Can someone be killed through psychological manipulation? This is a question that underpins August Strindberg’s 1889 play Creditors. Set in a residential parlor of a seaside hotel, Adolph, a painter-turned-sculptor, falls under the spell of Gustav, an older man whom he has just met while on vacation. Posing as a friendly face, Gustav, Iago-like, encourages Adolph to dissect his passion and love for his new wife Tekla. However, all is not as it seems as Gustav is actually Tekla’s ex-husband whom she left for Adolph. In a manipulative act of revenge, Gustav plays on Adolph’s insecurities and frailties by encouraging him to believe that Adolph’s wife has stripped him of any independence, creativity or power in their relationship, while she seeks the attention and desire of younger men. Trapped in a vicious circle of psychological and power games, Adolph watches through as a keyhole as Gustav seems to seduce his wife. By the time Tekla comes to her senses, it is too late for her husband, who succumbs to a fatal epileptic fit.
In one of his most powerful one-act plays, Strindberg offers a profound insight into vindictiveness and self-doubt, through three distinctly unlikable, yet vulnerable characters.
Creditors guide sections