Siri von Essen

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Siri von Essen
File:Siri von Essen 1880.jpg
Siri von Essen in 1880.
Born (1850-08-17)17 August 1850
Porvoo (Borgå), Finland
Died 22 April 1912(1912-04-22) (aged 61)

Sigrid "Siri" Sofia Matilda Elisabet von Essen (17 August 1850 in Porvoo – 22 April 1912) was a Swedish-speaking Finnish noblewoman and actress.[1]



She was the daughter of the Finnish-Swedish captain and landowner Carl Reinhold von Essen and Elisabeth Charlotta In de Betou. She married Major Baron Carl Gustaf Wrangel af Sauss (1842-1913) in 1872 (divorced in 1876), with whom she had a daughter, Sigrid.[2] After their divorce, she married the Swedish dramatist and writer August Strindberg in 1877 (divorced in 1891). Together they had three children: two daughters, Karin Smirnov (born 1880) and Greta (born 1881), and a son, Hans (born 1884 in Lausanne, Switzerland).

Historically, Siri von Essen has been remembered mainly because of the effect she had on Strindberg and his work as an author. The marital problems and the effect they had on his works attracted attention already by their contemporaries. She is considered to be the inspiration for many of his works about marital- and love problems. Their correspondence from 1875-76 was published in 1919. Her marriage to Strindberg was considered a scandal: though the spouse of von Essen had committed adultery himself, Strindberg was blamed to the dissolution of her first marriage, and was considered a debauched writer and not a suitable match for a member of the nobility. During the late years of their marriage, Strindberg suspected her of having an affair with the Danish woman Marie David.


Siri herself was to say that she wished to become an actor already as a child, but that this had not been regarded as suitable for a noble and she had been prevented from acting first by her father and later by her husband, which was one reason she stated as a reason for divorce from her first spouse in 1876. Her second spouse encouraged her acting dream. She did not enroll in the Dramatens elevskola, but studied drama privately under the tutelage of Knut Almlöf and Betty Almlöf. In early 1877, she debuted on stage at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm as Camille in "A Theatre play" by L. Leroy and the title role of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Birch-Pfeiffer. Her debut was considered a moderate success. She was engaged as an actor at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm in 1877-1881 and at the Swedish theater in Helsinki in 1882-1893; was a director and leading lady at the Scandinavian experimental theater in Copenhagen in 1889, and a tutor in acting in Helsinki from 1894; one of her students being Martha Hedman. The critics recommended her grace, natural way of acting and intelligence in her interpretation, but claimed that she lacked energy and true passion in her play and had a weak voice. Strindberg considered her to lazy in her acting and advised her to be more energetic. Her second spouse Strindberg wrote several plays for her, which were created for her way of acting and in which she is considered to have succeeded best.

After 1877, Siri von Essen, encouraged by Strindberg, wrote articles for newspapers and publications and translated plays. She was the reporter of Morgonbladet in Helsingfors in 1876 and for Morgenbladet in Copenhagen in 1881. She continued with her translation work after having moved to Finland in 1893. She also recited at concerts.


  1. Meyer (1985), 55, 565.
  2. Meyer (1985, 58).


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