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By: August Strindberg

Creditors is a naturalistic tragicomedy by the Swedish playwright August Strindberg. It was written in Swedish during August and September 1888 in Denmark. It was first published in Danish in February 1889 and appeared in Swedish in 1890. It premiered at the Dagmar Theatre in Copenhagen in March 1889. It is seen as one of Strindberg's most powerful plays. Strindberg himself, writing in 1892, described it as his "most mature work."

This three-character play takes place in a parlor adjoined to a room in a seaside resort hotel. 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 inciting changes in Adolph's life: Adolph was a painter, until Gustav persuaded him to be a sculptor. Adolph's wife, 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. Adolph credited his wife, Tekla, for educating him, but as he opens up to Gustav about his marriage he starts changing his mind about how happy he is and the . Adolph's fears boil up at one point, causing him to become, according to Gustav, almost epileptic. The audience begins to suspect that Gustav is, in fact, Tekla's ex-husband, about whom the two men speak constantly. After leaving her first husband Gustav, Tekla wrote a novel that was a roman a clef with the main character based on Gustav, there portrayed as an idiot. 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 Tekla, 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 before she left. 


Gustav exits, Tekla enters and is alone with Adolph. 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. 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, re-enters. 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". She suddenly realizes he was just playing her off, but it is too late. Adolph, who had heard all through the keyhole, is suffering an off-stage attack of epilepsy. Gustav crows in triumph over the revenge he has won over Tekla. As Gustav prepares to leaves Tekla, the door opens and Adolph appears in the throes of an epileptic fit and falls to the floor, 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. 

Book Details



Original Language

Swedish, Danish

Published In



Johan August Strindberg was a Swedish playwright, novelist, poet, essayist and painter. A prolific writer who often drew directly on his personal experience, Strindberg's career spanned four decades,...

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