The point of departure for this study is the meeting-place between an author and his times. Both in his youth and in later years, August Strindberg was in bitter conflict with the Swedish Establishment. At the turn of the century, however, when the fifty-year-old author returned to Stockholm after many years of exile, he was able to be accepted by the cultural community in the country of his birth. This fact is studied here both from the point of view of a change in Strindberg's own attitudes, and of the changes that had taken place in Sweden during the author's exile.
In the early 1880s, Strindberg had challenged accepted truths by writing a work of considerable proportions dealing with the history of the Swedish people, this in conscious opposition to the established view of history which was primarily concerned with the history of its monarchs, Strindberg was criticised both by the Press and by history scholars, and the reaction contributed to his decision to leave the country.
By the turn of the century, considerable changes had taken place. Sweden had become an industrialized country, and the emerging middle class had made its mark on the philosophy of the time and also gained control of the organs of public opinion. Because Strindberg only wrote plays at this time, a considerable amount of attention is given in the dissertation to the development of the Stockholm theatre. Privately-owned theatres had now come to replace the earlier Royal theatre monopoly.
On his return, Strindberg set about writing historical dramas. He was now willing to cater to the conservative views that he had fought against twenty years previously. He wrote of the Swedish monarchs and tried to satisfy the demands of an earlier period for dramas with historical facts that were completely correct. In the autumn of 1899 while he was busy writing "Gustaf Adolf " (Gustavus Adolphus), his recently-completed plays "Gustaf Vasa" and "Erik XIV" were being performed at the Svenska teatern in Stockholm. It now became apparent that the majority of critics regarded esthetic considerations as being more important than those of historical accuracy, and that they also prefered to see the monarchs portrayed as psychologically credible figures rather than as impersonal, glorified hero figures. Only the most conservative critics failed to hold this view.
Despite the resounding success of both "Gustaf Vasa" and "Erik XIV", Strindberg tried in his new play to cater even to his few adversaries. He engaged in deep historical studies and peppered the play with historical details, resulting in a play that is inordinately long and very difficult to manage.
However, concerning the main character, Strindberg was unable to pander to conservative criticism. Fundemental artistic characteristics reemerged and transformed the 17th century monarch into a problematic individual who undergoes a personal development, laboriously seeking the right road. He has to battle with religious intolerance, his role as monarch, his understanding of the world, and his personal dreams of power.
When "Gustaf Adolf" appeared in the bookshops in autumn 1900, the critics were unanimous in the belief that Strindberg had succeeded in his depiction of history. On the other hand, many felt that he had degraded the hero-king by giving him personal problems
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 1984. , 268 p.