Henrik Gustafsson, Harmonins teater: Kring Bellmans Det lyckliga skeppsbrottet.
The essay concerns an early play by the Swedish poet-musician Carl Michael Bellman (1740-95), entitled "Det lyckliga skeppsbrottet" or "The Fortunate Shipwreck". Bellman appended his chosen form as a subtitle: an opéra comique in four acts, to be staged on November 30, 1766. The latter clue, along with an explicit address to a certain "Anders" toward the end of the play, both indicate that it was intended as a name-day tribute to Bellman's employer and prime patron during the 1760s, Anders Lissander.
The plot's simple structure—an enslaved and later shipwrecked shepherd finding his way home to his grieving nymph, she being troubled during the interim by a group of suitor swains—has led most commentators to dismiss "The Fortunate Shipwreck" as feebly conventional.
My own analysis explores the play as an intricate exponent of the pastoral mode. I see Bellman as being aware of the demands of outward conventionality, while also taking the opportunity to render mild countercurrents to the mainstream. I argue for a metacritical strain in the text, manifesting itself in the way the characters' social identities are toned down or disguised; in the clashes between rhetorically ornate and simple language; and in the subtle questioning of the maxim—virtuous love ultimately brings monogamous bliss, despite all obstacles—underlying the play.
While Bellman would in time put the pastoral to much harder tests, perhaps above all in "Bacchi Tempel" (1783) and "Fredman's Epistles" (1790), the present paper argues that "The Fortunate Shipwreck" displays Bellman's early mastery of the various themes inherent to the mode proper. Attempting to elucidate these issues, I have eclectically drawn from the pastoral theories of Alpers, Empson, Fowler, Poggioli and Williams.
Uppsala: Svenska Litteratursällskapet , 2000. Vol. 121, 33-51 p.