GUSTAVUS VASA

A monologue from the play by August Strindberg


  • NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Plays by August Strindberg, vol. 4. Trans. Edwin Bj√∂rkman. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916.
  • ERIC: You want to go to sleep, Jorghen, and I prefer to dream while still awake. To go to bed is to me like dying: to be swathed in linen sheets and stretched out in a long bed like a coffin. And then the corpse has the trouble of washing itself and reading its own burial service. I'm sure I'll cry like a child when my turn comes. If I only knew what death is! But how can we possibly know anything of that other life, when we know so little of this one? What is life but one large madhouse, it seems to me! Think of my sand and shrewd and sensible father -- doesn't he act like a madman? He rids the country of foreigners and takes the heads of those that helped him. He rids the country of foreigners only to drag in a lot of others, like Peutinger and Norman, whom he puts above the lords of the realm and all other authorities. He is mad, of course! -- He rids the Church of human inventions only to demand the acceptance of new inventions at the penalty of death. This liberator is the greatest tyrant that ever lived, and yet this tyrant is the greatest liberator that ever lived! This evening, you know, he wanted to prohibit me from coming here; and when I insisted on going all the same, he threw his Hungarian war-hammer after me, as if he had been the god Thor chasing the trolls. He came within an inch of killing me, just as it is said -- which you may have heard -- that he killed my mother. That's what they say. And I can understand it. There is greatness in it. To feel raised above all human considerations; to kill whatever stands in the way, and trample everything else. . . . Sometimes, you know, when I see him coming in his big, soft hat and his blue cloak, using his boar-spear in place of a stick, I think he is Odin himself. When he is angry, the people say that they can hear him from the top story down to the cellars, and that the sound of it is like thunder. But I am not afraid of him, and that's why he hates me. At the same time he has a great deal of respect for me. [JORGHEN smiles skeptically] Yes, you may smile! That's only because you have no respect for anything; not even for yourself.

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