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Theatre / Miss Julie

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Miss Julie (Fröken Julie) is an 1888 play by Swedish playwright August Strindberg. The play explores the exploitation between classes, and uses the Destructive Romance device to its bitter conclusion.

On the eve of St. John, a great public feast in Sweden, Miss Julie, the daughter of a wealthy count, fraternizes with the servants, dancing her ass off. Jean, the coach, comments that she is "out of her wits", and discusses this with Kristin, the cook, to whom he is betrothed. Julie herself arrives, and craves one more dance with him. During the following dialogue, we discover that he lusts for her, and she likewise for him. They even discuss eloping to Italy together. When she discovers she is slandered by the servants, she hides in Jean's bedchamber. Guess what happens next.

After this, the tables turn, and Jean openly scorns her. She despairs and wishes to leave on the spot. When Kristin arrives, the debate is heating up even more, and it all ends in the open, with Julie leaving for her bedroom, Jean contemplating suicide, and Kristin just leaves the place.

It has been adapted for film and television many times. A 1951 version by Alf Sjöberg won the Palme d'Or, and featured a young Max von Sydow in a minor role as the stablehand. In 2014, the play was adapted by Liv Ullmann into a film starring Jessica Chastain and Colin Farrell.


  • Ambiguous Situation: Is Jean really in love with Julie? He says he saw her when she was a child and fell in love with her. Later, he says he made up the story. The viewers cannot tell what the truth is.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Kristin quotes "the last shall be first" and "the eye of a needle".
  • The Beautiful Elite: Julie, and her father the count. Jean, who was born a serf, longs for a better life. Subverted when it turns out Julie's mother was not a noblewoman.
  • Betty and Veronica: Jean, meant to marry Kristin, is seduced by Julie, and is attracted to both. Kristin is someone of his class, a devout Christian and a sensible person. Julie is an emotionally instable aristocrat.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Subverted. At first, we think Miss Julie is a cold Rich Bitch who is playing with her servant's feelings. In the end, we realize she was faking a cold demeanour and she is really in love with him. Conversely, we doubt about the reality of the feelings of Julien.
  • Destructive Romance: The relationship between Julie and Jean is destructive for Julie who cannot face her family any more. In the end, she is Driven to Suicide.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Julie wanders off stage with a razor blade in her hand...
    • Jean also pretends that he was driven to suicide when he realized as a child that Julie was unattainable.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Julie drinks heavily after finding out that Jean doesn't really love her, or not nearly as much as she loves him.
  • Edgy Backwards Chair-Sitting: The relationship between Julie and Jean changes radically after he has sex with her, with her becoming more needy and he assuming a dominant role. This is underlined in a scene where Jean cockily sits in a backwards chair while Julie finishes her story of how her father wanted a boy.
  • Flashback: The 1951 film features a flashback to the moment when Julie and her fiance broke up, an event only described in the play. Also, Julie's and Jean's various childhood memories, stories in the play, are shown in flashbacks in the film.
  • Foil: Kristin, the soundly ethical and christian spouse of Jean, has all the virtues Julie lacks.
  • The Ghost: Julie's father never appears, but his boots are on stage. In the end, a bell rings to make clear he is back. (Averted in the 1951 film where the father appears in a long flashback.)
  • Gilded Cage: If the symbol of the bird cage is anything to go for, this is Julie's life in a nutshell.
  • Gratuitous French: Julie likes to say some words in French. Jean also knows some French, since he worked in Switzerland.
  • Life of the Party: Julie revels in it, and enjoys dancing and flirting with disastrous results.
  • Lonely Doll Girl: Julie is a variant of the trope. Her only confidant turns out to be a small bird in a cage.
  • Love at First Sight: Jean says he saw Julie when she was a child and fell immediately in love with her. Subverted because later, he says he made up the story.
  • Match Cut: The 1951 film has a cut from young Julie, dancing in a flashback with her doll, to the servants outside the mansion dancing around a bonfire.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Jean, the french derivation of John (as in the Baptist, referred to in-play, and the evangelist, called the "apostle of love". The whole play takes place on the Eve of st.John).
    • Kristin, the spouse of Jean, is, of course, a devouted Christian girl.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Invoked by Julie when she realizes the full scope of her irresponsible behavior.
  • Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: Subverted in the 1951 film, in that it's Julie telling her employee Jean to row her out on the lake, although given all the flirting and sexual tension it's still basically a date.
  • The Oner: The 1951 film starts out with a two-minute shot of Julie staring out the window as the credits roll, framed next to that Gilded Cage bird of hers.
  • Only Sane Man: Come the third act, Kristin has to talk sense into both Jean and Julie.
  • The Peeping Tom: In the 1951 film Julie peeps on Viola and the stablehand having sex in the stable.
  • Rich Bitch: Julie is haughty and commanding at first. Subverted, because this is just a façade. After her sexual intercourse with Jean, we understand she is a fragile person who do not know how to behave.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: There is a love triangle between Jean, Julie and Kristin. Kristin is a cook and is not wealthy, whereas Julie belongs to a wealthy family. Subverted because Julie actually does not own any money on her own and she has to steal from her father when she plans to escape with Jean.
  • Sanity Slippage: When Julie has her Heel Realization, she almost loses it completely. Lampshaded in the very first line of the play, by the way: "Miss Julie is crazy, completely bonkers".
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Kristin was about to leave for church anyway, but she states that Jean and Julie can cope with their choices on their own, thank you.
  • Servile Snarker: Jean has his moments. So does Kristin.
  • The Tease: Julie enforces this trope quite prominently in the first act. She seems to drive Jean crazy on purpose.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Julie, and then Jean. After their intercourse, Jean flatly denies her the right to be haughty, and delivers a splendid "The Reason You Suck" Speech. Later, he summarily kills her pet bird with an axe.
  • Uptown Girl: Julie is a classical example.
  • Wondrous Ladies Room: Or Wondrous Rich People's Restroom. Jean describes sneaking into the garden of the estate when he was a boy, being intrigued by a little wooden building, going inside and being enchanted by the pictures of emperors and fine curtains—until he realizes it's an outhouse.
  • Yandere: Julie plays it big when she leads Jean on.