Ghost Sonata is a play about the deceit and corruption that riddle the lives of the rich in a society that Strindberg (the playwright) despised. In the play, a young and idealistic student, Arkenholz, looks longingly at a wealthy house, wishing he could get inside. Hummel, a sinsiter old man, helps the student to gain entry to the house. Once inside, however, the student witnesses the rot and misery of the inhabitants’ lives. In this speech, Hummel threatens to expose everyone in the house, even though he himself is far from innocent…

 

How silent everybody is! [Long silence] Here, for instance, in this respectable house, this attractive home, where beauty and erudition and wealth have joined hands. . . . [Long silence] All of us sitting here now–we know who we are, don’t we? I don’t need to tell. . . . And all of you know me, although you pretend ignorance. . . . In the next room is my daughter–mine, as you know perfectly well. She has lost the desire to live without knowing why. . . . The fact is that she has been pining away in this air charged with crime and deceit and falsehood of every kind. . . . That is the reason why I have looked for a friend in whose company she may enjoy the light and heat radiated by noble deeds. . . . [Long silence] Here is my mission in this house: to tear up the weeds, to expose the crimes, to settle all accounts, so that those young people may start life with a clean slate in a home that is my gift to them. [Long silence] Now I grant you safe retreat. Everybody may leave in his due turn. Whoever stays will be arrested. [Long silence] Do you hear that clock ticking like the deathwatch hidden in a wall? Can you hear what it says? — “It’s time! It’s time!” — When it strikes in a few seconds, your time will be up, and then you can go, but not before. You may notice, too, that the clock shakes its fist at you before it strikes. Listen! There it is! “Better beware,” it says. . . . And I can strike, too. . . . [He raps the top of a table with one of his crutches] Do you hear?