The Man Condemned to Death (Den dödsdömde). 1946.

The master director Alf Sjöberg directed Dagerman’s first play at the Dramatic Theater (Dramaten) in Stockholm in 1947 to high acclaim. Overnight, Dagerman earned the additional reputation of a major playwright.

This is a play in the spirit of Sartre, describing a claustrophobic existence—a windowless room—where everything is permissible, but nothing is true.

Dagerman wrote the play before his departure for Germany in the fall of 1946.

“And who are the condemned? It may be soldiers, condemned to death already a thousand times, returning home after war, and arriving with bodies covered by invisible wounds. The fatal shots were never fired but their air is still dense from the cool lead of the anguish of dying. The Man Condemned to Death may be such a newly returned soldier who is so surprised at being alive that he is unable to live.”

“There are plenty of judges in the world. Every second of life is satiated by sentences. A state sentences its citizens to death in the trenches. A cruel double standard sentences the lovers whose love is ‘unjust’ to shameful illegality. A slum sentences its dwellers to life-long poverty. Slander sentences an individual wrongly accused to life-long criminal status. An ingrained ‘that’s-the-way-it-is’ order of the world sentences young people to life-long hopelessness. And those who are thus condemned to death cannot protest, only die. It is the sentences that have to change /and we need/ fewer judges, more mensch-like people, less righteous justice, a more humane humanity.”

—Stig Dagerman, The Man Condemned To Death, program, Dramaten, 1947


1987  Den dödsdömde. Peter Wahlquist, Director. Royal Dramatic Theater, Stockholm, Sweden.
1947  Den dödsdömde. Original production by Alf Sjöberg, Director. Royal Dramatic Theater, Stockholm, Sweden.

The play has also been performed in England, Ireland, France, Germany, Denmark, Finland.

Editions and Translations

  • Swedish: Dramer om dömda, 1948. Teater 1, 1983 (Norstedts). Den dödsdömde, 1976 (Federativ).
  • English: The Condemned, translation by Henry Alexander and Llewellyn Jones, Scandinavian Plays of the Twentieth Century, Third Series, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1951. The Man Condemned to Death, translation by Joan Tate, The Swedish Book Review supplement, UK, 1984.

Translations are known to also exist in Czech, Danish, Finnish, French, German, and Japanese