Naturalism in Miss Julie
Writers involved in the naturalist movement believed that actors' lines should be spoken naturally, and that mechanical movements, vocal effects, and irrational gestures should be banished. A return to reality was proposed, with the old theatrical attitudes replaced with effects produced solely by the voice. There was a call to individualise characters, instead of generalising them, to produce characters whose minds and bodies would function as they would in real life. Strindberg's 'Miss Julie' has been said to be an excellent example of this movement, as it involves stress on multiple motivation of action; a departure from the stereotypical depictions of character; and random, illogical dialogue. Strindberg's naturalistic conception of theatre also extends to non-literary aspects of staging such as stage décor, lighting, and make-up.
Strindberg avoids the regularity of mechanical question and answer dialogue, instead allowing his dialogue to meander, encouraging themes to be repeated and developed over the course of the play. In the preface to the play, Strindberg explains that he has broken with tradition by avoiding "symmetrical, mathematically constructed dialogue." The sexual tension and hidden aggression in the first scene of 'Miss Julie' could be said to be an example of this, especially while the cook Christine is present with Julie and Jean to inhibit the expression of what they really mean. However, it is noticeable that Strindberg's sub-textual dialogue at the start of the play radically changes once the seduction is completed and there is no more to hide. It is then that the dialogue becomes explicit and ceases to meander. An excessively theatrical scene occurs at the point where Julie grows conscious of her humiliation, falls to her knees, clasps her hands, and cringes before Jean, who rises to stand triumphantly, and symbolically, over her. There is also the bluntly overt exchange of lines such as, 'Beast!' 'Menial! Lackey!' 'Menial's whore, lackey's harlot!' It has been proposed that this retreat to the characteristics of old theatricality is perhaps only redeemed in the last minutes, when the stage action becomes solemnly symbolic. The end of the relationship is represented by the decapitation of Julie's songbird; the sudden ring of the Count's bell introduces a character that has been silent throughout, present only in spirit. Jean places a razor in Julie's hand, and she walks out to her death in silence, as if in a hypnotic trance. Her death is not as melodramatic or theatrical as her previous behaviour, so this goes some way to compensate for earlier lapses.
Strindberg expressed an aversion to dividing his play into acts, as he believed that, "the declining capacity for illusion is possibly affected by intervals, which give spectators the time to reflect and thereby withdraw from the suggestive influence of the author hypnotist." His...