Born in Stockholm, Sweden, into a poor family, August Strindberg suffered a hard and unhappy childhood. He studied for a while at the University of Uppsala in Sweden, but left without a degree. Strindberg began to write while supporting himself at a variety of jobs, including journalist and librarian. The work that first brought him to public attention was the novel The Red Room (1879), a biting satire on Stockholm society that displayed his skill as both a literary stylist and a social commentator. Strindberg went on to write other novels, as well as stories and poems, but it is as a playwright that he is remembered. Sweden's greatest playwright, he ranks just behind Norway's playwright Henrik Ibsen as the leading Scandinavian dramatist. It is not easy to categorize Strindberg's plays. Many deal with social issues, but his own beliefs varied so often and so strongly that his works often contradict each other. Perhaps the only consistent theme in his plays is an abiding hatred of women, or more specifically, of women of strong will and character. The Father (1887), Miss Julie, (1888), and Creditors (1888) contain his severest attacks on women. Strindberg himself was married and divorced three times, and his women-hating plays may well reflect his own marital problems. Fascination with Strindberg has not decreased since his death. His enormous influence on European and world literature can hardly be exaggerated. In general, however, his novels and biographical writings have not been popular with English-speaking readers. His plays, on the other hand, continue to be widely read and produced throughout Europe and the United States. They helped introduce greater attention to individual psychological disturbances as a subject for theater, as well as a poetic and surreal approach to violence, pain, and suffering.
Carl Churchill, also spelled as Caryl Churchill, was born in London, England, on September 3, 1938. Growing up, Churchill lived in both England and Canada and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University, in 1960. While at Oxford, Churchill became interested in theatre and went on to write three plays while she was there. After graduation, Churchill spent the next ten years writing plays, including "Lovesick" and "Schreber's Nervous Illness," which were broadcast on the BBC. In 1974, Churchill began working for the Royal Court Theatre as a resident playwright and two years later she joined the Joint Stock Theatre Group, an organization that uses collective collaboration between actors, writers, and directors when creating theatrical works. Churchill has also written dozens of books over the years, among them Blue Heart, Cloud Nine, and Hotel: In a Room Anything Can Happen. Looked upon as a voice of post-modernism, Churchill is well known for her use of dramatic structure.