Strife charts the progress of an industrial strike at the Trenartha Tin Plate Works, dealing with the fanatical antagonism between industrial workers and those who are determined to remain their masters. The play’s structure is intended to present an impartial balance between the forces of revolt and conservatism, describing the fierce stalemate from both the workers' and the directors' points of view.
On the one hand there is the dynamic, white-haired John Antony, who dominates the Board of Directors with his fixed ideas of class supremacy; on the other, David Roberts is the passionate and righteous orator who leads the strikers through the struggle. As starvation threatens the families of the strikers, the relationships of the women on either side of the dispute falter across the class divide.
Galsworthy’s patterned naturalism leaves the argument carefully poised and ultimately unresolved, as the vehement ideologies of each side are eventually defeated by the negative, reductive force of compromise. But the power of his characters is designed to resonate beyond their circumstances as portraits of absolute extremism. The play was first produced in 1909 at the Duke of York’s Theatre, London.