Editor: Harley Hammerman St.

Louis, Missouri

Volume 0 1999-2005

Eugene O’Neill, 1888-1953: A Descriptive Chronology of His Plays, Theatrical Career, and Dramatic Theories
Charles A. Carpenter
The following is from Professor Carpenter’s Modern British, Irish, and American Drama: A Descriptive Chronology, 1865-1965. Included here are entries relevant to the emergence of serious drama in America as well as those that deal directly with O’Neill.

1883 February The romantic actor James O’Neill plays Edmond Dantès for the first time in a revival of Charles Fechter’s version of The Count of Monte Cristo. His promising career will collapse into more than 6,000 repetitions of this sure-fire role, as his dramatic re-creation laments in his son Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night. 1888 October Eugene Gladstone O’Neill is born on October 16 in a Broadway hotel room. 1891 May After a brief tryout in July 1890 induces theatre managers to refuse to produce James A. Herne’s daring and impressive problem play, Margaret Fleming, Herne rents a hall in Boston, adapts the space for an intimate performance, advertises to the intelligentsia, and (according to William Dean Howells, who promoted the play) becomes “the talk of the whole city wherever cultivated people met.” Howells had told Herne that his drama has “the same searching moral vitality as Ibsen’s best work,” and predicted an “epoch-making effect for it.” Almost as objectionable to conservative playgoers as Ghosts, the drama involves a nursing mother, who suffers from glaucoma, and her philandering but still loving husband, who has impregnated the nursemaid’s sister. When the woman dies in childbirth, his wife learns about the affair—which exacerbates her glaucoma and causes blindness. Hearing the sick baby cry, she impulsively “unbuttons her dress to give (it) nourishment,” a scandalous stage event at the time (and long after). Even more disturbing, in the first version the baby dies, she abandons her own baby and home, and when she accidentally confronts her husband at the home of the nursemaid (who has kept her baby), even though he is penitent she drives him away. Herne changes the ending for revivals (July 1892 and April 1894) to make the play more palatable—the baby does not die; the woman does not flee; she forgives her husband and is pleased when he looks in on both

children—but it never becomes popular. Because it was not published until 1930 and was later revived only in Chicago, the play had no discernible impact on the rebirth of serious American drama two decades after its initial production. 1896 August A group of men who owned theatres across America, most notably Charles Frohman, teams up with booking agents to form the Theatrical Syndicate, which by 1900 gains control of a great number of American theatres, including all but three in New York City. In an era of sometimes multiple tryouts for new plays before risking a New York production and, afterwards, prolific touring from city to city to exploit successful plays, access to farflung venues is crucial to financial solvency for theatre companies, so that they virtually have to submit to the Syndicate’s self-serving policies. A repressive force opposed by David Belasco and Herne, among others, the Syndicate tries to insure high profits by mandating morally conventional actions with gratifying endings, and stressing spectacle and popular appeal. Their most remunerative playwrights are Bronson Howard and Clyde Fitch. 1897 February Herne’s essay “Art for Truth’s Sake in the Drama” (Arena), recognized as a veritable manifesto of the higher drama in America, declares that drama’s mission is “to interest and to instruct” rather than simply to amuse. “It should not preach objectively, but it should teach subjectively.” If a dramatist “has a truth to manifest and he can present it without giving offence and still retain its power, he should so present it, but if he must choose between giving offence and receding from his position, he should stand by his principle and state his truth fearlessly.” This kind of drama “stands for the higher development and thus the individual liberty of the human race.” December The respected New York Times drama critic Edward A. Dithmar sums up the American dramatic situation by saying “We have no body of plays we can point to with pride.” The few creditable works—Augustus Thomas’s Alabama, Belasco’s The Heart of Maryland, Howard’s Young Mrs. Winthrop and The Henrietta, and William Gillette’s Secret Service—“are exceptions, and they tell a story of many years of unproductiveness.” 1899 November In New York the Carnegie Lyceum, a lecture/concert hall run by Franklin H. Sargent, begins a subscription season of single performances of “new” European dramas (in English translations) with an 1881 play by José Echegaray, El gran Galeoto. It is followed in January 1900 by Ibsen’s The Master Builder (its American premiere), in March by Alexander Ostrovsky’s The Storm (1860) and Gerhart Hauptmann’s The Sunken Bell (1896), and in April by two one-acts, Edward Martyn’s The Heather Field (May 1899) and François Coppée’s A Troubadour (Le Passant, 1869). The venture gains little critical attention and soon expires, but serves its purpose for interested playgoers. 1903 September A trial matinee of Shaw’s Candida in New York, mounted at their own expense by Arnold Daly and a young actor, gains such a positive reception that additional performances are arranged so that the play is finally given over a hundred times. Shaw’s short play about Napoleon, The Man of Destiny (1897), sometimes supplements the

and his wife Minnie Maddern Fiske. resigns from the New York Tribune after 44 years in the post. following his success with Shaw plays in September 1903 and a year later. every motive. He later says that the performance”discovered an entire new world of the drama for me. is performed in New York. where Baker had encouraged him to pursue “the newer and truer methods of drama”. every class.” Two of his plays that follow this statement. gives You Never Can Tell its American premiere and scores another success. every idleness!” Moreover.” He declares his belief in “the particular value . in an ultimately successful attempt to break the near-monopoly of the Syndicate. 1907 Spring Eugene O’Neill sees his first Ibsen play. injury to the business of the persons exploiting them. and are. With revivals of his previous Shaw offerings starting in September and the premieres of John Bull’s Other Island and Mrs Warren’s Profession in October. critics alternately praise and damn the play for its exposé of slum life. one comparing it to Gorky’s “depressing” The Lower Depths. After many fluctuations in power. a trio of shrewd businessmen. and the Shubert brothers. “if you inculcate an idea in your play. every business. including various truces and treaties between the competitors that dissolved sooner or later. join forces with David Belasco.” The lavish New Theatre opens on Broadway with a performance of Antony and Cleopatra. the ultra-popular Syndicate playwright Clyde Fitch surprisingly advocates dramatic realism in his essay “The Play and the Public. He confesses that his columns “relative to indecent and reprehensible plays have been. every kind. .” June After vainly opposing the Theatrical Syndicate since 1898. Hedda Gabler. . the two aspirants for total control reached approximate equality in the mid-1920s. Harrison Grey Fiske. every occupation. William Winter. a prosperous theatre manager. 1904 July In the influential symposium “A National Art Theatre for America” published in Arena. . produced by the Fiskes and starring the strong Ibsenite Mrs. 1905 January Arnold Daly. include daring realistic ingredients combined with their well-made plots and are heralded as among the best examples of American social realism so far produced. . a noted actress. so much the better for your play and for you—and for your audience.” 1908 November Edward Sheldon’s naturalistic but finally sentimental drama Salvation Nell. in a modern play of reflecting absolutely and truthfully the life and environment about us. . Sheldon gives credit for inspiration to George Pierce Baker’s playwriting seminar at Harvard. which newspapers attribute to a “Shaw cult. and goes back nine more times. 1909 November America’s bastion of conservative drama criticism and relentless denouncer of advanced drama. Fiske. framed for the purpose of doing . Daly helps makes the year a notable one for the growing acceptance of Shaw in America. who was fighting the Syndicate in court. The Truth (1907) and The City (1909). It gave me my first conception of a modern theater where truth might live.evening. every emotion.

1911 September The Abbey Theatre begins a half-year tour of America. 1912 January O’Neill. (George Jean Nathan. The play that impressed him most was Synge’s Riders to the Sea. Strindberg. The Nigger. in a deep depression at age 23. later. (It reopens as the Century later that year but specializes in musical shows. Sean O’Casey. later chooses it as one of the “Ten Dramatic Shocks of the Century. and others. is introduced into the New Theatre’s repertory and makes a sensation. but is saved by a friend. Two months after William Winter steps down. While there he immerses himself in the dramas of Hauptmann. the enterprise makes little headway and closes in early 1911. Brieux. In early 1919 he writes a play based on these experiences.”) The play depicts a (typically racist) Southern candidate for governor who is on the brink of marriage when he discovers that his grandmother was one-fourth Negro. who reviewed it favorably. O’Neill sees every play and later comments on the contrast between “the old ranting. Ibsen’s Brand. “discovering” O’Neill and becoming a valued supporter of him and. The play incites hysterical enthusiasm (and even some fainting) and enjoys a run of 190 performances in spite of scandalous topics and language. he not only convinces his fiancée that she must not marry a “nigger” but also confesses his lineage publicly and vows to dedicate himself to promoting racial harmony. the final impact rests with his heroic sacrifice rather than with the existence of a real social problem. The Straw. but clearly designed for huge audiences and dramatic spectacles. consumption (tuberculosis).) December Threatened by “the great killer” of the day. Exorcism. romantic stage stuff” and “the possibilities of naturalistic acting” realized by the troupe. its performance at the Greenwich Village Theater in . Unfortunately.) Before closing. artificial. highlighted by the disruption of the first performance of Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World in New York in November. which he drew upon later in Anna Christie. attempts suicide in a room over Jimmy the Priest’s bar in New York by taking a heavy dose of Veronal tablets. Sheldon’s The Nigger. and Synge. after he returns home he begins writing plays. where the disease is cured. the critic George Jean Nathan begins writing a theatre column for the magazine The Smart Set (an early equivalent of The New Yorker). He will soon be recognized as America’s most influential early champion of advanced drama. depicts the event and its apparent effect on him. three months after the author’s death at the age of 43. three Maeterlinck plays. December Fitch’s sensational melodrama The City: A Modern Play of American Life is produced in New York. it presents Galsworthy’s Strife. Sheldon’s daring drama of averted miscegenation.Subsidized by a group of wealthy New Yorkers led by Winthrop Ames to fulfill the growing demand for a place to present advanced dramas. (His play written in 1919 and performed in 1920. O’Neill goes to a sanatorium for five and a half months. Transformed by this coincidence.

Ida Rauh. adding a motive for those authors to originate the Provincetown Players. a friend of Cook’s). (It turns out that he cannot afford it. and others. and the stagecraft of Gordon Craig for inspiration. Fog. etc. O’Neill is wary because Baker. includes Thirst.) 1915 February In New York the Washington Square Players. September O’Neill begins Professor George Pierce Baker’s two-term playwriting seminar at Harvard. or felt. . lifeattitude. O’Neill writes his first enduring play. July The as-yet unnamed Provincetown Players. “Very important from my point of view. S. and irked by the Washington Square Players’ preference for foreign plays. a group developed over the past few months by Philip Moeller. Robert Edmond Jones. Still. In it can be seen. O’Neill is disgusted.” Disgusted by the mindless commercialism of virtually all American theater. 1914 Spring Culminating a burst of trial-and-error creativity. the germ of the spirit.. Jones.” August O’Neill makes his first dent on the American dramatic scene by publishing Thirst and Other One Act Plays in an edition of 1. Glencairn cycle. he profits from practical advice such as starting the composing process with detailed scenarios. the “47 Workshop” made famous in 1908 when a play written by a class member. in evaluating his ample portfolio. they look to Chicago’s Little Theatre (an amateur company begun in 1912 by Maurice Browne. John Reed. December Hauptmann’s The Weavers begins an eleven-week run in New York. the performances of the visiting Abbey Theatre players. Suppressed Desires. and The Web (which he later called “the first play I ever wrote”). became a Broadway hit. Lawrence Langner. Glaspell.November 1921 is reviewed negatively. which sells very few copies and is reviewed only once. of all my more important future work. They also reject as “too experimental” the one-act satire of Freudianism by Susan Glaspell and her husband George Cram Cook. had said that Bound East for Cardiff is “not a play. Recklessness. Edward Sheldon’s Salvation Nell. performs three one-acts at the Bandbox Theater. The volume. When Augustus Thomas comes as guest lecturer for six hours and regales the students with methods to devise sure-fire hits. Warnings. but later accept and produce In the Zone. O’Neill attends the play six times. Edward Goodman.” and he becomes disillusioned by the emphasis on the means to attain commercial viability. the one-act Bound East for Cardiff (first entitled “Children of the Sea”) It becomes the first play of the S. and others to provide a haven for noncommercial drama. They reject the first plays that O’Neill sends them. a group consisting of Cook. In 1935 O’Neill said of it. and he accepts the invitation to continue the course the following year. is formed (in Cook’s words) “to give American playwrights a chance to work out their ideas in freedom. Wilbur Daniel Steele.000 copies financed by his father.

Bound East for Cardiff. who says he has “a whole trunk full of plays. but the Sunday drama section of the New York Times gives O’Neill his first public notice in a 400-word piece. culminating in a recent rejection that has filled him with remorse. Paranoia grips some crewmen when they suspect a superior man of being a spy. the haven of those who lack experience and knowledge of the drama. Far from confirming their suspicions. a group evolved from the failed . it turns out to contain love letters from his fiancée.” a seaman announces that the fog has lifted. each one designated the Playwrights Theater. they bind and gag him. is performed. December The play awarded the first Pulitzer Prize for drama. only to result in a sumptuous feast for sharks at the curtain. atmosphere. Critics continue to pay little attention to the company. Glaspell recalled that the fog.” In August the group produces O’Neill’s already published one-act Thirst and Glaspell’s Trifles. Fog. and language—featuring a galaxy of dialects— replace plot. 1919 April The Theatre Guild of New York. mood. Thirst is a three-character melodrama set on a life raft that portrays the threat of cannibalism averted. and sounds of the sea at the wharf collaborated to make the first performance unusually impressive. one of whom talks seriously to him about life as it might have been and tries to calm his fears of death. and The Sniper. 1917 January David Belasco (quoted in the New York Herald) reacts to the burgeoning of noncommercial theatres in New York by describing their “new art” as “the cubism of the theater—the wail of the incompetent and the degenerate. . they present three more of his one-acts: Before Breakfast. Innovative for the time. On a foggy night at sea. November The Provincetown Players begin a New York season in humble venues. Glaspell recalls. Just after Yank finally visualizes death coming as “a pretty lady dressed in black. the group is introduced to O’Neill by his friend Terry Carlin. Three one-acts are presented as the first bill. the first O’Neill play to be produced. Why Marry? by Jesse Lynch Williams.” and listens to a reading of Bound East for Cardiff. will come to be recognized as one of the finest one-acts written by an American. then check out an iron box that is the focus of his furtive behavior. a badly injured seaman (the only “Yank”) is slowly dying in the presence of his vulgar mates. Groping for a second bill. . “Then we knew what we were for. “Who Is Eugene O’Neill?”. . set on a British steamer carrying ammunition through sub-infested waters in 1915. foghorn.1916 July The Provincetown Players offers its first plays to the public in a renovated fishhouse on a wharf in Provincetown christened the Wharf Theater.” October The Washington Square Players perform O’Neill’s one-act In the Zone. among them Suppressed Desires by Glaspell and Cook. Besides repeating O’Neill’s Bound East for Cardiff. November The Provincetown Players begin their New York season with bills of oneacters that include O’Neill’s The Long Voyage Home and Ile. it is a drama in which setting.

and the husband dies of consumption—after a last gesture of triumph that he is finally free to set out “beyond the horizon. at the Garrick Theatre (its venue until the Guild Theatre is opened in April 1925). one well-equipped to take over the farm. which has dealt with our moral and material problems and penetrated the psychological regions which it seemed impossible an art so objective should reach” (North American Review). the play portrays contrasting sons of an aging farmer. changing the barge captain’s daughter Anna from a pure woman needing to be protected into a prostitute who finds reformation and love from life on the sea. the other so much of a dreamer that he is preparing for a voyage in search of fulfillment. July Referring to American drama of the last forty years. Karel Capek’s R. is performed on Broadway and hailed loudly enough by the younger critics to insure a long New York run.. the unfit brother stays and the fit one leaves in order to forget his beloved. the farm goes to seed. O’Neill revises it radically. after nearly two years of delays. (The Pulitzer carried little weight in its early years.” In a November 1922 interview in American Magazine.” March The first completed version of O’Neill’s Anna Christie. and destroys them. six-scene structure which had bothered critics: “One scene is out of doors. issue The Moon of the Caribbees and Six Other Plays of the Sea. The love-match soon disintegrates into a Strindbergian war of the sexes. Because both men love the same woman and she chooses the dreamer. suggesting the man’s desire and dreams. Also in March the Provincetown Players produce his autobiographical one-act Exorcism. O’Neill explains the play’s three-act. asks that all scripts be returned to him.” the Guild in its first few years will perform such notable foreign plays as Ferenc Molnár’s Liliom. has out-of-town tryouts but is deemed inadequate for Broadway. I tried to get rhythm. the horizon gone. based on his attempted suicide. presents its first play. In that way.Washington Square Players through the efforts of Lawrence Langner. “We have a drama which has touched our life at many characteristic points. however. Jacinto Benavente’s The Bonds of Interest. Reviews are uniformly enthusiastic. But O’Neill quickly deplores releasing it. Then (despite its faults) it wins the Pulitzer Prize and establishes the young playwright as a potent force in modern drama. Leo Tolstoy’s The Power of Darkness. and Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. 1920 February O’Neill’s domestic tragedy Beyond the Horizon. May The publishers Albert Boni and Horace Liveright. which O’Neill had seen in 1911. but O’Neill was delighted by the $1000 stipend. A subscription society intending “to produce plays of artistic merit not ordinarily produced by the commercial managers. impressed by O’Neill’s talent. C. Murray’s Birthright. begun in January 1919 and entitled Chris Christopherson (but performed as Chris). Nathan places O’Neill above the crowd of new . The other is indoors. showing the horizon.R. suggesting what has come between him and his dreams. the alternation of longing and loss. William Dean Howells declares.) In the vein of T. Paul Claudel’s The Tidings Brought to Mary. In “The American Playwright” (Smart Set). The new play is first performed in November 1921. as well as English and American plays.U.

and she vows to make a good home for them. he descends into a psychotic maelstrom that progresses from echoes of his criminal deeds in America to manifestations of his racial past (à la Carl Jung’s theory of a “racial memory”). they themselves cannot know. When a rough-hewn Irishman he saved from a shipwreck falls in love with Anna. of Broadway by Provincetown. who risk bankruptcy by constructing a plastic dome to convey the illusion of infinite space that surrounds O’Neill’s “Great Forest. is performed by the Provincetown Players. fogbound sea knows where their lives are going. But fleeing through a dark woods at night. This version of a much-revised play commences with Anna’s father seeing her for the first time in many years and telling her how “dat ole davil. 1921 February Acting as a prophet during a visit to the United States.” he curses her and both men abandon her. She is provoked to disclose that she has lived as a prostitute.” The play is received so well that it is subsequently moved to Broadway. faces a rebellion staunchly by putting his careful escape plans into operation.” November O’Neill’s Anna Christie is performed on Broadway. (However. Despite doubts about the appropriateness of its ending and the awkwardness of the Swedish dialect. Not only is its original combination of a naturalistic situation framing an expressionistic nightmare a striking feature to the critics. From Morn to Midnight (which O’Neill had recently read and disliked). and hearing the escalating beat of a tom-tom in the distance. The two soon realize they need her and make amends. it attracts few Londoners when it was performed there in April 1923).” The “real birthplace of the New American Drama” will occur in Washington Square. 1922 March O’Neill’s highly distinctive drama The Hairy Ape: A Comedy of Ancient and Modern Life is performed by the Provincetown Players and later moved uptown. and even though she declares that returning the seaman’s love has made her “clean. despite the group’s fear that it would taint their enterprise with commercialism. When some critics deplored the weakly motivated happy ending. sea” took his father and sons (much as it victimized the mother in Synge’s Riders to the Sea). “or ultimately among the sand dunes of Cape Cod. He finally discovers that he has traveled full circle and is shot by natives. a former porter who has satisfied his lust for money and power in a West Indian island community. within its thoroughgoing expressionistic context. but it is the first play by a white dramatist. he and several critics link it more closely to The Emperor Jones because the key feature of its dramaturgy. O’Neill retorted that they ignored the father’s final reminder that only the malicious. “Emperor” Jones. presented by a white theatre company. he rages against marriage to a seaman. the play gains popularity and wins the Pulitzer Prize. to have a black in the starring role. the play has similarities to Georg Kaiser’s classic of expressionism. is the complex . however. However. composed in only two weeks. English drama critic William Archer states that the “great hope of the future lies in the fertilization of the large by the little theater. Greenwich Village.dramatists by calling him “the one writer for the native stage who gives promise of achieving a sound position for himself. Written in only two weeks.” November O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones.

the drama revolves around the tortured relationship of a black with ambitions to become a lawyer and his white wife.” and reminds readers of Othello. Their first offering is Strindberg’s The Spook Sonata.characterization of the protagonist as he searches for where he “belongs. he tries to get back at her kind by assaulting a “procession of gaudy marionettes. 1923 March The Austrian dramatist Hugo von Hofmannsthal commends O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones. Robert Edmond Jones. Primarily naturalistic but with strong symbolic and expressionistic elements. After a radical leftist group rejects his offer of dynamiting a steel works in their cause as the idea of “a brainless ape. . silly animal. Anna Christie. splendidly-suffering bit of chaos the tragedy of which gives Man a tremendous significance. So you see I’m no pessimist. while without his losing fight with fate he would be a tepid. I’m tickled to death with life!” 1924 January The Provincetown Players are revived by Kenneth McGowan. The closer he comes to achieving his goal. I see life as a gorgeously-ironical. What I am after is to get an audience to leave the theatre with an exultant feeling from seeing somebody on the stage facing life. February O’Neill’s All God’s Chillun Got Wings is published by Nathan in American Mercury. and The Hairy Ape as “clear-cut and sharp in outline.” A powerful stoker on a transatlantic liner. exultant in his role as the “steel” that runs the ship. the more irrational she becomes. fighting against the eternal odds. with the group’s name changed to The Experimental Theater. solidly constructed from beginning to end” (Freeman). where its depiction of a white woman married to a black man is condemned by newspapers. even though his incentive is the same as hers for him. On the contrary.” On leave in Manhattan. which baffled critics. The individual life is made significant just by the struggle. beautifully-indifferent. church and women’s groups.” he thinks that he may “belong” with a gorilla at the zoo. to “prove I’m the whitest of the white!” She finally goes insane.” but they prove impenetrable and he is suppressed by police. especially since masks were used. O'Neill expounds his "innate feeling of exultance about tragedy": "The tragedy of Man is perhaps the only significant thing about him. but perhaps inevitably being conquered. not conquering. I say ‘losing fight’ only symbolically for the brave individual always wins. who suffers a nervous breakdown from the pressures of their social ostracism and her inbred feelings of white superiority. raving that she will kill her husband if he . in spite of my scars." August In a letter to a friend. May In a New York Tribune interview. Nathan retorts in the May issue (just before the performance) that the play contains nothing offensive “to any human being above the mental level of an apple dumpling. and the president of the Society for the Prevention of Vice. . and O’Neill (“the Triumvirate”). Fate can never conquer his—or her—spirit. . is jolted from his self-assurance when a society lady calls him a “filthy beast. O’Neill eloquently describes his tragic view of life: “I’m far from being a pessimist. It crushes him to death. the successor of Smart Set.

passes the law exams. bereft of consolations (and his savings. Its intention is confined to portraying the special lives of individual human beings . and attains a run of 208 performances. but only because she has escaped into childhood when their affection had no Strindbergian repercussions. then on Broadway. Extra long and extremely costly to produce (as well as being atypical of O’Neill). but soon convinced of her love and his complicity in the murder.” Local officials finally resort to an exceptional refusal to permit the use of child actors. decides to stay on the farm and be “hard an’ lonesome” like his Puritan God. whom he worked to death. Bearing resemblances in plot to both T. young wife to give him an alternative heir. A powerful attraction builds up between the son and new wife. It is set in 1850 on a tract of stony land in New England that a figure of epic proportions. which the son had stolen).” The publicity spurs death threats from the Ku Klux Klan and anonymous bomb warnings. among them whites who warn of possible race riots and blacks who say that the play can cause “only harm. Paul Robeson. Murray’s Birthright. and three sons. the 75-year-old owner. two sons leave but the third remains to claim what he considers property stolen from his mother. the double catharsis reconciles her to him. its consummation (in “Maw’s” parlor) results in the heir that the old man craved. who are necessary in the first scene because the main characters appear as pre-teens. transformed into a “jim-dandy” farm with grudging help from his wife. . but also prompts fierce conflict between the lovers since the son now believes she seduced him to insure her inheritance. Scenic devices such as two brooding elm trees and removable walls on the lovers’ adjoining bedrooms enhance several scenes. The old man. the play has deeper affinities to Greek dramas of fate and retribution such as Euripides’ Hippolytus. and she plunges a carving knife into a conspicuous African mask that has tormented her. . the script of which he had recently read.” but the notoriety simply increases its audiences. At first horrified. October O’Neill finishes his satirical extravaganza Marco Millions. O’Neill asserts publicly that anyone who reads the script intelligently knows it is not “a ‘race-problem’ play. and their tragic struggle for happiness. (The play will be banned in Boston and refused a license in England. But nothing reduces the clamor of conservative opponents. it will not be performed until January 1928. May Ten days before their presentation of O’Neill’s highly controversial All God’s Chillun Got Wings.) Conservatives attack its daring sexual component as “immoral and obscene. he decides to share her punishment. is presented at the Greenwich Village Theatre. He does not. which he wrote in the first half of the year. . throughout the marred production the director has to read the (brief) scene aloud. which had impressed O’Neill favorably in 1911. and the play goes on to a run of 100 despite very mixed notices. C. When he brings home a new. starring the actor who will play the male lead in the play. and Sidney Howard’s They Knew What They Wanted. the Provincetown Players strategically revive The Emperor Jones. The adultress “proves” he is wrong by killing the baby. November O’Neill’s naturalistic tragedy Desire Under the Elms. But the performances are not disrupted.

” 1926 January O’Neill’s complex experimental drama The Great God Brown. Brown “becomes” Dion Brown but. the main values of which are psychological. “He is the only American dramatist who has produced a deep impression on European drama and European thought . “the creative pagan acceptance of life” (Dionysius). O’Neill emphasizes that such a public response to “a mask drama. but “playwrights are either intuitively keen analytical psychologists or they aren’t good playwrights. William Lyon Phelps declares. The title character represents a “visionless demigod of our new materialistic myth”. mystical. though successful. calling it “probably the bravest and most far-reaching dramatic experiment” since Ibsen’s plays and asserting that it reflects “more deep knowledge of the dark corners of the human mind than anything ever written . then transferred to Broadway. during which time the protagonist dissipates as an artist. The protagonist. His own corpse is identified as “Man!” (In London the Stage Society will perform the play twice in June 1927. for a total of 278 performances.” But he is impelled to explain the play to baffled critics.) June O’Neill is awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Literature at Yale. accepts Dion unmasked and administers to his emotional needs. . Krutch will publish The American Drama Since 1918 in 1939. the other key female is a prostitute/Earth-Mother who. Joseph Wood Krutch. . “the masochistic. . who generalizes that “the meaning and unity of (O’Neill’s) work lies not in any controlling intellectual idea . written in only two months. 1925 February Asked about the Freudianism in Desire Under the Elms. .” Much more receptive to the literary and experimental qualities in plays than the usual run of critics. although a “pariah” in social terms. The play spans eighteen years. but merely in the fact that each play is an experience of extraordinary intensity. principal director of the Theatre Guild. in the melodramatic dénouement. urges the theatre’s board to produce O’Neill’s Strange Interlude. . is accused of having murdered Dion and is shot. a distinguished study for its time.” then dies and wills the businessman his mask.Notable among the mixed reviews of Desire Under the Elms is one by the new drama critic of the Nation. . unmasked. The woman both men love is a mother-figure who prefers Dion to Brown because he is “just like a baby sometimes” but is horrified when he momentarily shows his unmasked self. O’Neill replies that whatever is there “must have walked in ‘through my unconscious. Anthony).’” He notes that he has great respect for Freud. Dion Anthony. and abstract” seems “a more significant proof of the deeply responsive possibilities in our public than anything that has happened in our modern theater before or since. embodies two forces that conflict and finally destroy him: masked.” 1927 April Lawrence Langner. . life-denying spirit of Christianity” (St. . goes to work for Brown and endures only because of his cherished “Miss Earth. is presented at the Greenwich Village Theatre. he has redeemed the American theater from commonplaceness and triviality. To me. Freud only means uncertain conjectures and explanations about truths of the emotional past of mankind that every dramatist has clearly sensed ever since real drama began. he envies the “creative life force” of the protagonist. where George Pierce Baker had joined the newly established drama department.

runs from 5:15 until shortly after eleven (with a dinner break from 7:30 to 9:00). . . cut and altered drastically by the author to save production costs. and a mild. and concurrently the Theatre Guild becomes the primary producer of O’Neill’s works. embodied in Kublai Kaan. the play alternates in repertory with Shaw’s The Doctor’s Dilemma for the rest of the season. . who died in World War I but remains as a standard for all men in her mind.” the nine-act drama features extensive use of what O’Neill called “thought asides”. overriding passion as well as a child. and am whole. from innocent virgin to Earth Mother. . . Late in the month O’Neill’s huge. the longest yet to reach Broadway. After reading The Birth of Tragedy in 1925 he called it the “most stimulating . She rhapsodically sums up her often tender. to form one complete beautiful male desire which I absorb . . . . the ineffectual man she agrees to marry. O’Neill replied. to whom she proposes the experiment of impregnating her with a taint-free child. I am pregnant with the three! . . by confronting his values with those of the cultured and spiritual Orient. and wins the Pulitzer Prize. . no doubt helped by having the play banned in Boston. . among them The Great God Brown and Dynamo. The full version. which he had discovered in 1907. represented by a crass Marco Polo. a third of the dialogue consists of expressions of thoughts and feelings that are unheard onstage and often contradict the words that precede them. attains a run of 441 performances. O’Neill had first made notes for the play in 1923 and did not finish it until February 1927. several of his plays show that influence directly. Asked by a reporter if he had a literary idol. is performed by the Theatre Guild. published later in the year. lover! . “The answer to that is in one word—Nietzsche. “has influenced me more than any book I’ve ever read”. husband! . totalling 92 performances. sells over 100. .000 copies by 1931. An experiment in “wedding the theme for a novel to the play form in a way that would still leave the play master of the house. which results in a long-term. . a conception akin to Shaw’s heroine in Man and Superman but with a sharply divergent emotional makeup. innovative drama Strange Interlude is presented by the Theatre Guild (with ample cuts).” The previous year he had told a critic that Thus Spake Zarathustra. her doctor. Revolving around her are four potential or actual lovers: her godlike fiancé. who “has all the luck at last!” A London production will not occur until February 1931. and then it will run for only 35 performances. The production. brings out more shortcomings than virtues in his particular dramatic talents.before. from her husband’s sudden death. Despite serious flaws and mixed reviews.” The play is accepted. O’Neill’s attempt to satirize the banality and materialism of American business. father!” Complications arising from her son’s maturing into a duplicate of her dead fiancé. whose lineage reveals a strong tendency toward insanity. The central figure of the play is an Everywoman who manifests the full range of female roles. more often tumultuous interactions with the three living males by saying “My three men! I feel their desires converge in me! . and from the dissolution of her adulterous affair lead finally to her proclaiming “our lives are merely strange dark interludes in the electrical display of God the Father!”—and agreeing to marry the always-faithful novelist. affectionate novelist who serves as a father-figure but awaits his chance. 1928 January O’Neill’s Marco Millions.

it has never been performed in New York. who abandons his father’s fundamentalist Christianity and turns to the worship of science as manifested in a hydroelectric power plant (“There is no God! No God but Electricity!”). for a language to write drama in! For a speech that is dramatic and not just conversation. His laughter is a triumphant Yes to life in its entirety and its eternity. the joy of a celebrant who is at the same time a sacrifice in the eternal process of change and growth and transmutation which is life.” . . .” When he had finished Dynamo in September 1928 he told a friend that it was the first part of a trilogy he envisioned. . he told Nathan.” Even as he is burnt at the stake. and the lack of that one thing is the penalty we must pay for living in an age which is not equal to more than prose. . The play contrasts with The Great God Brown. the cause of all man’s blundering unhappiness. protests that the “infinitely dreary dialogue” fatigued him (New York World). His laughter is the direct expression of joy in the Dionysian sense. O’Neill in a letter to Krutch expresses optimism tempered by a seemingly insoluble artistic problem: “Oh. strident and juvenile” (American Mercury). then killing her as a temptress and electrocuting himself by embracing the giant machine. and to comfort its fears of death with.book on drama ever written. . Krutch comments: “Here is a scenario to which the most soaring eloquence and the most profound poetry are appropriate. Lazarus laughs. Therefore he is the first and only man who is able to laugh affirmatively. His love for the daughter of an atheist finally results in his guiltily coupling with her before the dynamo. which he also perceives as a mother-figure. Lazarus knows there is no death. in which the Dionysian spirit in its several manifestations is beaten down. and Nathan pans the play as “amateurish. St John Ervine. July While contemplating Mourning Becomes Electra. He is reborn without that fear. . I’m so strait-jacketed by writing in terms of talk. who must endure the experience. But where to find that language?” In his highly favorable review (November 1931). . . The play makes well-nigh impossible demands upon the leading actor. would “dig at the roots of the sickness of Today as I feel it—the death of the old God and the failure of Science and Materialism to give any satisfying new One for the surviving primitive religious instinct to find a meaning for life in. At its center is a young man.” April O’Neill’s Lazarus Laughed: A Play for an Imaginative Theater is performed at the Pasadena Playhouse to largely negative reviews. 1929 February O’Neill’s Dynamo is produced by the Theatre Guild but manages only fifty performances. who must exude rhapsodic laughter almost constantly as he reenacts the legend of Lazarus. O’Neill makes several revisions for the published version. The three plays. there is only change. O’Neill offered the rationale that the fear of death “is the root of all evil. But no modern is capable of language really worthy of O’Neill’s play. The uniqueness of the play lies in its extravagant demonstration that science cannot replace theism as an outlet for man’s religious instincts. “Myth Plays of the God-Forsaken”). . perhaps to be entitled “God Is Dead! Long Live—What?” (later. and upon audiences. A playwright/critic new on the scene.

“I’ll live alone with the dead. The Hunted (five acts). the drama consists of Homecoming (four acts). . and above all. The play is more subject to the charge of outdated Freudianism than Desire Under the Elms or Strange Interlude because of the “deep hidden relationships” that O’Neill found in the Oresteia and focused on strongly: parents and children behave according to the Freudian Oedipus and Electra formulas. until the curse is paid out. and let them hound me. . treats a very important problem intelligently. His Negro play. O’Neill comments on a portrait of Shaw hanging on the office wall. a really fine poet. “I wish they would take that down. Although it earns enthusiastic reviews and attains a run of 150 performances in spite of its inordinate length. Hauptmann states in a Herald Tribune interview that O’Neill “is one of the really great figures in modern drama.1931 February Replying to a request for comments on O’Neill’s drama. and keep their secrets. The drama. it does not win the Pulitzer Prize. . even to the extent of the brother proposing virtual marriage to his sister. the old gentleman seems to be laughing at me. but on September 1 he records: “awoke with idea for this ‘Nostalgic Comedy’ & worked out . and The Haunted (four acts).” O’Neill’s largely naturalistic modernization of Aeschylus’s Oresteia. beautifully. . and have kept the ground in and around the Theater as holy as the ground around the burning bush.” 1932 March Just before O’Neill and Hauptmann will meet at a Theatre Guild dinner during the intermission in a performance of Mourning Becomes Electra. In some plays O’Neill is a really vital social force. has found a new type of artistic expression. .” A neo-Greek mansion that dominates the setting is described by a character as a “pagan temple front stuck like a mask on Puritan gray ugliness!” The chief dramatis personae are equivalents of the legendary Greek figures. But the finale puts Puritan pressures in the forefront. which goes to the musical Of Thee I Sing. but while stripped of their beliefs in controlling gods and predeterminied destinies. chain of fate. In other plays O’Neill is a sensitive poet.” September O’Neill has been struggling to compose Days Without End since June. Mourning Becomes Electra: A Trilogy. All God’s Chillun Got Wings. . they are acutely aware of the psychological forces driving them to similar tragic ends. is presented by the Theatre Guild. I esteem his Hairy Ape as one of the really great social plays of our time. O’Neill deplored the fact that the Greek trilogy let Electra escape the Furies’ retribution and gave his modern Electra a “tragic ending worthy of (her) character”: she shuts herself up in the mansion forever and cries. under him. O’Neill set the play in a seaport town in New England just after Union troops have returned from the Civil War because he thought that the still-pervasive “Puritan conviction of man born to sin and punishment” was dramatically the “best possible” milieu for a “Greek plot of crime and retribution. O’Casey rhapsodizes: “his work is always bearing witness to the things great and the things beautiful which have saved the Theater from the shame of a house of ill-repute and a den of thieves.” October In a New York Times Magazine interview anticipating the first performance of Mourning Becomes Electra. Written between September 1929 and April 1931.

His return to the faith of his childhood strikes his second self mortally. . he risks alienating them after he receives a rejecting letter from the girl: he gets drunk and goes to a brothel for revenge.” unfolding “many undeveloped possibilities of their art. “I hold more and more surely to the conviction that the use of masks will be discovered eventually to be the freest solution of the modern dramatist’s problem as to how—with the greatest possible dramatic clarity and economy of means—he can express those profound hidden conflicts of the mind which the probings of psychology continue to disclose to us. The playwright tells a friend that the play’s “whole importance and reality depend on its conveying a mood of memory in exactly the right illuminating blend of wistful grin and lump in the throat. and manages only 57 performances. Wilderness! He does not finish Days Without End to his satisfaction until October 1933.) The playwright described it as a “modern miracle play” which “reveals a man’s search for truth amid the conflicting doctrines of the modern world and his return to his old religious faith. . The intense 17-year-old protagonist quotes Wilde. suggestively dramatic than any actor’s face can ever be. his wife is propelled to the brink of death by a traumatic loss of faith and.” 1934 January O’Neill’s semi-expressionistic Days Without End is staged by the Theatre Guild. At its best. but avows innocent intentions when the father of a girl he is infatuated with shows them a “dissolute and blasphemous” poem he had sent her (“Why. he dominates his alter ego and confronts the figure of Christ in a Catholic church to beg forgiveness and find divine love. and he soon learns that the girl’s father made her write the letter. forgives him.” but a more typical reaction was that of John . (In London it is staged just twice in February 1935. His wife intuits his spiritual state. and regains her health. stricken with guilt. evokes a host of negative reviews. Still. For what. imaginatively. However. and Nietzscheanism until he finds a soul-mate with whom he unites in apparently perfect love. . enjoys a run of 289 performances. However.” The two-sided protagonist. Wilderness!. a Faust-figure who strives for spiritual enlightenment combined with a Mephistophelian second self (a masked actor only he can see). goes through phases of atheism. The reunion with her is tender and the reconciliation with his parents as sentimental as even an atypical O’Neill can get. Socialism. is a proven weapon of attack.tentative outline—seems fully formed & ready to write. November In his “Memoranda on Masks” (American Spectator).” By the end of the month he had completed the first draft of Ah. it is more subtly. Swinburne and Omar Khayyam to scandalize his conventional parents (à la the young O’Neill). Shaw.” 1933 October O’Neill’s only comedy.” since “the mask is dramatic in itself. an exercise in unmasking?” In a followup two months later he makes the claim that masks would give actors “the opportunity for a totally new kind of acting. at bottom.” A Catholic reviewer heralded the drama as “the great Catholic play of the age. Ah. all ends well when he cannot go through with his plan. is the new psychological insight into human cause and effect but a study in masks. O’Neill writes. is staged by the Theatre Guild. I—I love her!”). and is revived frequently. and the good news about his wife prompts an exultant curtain line: “Life laughs with God’s love again! Life laughs with love!” O’Neill later pronounced the last act “a phony. when he yields to the temptation of adultery.

. straight-forward and disarmingly poignant in the miracle plays of old becomes tedious .” Judging that the play would not be welcomed by war-conscious playgoers. representative of the United States throughout its history. . complete in itself while at the same time an indispensable link in the whole. His increasing physical problems in the 1940s will make him realize that he is unable to finish the others.Mason Brown: “almost everything that was simple. In his acceptance speech (delivered for him in Stockholm. but a copy survives and his wife authorizes an abridged version to be published in 1964. . He tells Lawrence Langner that it is “one of the best things I’ve ever done. turgid and artificial in this fakey preachment of our times. These moments are to me the depth of tragedy. . .” During an interview. . when he visualizes seven plays encompassing 1829 to 1932. . and first inspired me with the urge to write for the theatre myself. with nothing more that can possibly be said. he therefore destroys all the unfinished manuscripts except the one for More Stately Mansions. . He leaves explicit directions for that to be destroyed in case of his death. There are moments in it that suddenly strip the secret soul of a man stark naked. perhaps the best. but with an understanding compassion which sees him as a victim of the ironies of life and of himself. he expresses his debt to “that greatest genius of all modern dramatists. living out the nation’s “ironic tragedy” of a preoccupation with material gain in a land of plenty at the expense of humanistic values—and of the women caught in the web. above all else. “A Tale of Possessors SelfDispossesed. It was reading his plays. “Each play will be. and dreading the strain of New York rehearsals. . 1941 March O’Neill finishes Long Day’s Journey Into Night to his satisfaction—“like this play better than any I have ever written–does most with the least—a quiet play!—and a great one.” and by a biblical saying he applies to the cycle. when I first started to write back in the winter of 1913-14. he speculates that Mourning Becomes Electra was probably the crucial reason why he was chosen for the award.” He had begun making detailed notes and a scenario in July 1939. he postpones a stage production until 1946. first gave me the vision of what modern drama could be. 1940 January O’Neill finishes writing The Iceman Cometh. but notes that he had gained more personal gratification from writing The Great God Brown. I believe. that.” 1935 January O’Neill begins planning and writing unquestionably the most ambitious dramatic opus magnum ever conceived: an epic cycle of dramas (progressing as the years pass from five to eleven long plays) which will depict the generations of an Irish-American family. not in cruelty or moral superiority. 1936 November O’Neill is awarded the Nobel Prize. A Touch of the Poet. as far as it is possible. since he was too sick to travel there). which he had begun in June 1939. . “For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” O’Neill finishes preliminary drafts of several of the plays in the next eight years. . As he describes the project in a July letter to a friend.” The theme is conveyed by the title he ultimately decides upon. . but is fully satisfied with only one. Each play will be concentrated around the final fate of one member of the family but will also carry the story of the family as a whole. your August Strindberg.

He had told his wife that he was “bedeviled” into writing the deeply autobiographical play to come to terms with the members of his family. (Out-of-town tryouts in February and March 1947 convince him and the producers that the casting is unsatisfactory. is produced by the Theatre Guild and manages a run of 136 performances despite flaws in presentation and what some critics perceive as inordinate length and repetitiveness in the script. however. and an inability to compose satisfactorily on the typewriter or by dictation.” But the play embodies a basic O’Neillian thesis. in America at least. It will be performed in Stockholm in 1958 and published in 1959.and after months of concentrating on The Iceman Cometh. The event represents a switch from obscurity to center of controversy for O’Neill. which is explicitly stated in the first minute by a nihilistic “old Foolosopher”: “The lie of a pipe dream is what gives life to the whole misbegotten mad lot of us. According to her “it was a most strange experience to watch that man being tortured every day by his own writing.) Due to an extreme preoccupation with the war. it could never be performed." October O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh. "the theater is dead. thus killing their false aspirations and bringing them “peace. particularly of American drama. who has not been in the public eye since winning the Nobel Prize in 1936.” The ensuing action portrays one man after another returning from a vain attempt at realizing his dream with a grim and phlegmatic indifference tantamount to a state of living . with a cross section of the dregs of humanity struggling against despair by repeatedly voicing their “hopeless hopes” to emerge from the depths by returning to their professions and their families. 1943 May O’Neill finishes A Moon for the Misbegotten. or just freeing themselves from alcoholism." ("We have been fooling ourselves into believing that the period 1920-1940 was a great period of drama. 1946 June Eric Bentley's seminal study of modern drama. He would come out of his study at the end of the day gaunt and sometimes weeping. completed in early 1940. it is the last play O’Neill will write. at which time it could be published. is published and stirs controversy over its contentions that "art and commodity have become direct antagonists" and that.” but completes only this one. He had planned eight monologues in a series to be called “By Way of Obit. The Playwright as Thinker. It was not. which is published in June 1952 but not produced in New York until May 1957. 1945 November O’Neill deposits a copy of Long Day’s Journey Into Night with Random House with the proviso that it must not be opened until twenty-five years after his death. an increasingly severe tremor in his hands. had proceeded with the agonizing process of composition in March 1940.” 1942 June O’Neill finishes revising his short play Hughie. The drama is a thoroughgoing naturalistic tragedy (laced with comic incongruities) grounded in a deterministic view of life. An intruder comparable to Gregers Werle in Ibsen’s The Wild Duck forces them to pursue their pipe dreams. the first one-act he has written since 1918. but not staged in America until December 1964.") He calls O'Neill's tragic dramas of the thirties "tragedies transported to the intense inane.

This revelation. almost surely in defiance of his wishes. . Carlotta O’Neill’s controversial release of the script two years after her husband’s death. he is not the poet O’Casey is. the humour and friendship and human warmth and deep inner contentment at the bottom”. “I think you are right in saying that he goes far deeper than Shaw or I do. and the new delusion that he must have been mad.” 1953 November O’Neill dies on November 27 of a disease resembling Parkinson’s. . and the general public its first acquaintance with the dramatic work which comes to be widely considered the greatest American play. . he is greatly the superior of both in dramaturgy. I’ve often envied him this gift.” Brooks Atkinson of the New York Times supplies the most eloquent rejoinder: the genius of O’Neill is “the raw boldness and elemental strength of his attack upon outworn concepts of destiny. students. not by a thousand leagues .” O’Casey responds in a private letter. It is a powerful gift and Gene . . I’ve pondered his plays and tried to discover how he came by it. and. and the play is performed in New York in November. or be so moved by what Hickey does to them. at the age of 65. . leaves knowledgeable critics and scholars shaking their heads with disapproval but . he is plainly not the mind that Shaw is. frequented by drunks and disorderlies and shiftless loafers. the anonymous drama critic of the prestigious London Times Literary Supplement launches an arresting diatribe on the playwright. . . Moreover.” November Nathan in American Mercury uses the occasion of O’Neill’s reappearance on Broadway to compare his gifts with Shaw’s and O’Casey’s: “the great body of his work has a size and significance not remotely approached by any other American. . 1956 February O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night is published by Yale University Press and produced by the Royal Theatre in Stockholm. complicated by pneumonia. never could.” and whose “philosophy” is a “mass of undisciplined emotions and jejune opinions. of course. once too often. The peevish article in the Times Literary Supplement overlooks the one thing in O’Neill that is inescapable: the passionate depth and vitality of his convictions.death. lacking this. When the director Kenneth Macgowan asked O’Neill to compress Act One. . Only the old Foolosopher is left with nothing.” O’Neill himself is a “puritan” whose “fury against puritans is so fierce that it appears to be pathological. she foisted upon him her own indestructible pipe dream that he would return to fidelity and abstinence. . the enlightened evangelist turns out to have killed his wife because. uses it with power and ruthless integrity. . “You wouldn’t feel the same sympathy and understanding for them. generalizing from the play that the entire O’Neill world is a “dirty pub. giving theatregoers. . the playwright justified its apparent prolixity as necessary to build up “the complete picture of the group as it now is in the first part—the atmosphere of the place. .” 1948 April Reviewing the published version of O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh. Nothing said about him is worth the paper it is printed on unless it recognizes the vitality he has brought into the theater. for in O’Casey there is the true music of great wonder and beauty. But he has plumbed depths deeper than either. allows all but one of the lowlifes to restore his dream—and his semblance of life—before the final curtain. The book becomes a bestseller.

After that production the New Yorker critic.” he pretends. The revivals of June 1968 and July 1974. An oversized but presentable farmer’s daughter who has secretly loved him reveals that the image of bold promiscuity she has promoted is false. she is a virgin and desires him passionately. since his mother actually did succeed in curing her addiction a few years after the time of the play. and torments. the values of the drama are realized much more than they were in 1946. He has also loved her “in my fashion. written in tears and blood”). too. confirms the futility of trying to escape it. conflicts. with runs of 199 and 314 performances respectively. states a terrible truth with extraordinary power and compassion. is finally presented on Broadway but draws mixed reviews and runs for only 68 performances. His anguished confession of this is the climactic incident in a non-autobiographical plot that anticipates his death and provides him with the absolution he seeks. Wolcott Gibbs.” The chief demonstration is her own addiction. are better productions that enhance respect for the play as one of his most moving dramatic works. . and possessing unique interest as the intimate portrait of the playwright’s own family (“this play of old sorrow. May The revival of O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh by José Quintero attains a run of 565 performances Off-Broadway and contributes greatly toward restoring his high reputation. A Moon for the Misbegotten. for all its defects. At first she refuses to allow a performance in America. Its naturalism is in the analytical mode of Ibsen’s Ghosts. O’Neill’s fourth. It’s the future. from very recent to the distant past. . . runs for 390 performances. The fatalistic premises are explicitly stated by the mother: “None of us can help the things life has done to us. and wins the Pulitzer Prize. these cause/effect relationships emerge in reverse chronological order. with her “drowned” in morphine worse than ever before. which began after her younger son’s birth and which she has vainly sought to cure again and again.) One of the greatest naturalistic tragedies ever written.” and “The past is the present. but knows he will pollute their love if he fulfills her . We all try to lie out of that but life won’t let us. but she soon yielded to demands and the prospect of great profit. judged the play not one of O’Neill’s best. which culminated in his whoring on the train that bore her coffin and getting too drunk to attend her funeral. 1957 May The last play O’Neill finished (in 1943). the drama is cathartic for playgoers and readers as it was therapeutic for O’Neill. but after this one he called it “a great play . (Its London production beginning in September 1958 manages a run of only 103. As the play unfolds and the crossfire of blaming and defending leads more and more to exoneration. This is also striking evidence that O’Neill was willing to suppress autobiographical truth for the sake of thematic autonomy.” November O’Neill’s reputation rises to an apotheosis with the first American production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night in the Helen Hayes Theatre. directed by Quintero. The chief male character reenacts the guilt and selfloathing that O’Neill’s brother experienced after he reverted to dissolution and drunkenness when his mother suffered her fatal illness. the exquisitely pathetic finale. It attracts almost universal acclaim. .also with awe and gratitude for the forbidden fruit. and starring Jason Robards in the leading role. . Played on the arena stage of the Circle in the Square without a break for supper. revealing and exploring the full skein of motivations for the characters’ present misfortunes. a tragedy that.

who has learned the tenacity of love by unscrupulously seducing her beloved to insure the marriage. his incurably loving wife and their rebellious daughter. he is humiliated out of his Byronic pretensions of being “a lord wid a touch av the poet. Set in a seedy tavern within an Irish enclave near Boston in 1828. His wife. The play is a counterpoint of virtual monologues. is staged on Broadway by José Quintero to largely negative reviews. which leaves him in a state of “deathlike repose. The play is quickly recognized as a masterpiece of its genre. poke and prod one another’s protective facades. and the two together give rich food for speculation about the abandoned multiplay cycle of which they were integral parts. from whom he gained admiration for his gambling lifestyle. This prompts his cathartic self-revelation. completed in the early spring of 1936.” looks forward to the prospect of equal status and perhaps a return of his affection. and reverts to his lowborn Irish ways. but manages a run of 142 performances. with a seedy hotel guest babbling on to a night clerk who rarely listens. The dominant scenes of pathos in the play alternate with exchanges of sarcastic bantering as he and the woman. habitually treated as a contemptible servant but insistent that “there’s no slavery in it when you love. the previous clerk. the mare. half as long as the original (which dates from 1938). 1964 December O’Neill’s one-act Hughie. the guest quits “carryin’ the torch for Hughie” and happily rolls dice with his replacement.” They have their night together. is finally staged on Broadway and—hailed as a “magnificent” discovery—attains a run of 284 performances. Beaten by police. along with her father. it depicts a “long day’s journey into night” for the proprietor. written in 1941.wishes. is finally performed in New York.” shoots their chief symbol. but it is spent with her cradling him on her breast as he sleeps. already published in 1964. The protagonist is a figure of epic pretensions. The play was the only part of O’Neill’s huge abandoned cycle that he considered finished. His daughter has fallen in love with the son of a well-to-do Yankee. and when the rich man insults him by offering cash to prevent the match he insures his comeuppance by challenging the man to a duel. The stimulus for the guest’s ruminations is the funeral of Hughie. shows understanding for her mother’s unconditional love and compassion for her father’s loss of pride. and the clerk alternating his perfunctory responses with “secret thoughts” heard only by the audience. the displaced son of a nouveau riche Irishman who keeps his family in poverty by maintaining a thoroughbred mare and by radiating scorn for his uncultured customers. 1958 October O’Neill’s A Touch of the Poet . while his daughter. with some critics heralding the surprisingly absurdist qualities of the incommunicative dialogue and cyclical structure. 1967 October A concocted version of the rough draft of O’Neill’s More Stately Mansions. (CONTENTS) . when the new clerk reveals that his name is Hughes and shows empathy for the loss of his predecessor. The abridgment. has more than curio value since its action occurs after that of A Touch of the Poet.

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