Creditors (play)

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Written by August Strindberg
Characters Tekla a writer
Adolf, her husband, a painter
Gustav, her former husband, a teacher
Two Ladies
A Porter
Date premiered 9 March 1889 (1889-03-09)
Place premiered Dagmar Theatre, Copenhagen
Original language Swedish, Danish
Genre Naturalistic tragicomedy
Setting A drawing room in a summer hotel by the sea

Creditors (Swedish: Fordringsägare) is a naturalistic tragicomedy by the Swedish playwright August Strindberg.[1][2] It was written in Swedish during August and September 1888 in Denmark.[3][4] It was first published in Danish in February 1889 and appeared in Swedish in 1890.[5][6] It premièred at the Dagmar Theatre in Copenhagen in March 1889.[7] It is seen as one of Strindberg's most powerful plays.[8] Strindberg himself, writing in 1892, described it as his "most mature work."[9]

In 1891, Strindberg accused Henrik Ibsen of plagiarising the play in his Hedda Gabler (1890). Strindberg wrote: "Hedda Gabler is a bastard of Laura in The Father and Tekla in Creditors".[10]


  • Adolph - an artist.
  • Tekla - a novelist, Adolph's wife.
  • Gustav - a teacher.[11]


This three-character play takes place in the parlor of a seaside resort hotel — not a completely private space. It begins with Adolph, an artist, sculpting a small nude female figure. With him is Adolph’s new friend, Gustav, who has been visiting for a week and filling Adolph’s weak and malleable mind with ideas: Adolph was a painter, until Gustave persuaded him to be a sculptor, then Gustav persuades him that sculpting isn’t right for him after all. Also, Adolph loves and trusts his wife, Tekla, he credits her for educating him, and he was happy in his marriage — until Gustav changes his mind about those things. To the audience Gustav seems to be a devious character, who, Iago-like, is stirring up Adolph’s insecurities and endangering the relationship between Adolph and his wife. Adolph’s fears boil up at one point, causing him to become, at Gustav’s suggestion, almost epileptic. Gustav is making Adolph weaker, while, ironically, Gustav presents himself as providing life lessons in how to be strong in one’s relationship. The audience begins to suspect that Gustav is, in fact, Tekla’s ex-husband. Adolph had stolen Tekla away from Gustav, and then Tekla wrote a novel that was a roman a clef with the main character based on Gustav. Tekla’s novel portrays Gustav as an idiot. So, Gustav is motivated for revenge. Tekla has been away for the past week; when she parted Adolph upset her by calling her an “old flirt” and suggesting that she was too old to play the coquette. As she now approaches the hotel, Gustav suggests that he will hide in the next room and eavesdrop, as Adolph will attempt to apply his lessons in “how to handle a woman”, and sound out his wife to see if she is unfaithful, and to see if she will seek revenge on Adolph for his unkind comment. Gustav exits, Tekla enters and is alone with Adolph — with her homecoming being spied on by Gustav.

Tekla enters into this psychologically dense and uncomfortable environment like a breath of fresh air. She is a charming and vivacious character who flirts with her own husband — even though he has been convinced to resist her charms. They have fallen into the habit of calling themselves “brother and sister”, because when she was being stolen away from her first husband, they both were attempting to feign a chaste relationship. Now she wants Adolph to call her “Pussy”, because, she says, that might cause her to get up a “pretty little blush” for him, if he would like. With Gustav eavesdropping, Adolph becomes unpleasant, as he applies the ideas that he has been given by Gustav. Adolph also expresses his insecurities, and then, set off by a confused exchange, he storms out of the room in frustration.

Now Gustav, the ex-husband, enters — with Adolph, as planned, in the adjoining room to eavesdrop. Gustav’s manner has changed, and he is now seductively charming. He and his ex-wife bond very quickly. He tells Tekla that he has found someone else, which is not true. Tekla falls for Gustav’s charms, and they both agree to meet for a tryst, as a way of saying “Farewell”. Suddenly Tekla wakes up and sees though Gustav’s wicked scheme, accusing him of villainy. Meanwhile, Adolph, who has heard all this through the keyhole, is suffering an off-stage attack of epilepsy. Gustav is crowing in triumph over the revenge he has won over the two others. Gustav, who has not been a reliable font of wisdom, now introduces a Darwinian interpretation of what has gone on: He won the battle, in his opinion, because he is stronger. As the verbal fireworks between Gustav and Tekla grows in intensity, noises are heard coming from the adjoining room. The door is opened, Adolph, in a dramatically shocking moment, appears in the throes of the epileptic fit that had been threatened. Adolph falls dead. Tekla is distraught, and as she wails over her husband’s body, Gustav’s last line is: “Why, she must have loved him, too. Poor creature.”

The word "creditor" is used by the three characters to refer to each of the other characters at different times during the course of the play.[11]

Production history

Creditors was first performed as part of a triple bill with Strindberg's one-act plays Pariah and The Stronger on 9 March 1889 at the Dagmar Theatre in Copenhagen, under the auspices of his newly formed Scandinavian Experimental Theatre.[7][12] A week later, on 16 March, the production was staged in Malmö.[7][13] Nathalia Larsen played Tekla, Gustav Wied played Adolf, and Hans Riber Hunderup played Gustav.[7]

A new production was staged at the Swedish Theatre in Stockholm as part of a matinée double-bill with Simoon (a short, 15-minute play), which opened on 25 March 1890.[7][14] Another production was staged at the Vasa Theatre in Stockholm, opening on 9 January 1906.[15] Helge Wahlgren, an actor from the Intimate Theatre, toured a production of the play in the Swedish provinces in the autumn of 1909.[16] The play was staged in Strelitz as well in the same year.[16] In 1910, August Falck staged a production at the Intimate Theatre in Stockholm, which ran for 21 performances.[17] As part of the celebrations of Strindberg's 63rd birthday, the play was staged in Helsingborg and Karlskoga.[18] The Royal Dramatic Theatre staged it in 1915.[19]

The play received its German première on 22 January 1893 at the Residenz Theatre in Berlin, under the direction of Sigismund Lautenburg.[8][20] Rosa Bertens played Tekla, Rudolf Rittner played Adolf, and Josef Jarno played Gustav.[8][20] It ran for 71 performances.[20] At the end of March 1893, the production was invited for a gala performance in Vienna.[20] In 1895, the Freie Bühne staged a private performance in Munich.[8] In 1898, it was staged at the Schauspielhaus in Munich.[8] In 1899, it was produced in Vienna.[8][21] In the autumn of 1906, a production was staged in Altona.[22] The play was also staged in Essen in the autumn of 1910.[23] Another production was staged in Vienna in 1910 as part of a season of Strindberg's plays that also included Playing with Fire, Easter, and Christina.[24] Josef Jarno, who had played Gustav in the Berlin première, directed.[24]

Its French première opened on 21 June 1894, in a slightly abridged version at the Théâtre de L'Oeuvre in Paris.[8][25] Lugné-Poe directed and played Adolf.[8][25] In response to the production's success, Strindberg wrote of his "sense of power... that in Paris, the intellectual centre of the world, 500 people are sitting in an auditorium silent as mice, stupid enough to expose their brains to my powers of suggestion."[26] Lugné-Poe performed this production in Stockholm in October 1894 as part of his Scandinavian tour.[27] Back in Paris, it was repeated at the Cercle St. Simon theatre on 10 December 1894.[28]

The play was first produced in Britain by the Stage Society at the Prince's Theatre in London, in a translation by Ellie Schleussner, opening on 10 March 1912.[29][30] Miriam Lewis played Tekla, Harcourt Williams played Adolf, and Guy Standing played Gustav.[30][31] It was staged again in London in 1927 and 1952.[8] The 59 Theatre Company staged a translation by Michael Meyer at the Lyric Opera House in London, opening on 3 March 1959.[32] It was directed by Casper Wrede and designed by Malcolm Pride.[32] Mai Zetterling played Tekla, Lyndon Brook played Adolf, and Michael Gough played Gustav.[32] The play was also staged at the Open Space Theatre in London, opening on 22 March 1972.[8] This production was directed by Roger Swaine.[8] Gemma Jones played Tekla, Sebastian Graham-Jones played Adolf, and Brian Cox played Gustaf.[8] A production at the Almeida Theatre, which opened on 19 May 1986, was recorded and subsequently broadcast on Channel 4 on 16 March 1988.[33] Suzanne Bertish played Tekla, Jonathan Kent played Adolf, and Ian McDiarmid played Gustaf.[34] This production was directed by its cast members.[34]

The play was produced by the Torquay Company at the Mermaid Theatre in New York, opening on 25 January 1962.[35] Paul Shyre directed and David Johnston designed this production.[35] Rae Allen played Tekla, James Ray played Adolf, and Donald Davis played Gustav.[35] The play was later staged as part of a double-bill with The Stronger by The Public Theater at the Newman Theatre, New York, opening on 15 April 1977.[36] Rip Torn directed and John Wright Stevens designed this production.[36] Geraldine Page played Tekla, John Heard played Adolf, and Rip Torn played Gustav.[36] It was also staged by the Classic Stage Company at its theatre in New York, opening on 27 January 1992.[37] Carey Perloff directed and Donald Eastman designed this production, which featured a new translation by Paul Walsh.[37] Caroline Lagerfelt played Tekla, Nestor Serrano played Adolf, and Zach Grenier played Gustav.[37]

In 2014, British actor and filmmaker Ben Cura adapted the play into a film produced in the UK[38] and starring Christian McKay, Andrea Deck, Ben Cura, Tom Bateman and Simon Callow.[39] Creditors world-premiered in 2015 at the Nordic International Film Festival in New York City[40] where it was awarded the Honorable Mention in the Best Nordic Narrative Feature category[41] and where it was very well reviewed by critics. Latin Post film reviewer David Salazar called the film "A triumphant debut"[42] while Blazing Minds film critic Susanne Hodder said "Creditors is an intelligent thought-provoking film which questions gender roles, female sexuality and male anxieties, making for an enjoyable and compelling watch.[43]


  1. Björkman (1913), 183.
  2. Meyer (1985), 197–8.
  3. Meyer (1985), 199.
  4. Meyer (1991b, 115).
  5. Meyer (1985), 200.
  6. Meyer (1991b, 117).
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Meyer (1991b), 118.
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 8.11 Meyer (1991b, 119).
  9. Meyer (1991b, 120).
  10. Meyer (1985), 235, Letter to Ola Hansson, 8 March 1891<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Strindberg, August. Bjorkman, Edwin. Translator. Plays. Creditors. Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1913. ISBN 9781177291842 [1]
  12. Meyer (1985), 214.
  13. Meyer (1985), 216.
  14. Meyer (1985), 226.
  15. Meyer (1985), 462–3.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Meyer (1985), 533.
  17. Meyer (1985, 543).
  18. Meyer (1985, 561).
  19. Meyer (1985, 573).
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 Meyer (1985), 263.
  21. Meyer (1985), 402.
  22. Meyer (1985, 472).
  23. Meyer (1985, 545).
  24. 24.0 24.1 Meyer (1985), 536.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Meyer (1985), 296.
  26. Strindberg (1985), Meyer (ed.), Letter to Leopold Littmansson, pp. 296–97<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  27. Meyer (1985, 305).
  28. Meyer (1985, 310).
  29. Carson (1913), 106, 140.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Meyer (1985), 564.
  31. Carson (1913), 140.
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 Meyer (1991a, 124).
  33. Meyer (1991b), 119–20.
  34. 34.0 34.1 Meyer (1999b, 120).
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 The Creditors at the Internet off-Broadway Database.
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 Creditors, The Stronger at the Internet off-Broadway Database.
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 Creditors at the Internet off-Broadway Database.


  • Björkman, Edwin, trans. 1913. Creditors. By August Strindberg. In Plays. Second ser. New York: Scribner, 1926. 183-237.
  • Carson, L, ed. (1913), Year Book, London: The Stage<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  • Meyer, Michael (1987) [1985], Strindberg: A Biography, Lives, Oxford: Oxford UP, ISBN 0-19-281995-X<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  • Strindberg, August (1991a), "Creditors", Plays, Three, Michael Meyer, translator, London: Methuen, pp. 121–75, ISBN 0-413-64840-0<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  • Meyer, Michael (1991b), Introduction<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> in Strindberg, August, Plays, Three, London: Methuen, pp. 115–20, ISBN 0-413-64840-0<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  • Ward, John. 1980. The Social and Religious Plays of Strindberg. London: Athlone. ISBN 0-485-11183-7.
  • Williams, Raymond. 1952. Drama from Ibsen to Brecht. London: Hogarth, 1993. ISBN 0-7012-0793-0.

External links

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