is present.
JEAN. [Gallantly] The ladies are having secrets, I believe.
JULIE. [Strikes him in the face with her handkerchief] That's for you, Mr. Pry!
JEAN. Oh, what a delicious odor that violet has!
JULIE. [With coquetry] Impudent! So you know something about perfumes also? And know pretty well how to dance—Now don't peep! Go away!
JEAN. [With polite impudence] Is it some kind of witches' broth the ladies are cooking on Midsummer Eve—something to tell fortunes by and bring out the lucky star in which one's future love is seen?
JULIE. [Sharply] If you can see that, you'll have good eyes, indeed! [To CHRISTINE] Put it in a pint bottle and cork it well. Come and dance a schottische with me now, Jean.
JEAN. [Hesitatingly] I don't want to be impolite, but I had promised to dance with Christine this time
JULIE. Well, she can get somebody else—can't you, Christine? Won't you let me borrow Jean from you?
CHRISTINE. That isn't for me to say. When Miss Julie is so gracious, it isn't for him to say no. You just go along, and be thankful for the honour, too!
JEAN. Frankly speaking, but not wishing to offend in any way, I cannot help wondering if its wise for Miss Julie to dance twice in succession with the same partner, especially as the people here are not slow in throwing out hints——
JULIE. [Flaring up] What is that? What kind of hints? What do you mean?
JEAN. [Submissively] As you don't want to understand, I have to speak more plainly. It don't look well to prefer one servant to all the rest who are expecting to be honoured in the same unusual way——
JULIE. Prefer! What ideas! I'm surprised! I, the mistress of the house, deign to honour this dance with my presence, and when it so happens that I actually want to dance, I want to dance with one who knows how to lead, so that I am not made ridiculous.
JEAN. As you command, Miss Julie! I am at your service!
JULIE. [Softened] Don't take it as a command. To-night we should enjoy ourselves as a lot of happy people, and all rank should be forgotten. Now give me your arm. Don't be afraid, Christine! I'll return your beau to you!
JEAN offers his arm to MISS JULIE and leads her out.
* * *
Must be acted as if the actress were really alone in the place. When necessary she turns her back to the public. She should not look in the direction of the spectators, and she should not hurry as if fearful that they might become impatient.
CHRISTINE is alone. A schottische tune played on a violin is heard faintly in the distance.
While humming the tune, CHRISTINE clears off the table after JEAN, washes the plate at the kitchen table, wipes it, and puts it away in a cupboard.
Then she takes off her apron, pulls out a small mirror from one of the table-drawers and leans it against the flower jar on the table; lights a tallow candle and heats a hairpin, which she uses to curl her front hair.
Then she goes to the door and stands there listening. Returns to the table. Discovers the handkerchief which MISS JULIE has left behind, picks it up, and smells it, spreads it out absent-mindedly and begins to stretch it, smooth it, fold it up, and so forth.
* * *
JEAN. [Enters alone] Crazy, that's what she is! The way she dances! And the people stand behind the doors and grin at her. What do you think of it, Christine?
CHRISTINE. Oh, she has her time now, and then she is always a little queer like that. But are you going to dance with me now?
JEAN. You are not mad at me because I disappointed you?
CHRISTINE. No!—Not for a little thing like that, you know! And also, I know my place
JEAN. [Putting his arm around her waist] You are a sensible girl, Christine, and I think you'll make a good wife——
JULIE. [Enters and is unpleasantly surprised; speaks with forced gayety] Yes, you are a fine partner—running away from your lady!
JEAN. On the contrary, Miss Julie. I have, as you see, looked up the one I deserted.
JULIE. [Changing tone] Do you know, there is nobody that dances like you!—But why do you wear your livery on an evening like this? Take it off at once!
JEAN. Then I must ask you to step outside for a moment, as my black coat is hanging right here.
[Points toward the right and goes in that direction.
JULIE. Are you bashful on my account? Just to change a coat? Why don't you go into your own room and come back again? Or, you can stay right here, and I'll turn my back on you.
JEAN. With your permission, Miss Julie.
Goes further over to the right; one of his arms can be seen as he changes his coat.
JULIE. [To CHRISTINE] Are you and Jean engaged, that he's so familiar with you?
CHRISTINE. Engaged? Well, in a way. We call it that.
JULIE. Call it?
CHRISTINE. Well, Miss Julie, you have had a fellow of your own, and——
JULIE. We were really engaged———
CHRISTINE. But it didn't come to anything just the same
JEAN enters, dressed in black frock-coat and black derby.
JULIE. Très gentil, Monsieur Jean! Très gentil!
JEAN. Vous voulez plaisanter, Madame!
JULIE. Et vous voulez parler français! Where did you learn it?
JEAN. In Switzerland, while I worked as sommelier in one of the big hotels at Lucerne.
JULIE. But you look like a real gentleman in your frock-coat! Charming!
[Sits down at the table.
JEAN. Oh, you flatter me.
JULIE. [Offended] Ftatter—you!
JEAN. My natural modesty does not allow me to believe that you could be paying genuine compliments to one like me, and so I dare to assume that you are exaggerating, or, as we call it, flattering.
JULIE. Where did you learn to use your words like that? You must have been to the theatre a great deal?
JEAN. That, too. I have been to a lot of places.
JULIE. But you were born in this neighbourhood?
JEAN. My father was a cotter on the county attorneys property right by here, and I can recall seeing you as a child, although you, of course, didn't notice me.
JULIE. No, really!
JEAN. Yes, and I remember one time in particular—but of that I can't speak.
JULIE. Oh, yes, do! Why—just for once.
JEAN. No, really, I cannot do it now. Another time, perhaps.
JULIE. Another time is no time. Is it as bad as that?
JEAN. It isn't bad, but it comes a little hard. Look at that one!
Points to CHRISTINE, who has fallen asleep on a chair by the stove.
JULIE. She'll make a pleasant wife. And perhaps she snores, too.
JEAN. No, she doesn't, but she talks in her sleep.
JULIE. [Cynically] How do you know?
JEAN. [Insolently] I have heard it.
Pause during which they study each other.
JULIE. Why don't you sit down?
JEAN. It wouldn't be proper in your presence.
JULIE. But if I order you to do it?
JEAN. Then I obey.
JULIE. Sit down, then!—But wait a moment! Can you give me something to drink first?
JEAN. I don't know what we have got in the icebox. I fear it is nothing but beer.
JULIE. And you call that nothing? My taste is so simple that I prefer it to wine.
JEAN. [Takes a bottle of beer from the icebox and opens it; gets a glass and a plate from the cupboard, and serves the beer] Allow me!
JULIE. Thank you. Don't you want some yourself?
JEAN. I don't care very much for beer, but if it is a command, of course——
JULIE. Command?—I should think a polite gentleman might keep his lady company.
JEAN. Yes, that's the way it should be.
[Opens another bottle and takes out a glass.
JULIE. Drink my health now!
JULIE. Are you bashful—a big, grown-up man?
JEAN. [Kneels with mock solemnity and raises his glass] To the health of my liege lady!
JULIE. Bravo!—And now you must also kiss my shoe in order to get it just right.
JEAN hesitates a moment; then he takes hold of her foot and touches it lightly with his lips.
JULIE. Excellent! You should have been on the stage.
JEAN. [Rising to his feet] This won't do any longer, Miss Julie. Somebody might see us.
JULIE. What would that matter?
JEAN. Oh, it would set the people talking—that's all! And if you only knew how their tongues were wagging up there a while ago——
JULIE. What did they have to say? Tell me—Sit down now!
JEAN. [Sits down] I don't want to hurt you, but they were using expressions—which cast reflections of a kind that—oh, you know it yourself! You are not a child, and when a lady is seen alone with a man, drinking—no matter if he's only a servant—and at night—then——
JULIE. Then what? And besides, we are not alone. Isn't Christine with us?
JULIE. Then I'll wake her. [Rising] Christine, are you asleep?
CHRISTINE. [In her sleep] Blub-blub-blub-blub!
JULIE. Christine!—Did you ever see such a sleeper.
CHRISTINE. [In her sleep] The count's boots are polished—put on the coffee—yes, yes, yes—my-my—pooh!
JULIE. [Pinches her nose] Can't you wake up?
JEAN. [Sternly] You shouldn't bother those that sleep.
JULIE. [Sharply] What's that?
JEAN. One who has stood by the stove all day has a right to be tired at night. And sleep should be respected.
JULIE. [Changing tone] It is fine to think like that, and it does you honour—I thank you for it. [Gives JEAN her hand] Come now and pick some lilacs for me.
During the following scene CHRISTINE wakes up. She moves as if still asleep and goes out to the right in order to go to bed.
Excerpted from Miss Julie by August Strindberg, Philip Smith. Copyright © 1992 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Renowned Swedish writer, playwright and painter August Strindberg is known as one of the fathers of modern theatre. His early plays were written in the Naturalistic style, the best known of which is Miss Julie, one of the most studied and performed dramas in the world to this day. When he broke with Naturalism, the versatile Strindberg found equal success in producing works informed by Symbolism. He proceeded to become one of the pioneers of the modern European stage and Expressionism.
Born in Coley’s Point, Newfoundland, David French was one of Canada’s best-known and most critically acclaimed playwrights. His work received many major awards, and French was one of the first inductees into the Newfoundland Arts Hall of Honour.
Among his best-loved works are the semi-autobiographical Mercer plays: Salt-Water Moon, 1949, Leaving Home, recently named one of Canada’s 100 Most Influential Books (Literary Review of Canada) and one of the 1,000 Most Essential Plays in the English Language (Oxford Dictionary of Theatre), Of the Fields, Lately and Soldier’s Heart. The Mercer plays have received hundreds of productions across North America, including a Broadway production of Of the Fields, Lately. This quintet of plays about a Newfoundland family has also touched audiences in Europe, South America and Australia. In addition, French produced skillful adaptations of Alexander Ostrovsky’s The Forest, Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull and August Strindberg’s Miss Julie.
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A timeless piece of literature, Miss Julie en-captures everything a good play should. Full of complete and interesting characters, the story takes on characteristics of the bizarre and modern. The play is a great piece of literature to study and divulge in. As an educator, i used the piece in my class and the student's really took to it. While i wouldn't recommend it for anything less than high school, I would highly recommend it as a compelling and engaging piece for all ages who can understand and comprehend it. Overall the dramatic piece is highly recommended and taught around the entire world. Read it.