A monologue from the play by August Strindberg

download the complete text of this play

NOTE: This translation was first published in Ten Minute Plays. Ed. Pierre Loving. New York: Brentano's, 1923. It is now a public domain work and may be performed without royalties.

MADAME X: I don't know why, but women are crazy about my husband. They must think he has something to say about theater engagements because he's connected with the government. Perhaps you were there yourself and tried to influence him! I don't trust you any too much. But, I know he's not concerned about you, and you seem to have a grudge against him. [Pause. They look quizzically at each other.] Come to see us this evening, Amelia, and show that you're not angry with us -- not angry with me at any rate! I don't know why, but it's so uncomfortable to have you an enemy. Possibly it's because I came in your way [rallentando] or -- I really don't know -- just why. [Pause. MLLE. Y stares at MME. X curiously.] Our acquaintance has been so peculiar. [Thoughtfully] When I saw you the first time I was so afraid of you, so afraid, that I couldn't look you in the face; still as I came and went I always found myself near you -- I couldn't risk being your enemy, so I became your friend. But there was always a discordant note when you came to our house, because I saw that my husband couldn't bear you -- and that was as annoying to me as an ill-fitting gown -- and I did all I could to make him friendly toward you, but before he consented you announced your engagement. Then came a violent friendship, so that in a twinkling it appeared as if you dared only show him your real feelings when you were betrothed -- and then -- how was it later? -- I didn't get jealous -- how wonderful! And I remember that when you were Patin's godmother, I made Bob kiss you -- he did it, but you were so confused -- that is, I didn't notice it then -- thought about it later -- never thought about it before -- now! [Gets up hastily] Why are you silent? You haven't said a word this whole time, but you have let me go on talking! You have sat there and your eyes loosened out of me all these thoughts which lay like raw silk in their coccon -- thoughts -- suspicious thoughts, perhaps -- let me see -- why did you break your engagement? Why do you come so seldom to our house these days? Why won't you visit us tonight? [MLLE. Y appears as if about to speak.] Keep still! You don't have to say anything. I comprehend it all myself! It was because, and because and because. Yes! Yes! Now everything is clear. So that's it! I won't sit at the same table with you. [Takes her things to the next table] That's the reason why I had to embroider tulips, which I hate, on his slippers; because you are fond of tulips; that's why we go to the mountains during the summer, because you don't like the sea air; that's why my boy is named Eskil, because it's your father's name; that's why I wear your colors, read your authors, eat your pet dishes, drink your beverages--this chocolate, for example--that's why. Oh, my God, it's fearful, when I think about it; it's fearful! Everything, everything, came from you to me, even your passion! Your soul crept into mine, like a worm into an apple, ate and ate, grubbed and grubbed, until nothing was left but the rind within. I wanted to fly from you, but I couldn't; you lay like a snake and enchanted me with your black eyes--I felt as if the branch gave way and let me fall. I lay with feet bound together in the water and swam mightily with my hands, but the harder I struggled the deeper I worked myself under, until I sank to the bottom, where you lay like a giant crab ready to catch hold of me with your claws--and I just lay there! How I hate you! hate you! hate you! But you, you only sit there and keep silent, peacefully, indifferently, indifferent as to whether the moon waxes or wanes, whether it is Christmas or New Year, whether others are happy or unhappy, without the ability to hate or to love, as composed as a stork by a mouse hole. You can't make conquests yourself, you can't keep a man's love, but you can steal away that love from others! Here you sit in your corner and read your newspapers in order to see if anything has happened to any one, or who's had a run of bad luck, or who has left the theater; here you sit and review your work, calculating your mischief as a pilot does his course; collecting your tribute.... [Pause] Poor Amelia, do you know that I'm really sorry for you, because you are so unhappy. Unhappy like a wounded animal, and spiteful because you are wounded! I can't be angry with you, no matter how much I want to be--because you come out at the small end of the horn. Yes; that affair with Bob--I don't care about that. What is that to me, after all? What is that to me, after all? And if I learned to drink chocolate from you or from somebody else, what difference does it make. [Drinks a spoonful out of the cup; knowingly] Besides, chocolate is very healthful. And if you taught me how to dress--tant mieux--that only makes me more attractive to my husband. And you lost what I won. [Pause] Possibly, all in all, at this moment I am really the stronger. You get nothing from me, but you gave me much. And now I appear like a thief to you. You wake up and find I possess what you have lost! How was it that everything in your hands was worthless and sterile? You can hold no man's love with your tulips and your passion, as I can. You can't learn housekeeping from your authors, as I have done; you have no little Eskil to cherish, even if your father was named Eskil! And why do you keep silent, silent, silent? I believe that is strength, but, perhaps, it's because you have nothing to say! Because you don't think anything. [Rises and gathers up her slippers] Now I'm going home--and take the tulips with me--your tulips! You can't learn from another, you can't bend--and therefore you will be broken like a dry stalk--but I won't be! Thank you, Amelia, for all your good lessons. Thanks because you taught me to love my husband! Now I'll go home and love him!

* * *

Download the complete text of The Stronger

Home · Theatre Links · Monologues · One Act Plays · Bookstore · © 2006