Now and Then: French Cultural Influence in Swedish Theatre and the Path of Theatre in Sweden Until Modern Times
Once upon a time in eighteenth-century Sweden, French language theatre was the main type of theatre that you could find. To the unsuspecting drama enthusiast, the idea of French theatre in Sweden is strange. However, the presence of French theatre makes sense because French culture was enormously influential at this time in Scandinavia. In fact, the French theatre troupes overtaking Swedish theatres in the eighteenth century were invited by Louisa- Ulrika, Queen of Sweden and wife of King Adolph-Frederick, in 1753. This invitation sparked an upheaval in Swedish theatre that was finally settled in 1771 by King Gustav III and Sweden soon began producing its own theatre again after an eighteen-year pause (Senelick 65). Sweden would encounter more pauses in theatre development after the departure of French troupes. In examining the process of winning Swedish theatre back for the Swedish language, it will prove useful to understand more about the political and cultural atmosphere in Sweden in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. However, it is also important to note that Sweden has since recovered from the French influence to become a country responsible for producing brilliant theatrical artists. The French culture (specifically French theatre) was extremely popular in Sweden in the eighteenth century and this influence sparked the beginning of the downfall of Swedish-language theatre. As stated in National Theatre in Northern and Eastern Europe, “The taste for French theatre became so general and seductive that people forgot there had ever been a Swedish theatre, and thought it foolish to believe there ever could be. . .” (Senelick 65). It is fair to say that the influence of French culture during this time period could be likened to a fad, or fashionable trend. In The History of World Theater: From the English Restoration to the Present, Felicia Londré states, “By the eighteenth century, the courts of both Denmark and Sweden were eagerly receiving French troupes that would lend them prestige” (Londré 119). The popular Neoclassical theatre style in France was especially influential not only in Sweden, but in all of Scandinavia. Swedish plays and theatre were very much in their infancy, and remained so due to the invitation of Queen Louisa to a “. . .mediocre French troupe in 1753. . .” (Senelick 5). The troupe performed in what would later become the National Theatre. Their presence ousted a Swedish language troupe, called the Stenborg troupe, and made French language theatre the main entertainment.