Born in Sweden in 1849--the child of a barmaid and a businessman who married only a few months before his birth--August Strindberg was raised in poverty. At one time, more than ten people lived in the family's small three-room house. As a child, August resented discipline of any kind. He was sensitive, suspicious, and irritable--especially after the death of his mother when he was thirteen. His fortunes did not improve when he went off to school. He left for the University of Uppsala at the age of eighteen only to freeze and go hungry in a tiny attic. After a single semester, he was forced to drop out of school.
In his early twenties, despondent over his failures as an actor, August Strindberg determined to take his life. He climbed up into the small attic in which he lived and swallowed an opium pill, expecting to die. But he did not die. Instead, he fell into a deep sleep, and when he awoke his mind was seething with memories of childhood. He began to arrange his thoughts feverishly on paper, and in four days he completed his first play. It was then that he knew he would be a writer.
One of Strindberg's early plays, The Outlaw, set in ancient Ireland, won him a stipend from Charles XV and allowed him to return to the university, but he quickly began to quarrel with his instructors and dropped out again, eventually retiring to an island and devoting himself to writing.