A pantomime occurs. Humming in time with the music, Christine cleans up after Jean, does the dishes, curls her hair, and plays with Miss Julie's handkerchief. Jean enters alone, howling once again that Miss Julie is wild. Christine attributes her behavior to the fact that she has her period. Christine and Jean are flirt when Miss Julie enters. Julie is unpleasantly surprised at finding them together. She teases Jean with forced gaiety and then, in a different tone, orders him to take off his livery. While Jean dresses in another room, Miss Julie asks Christine if Jean is her fiancé. Christine says, "I suppose so. At least that's what we say." Jean returns in his black coat. Miss Julie compliments him in French, and to her surprise Jean replies in French, which he learned in Switzerland. Jean was born in the local district. His father worked as a farm hand on the estate next to Miss Julie's. Jean even remembers seeing Julie when she was a child.
Christine falls asleep next to the stove. Miss Julie invites Jean to sit. He refuses until Julie teasingly commands him. Jean serves her a beer, and Julie invites him to have one too. Under Julie's orders, Jean kneels in "mock gallantry" and toasts his mistress. He hesitates, then boldly kisses her foot.
Rising, Jean insists that this flirtation must stop, since they could be discovered at any moment. Miss Julie feigns innocence, protesting that Christine is with them anyway. Rudely, she moves to wake the cook, who babbles about her housework in her sleep. Jean chastises her. Taking a new tack, Julie compliments the valet for his kindness and asks him to pick some lilacs with her. Christine shuffles off to bed. Jean refuses. Julie teases him, wondering if his imagination has perhaps gotten the better of him. She declares that she is "climbing down." To her, everything is "scum, drifting and drifting on the water until it sinks." She relates a dream in which she sits atop a pillar wanting to fall but lacking the courage to jump. Julie knows she will have no peace until she gets down. Julie continues: "And if I ever got down on the ground, I'd want to go father down, right down into the earth." Jean has dreamed he lies under a tall tree, wanting to get to the top to rob a nest of its golden eggs. He knows if he can reach the first branch he could succeed, but never reaches it. Julie invites him out again. Romantically, Jean suggests that they sleep on nine midsummer flowers so that their dreams come true.
Jean gets a speck of dust in his eye, and Julie moves to remove the speck with her handkerchief. She feels his arms and Jean warns her, "Attention! Je ne suis qu'un homme!" (Be careful! I'm only a man.) Julie commands him to kiss her hand and thank him. Jean warns her again. Julie mocks him for imagining himself as a Don Juan or Joseph. Jean kisses Julie, and she slaps him. Frustrated, Jean returns to shining the Count's boots. Julie commands him to stop and asks if he has ever been in love. He replies that once he got sick with love. Julie presses him to reveal the object of his love, insisting that she asks "as an equal". Jean reveals that he loved her.
Miss Julie begins to play the coquette, intent on teasing and ridiculing Jean, but ostensibly not wanting anything else. Thus she feigns innocence when he alludes to the party nearby and the danger of gossip, mocks Jean for his presumption, and taunts him for thinking himself a Don Juan or Joseph. The reference to Joseph involves the story of Potiphar's wife, who attempted to seduce a young slave and cried rape when he refused her. By calling Jean Joseph, Julie aligns herself with Potiphar's wife. She is portrayed as a devious, fickle temptress. The stage directions note her slyly "changing tack." She pettily exerts her rank over Jean and displays jealousy toward his would-be fiancé. The misogyny of this characterization is hardly subtle. Strindberg makes his women characters misogynist, too; Christine attributes Julie's wild behavior to her menstrual cycle.
This sequence is meant to assure the audience that Julie is asking for her own ruin. She admits to a masochistic desire for her own ruin. As her dream suggests, she wants to "climb down." Already we begin to sense that Julie's fall is inevitable. In her dream, she goes "right down into the earth" to find peace. Such masochism is what makes her a difficult and fascinating character. We worry about her and wonder at her behavior, but cannot look away. Jean appears to be at the mercy of Julie's wiles, hesitant in his lust, and eager to maintain decorum and warn her of the consequences of flirtation. Jean's unheeded warnings further underline Julie's responsibility for her public ruin.
Miss Julie's sadomasochism was actually the result of her upbringing. Her mother was a sadistic woman who enjoyed power and causing ill to men whereas her father was masochistic because by marrying the countess, he desired his own downfall. Miss Julie grew up witnessing her mother's antics as well as her father's and inherited their particular characteristics to become a sadomasochistic woman.
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