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Machinal


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AT: The Life Machine A: Sophie Treadwell Pf: 1928, New York Pb: 1929 G: Drama in 9 scenes S: New York and a seaside hotel, 1920s C: 17m, 10f, extrasThe Young Woman, a stenographer, endures a miserable and oppressive life, both at home and at work. So when her unattractive and boring boss asks to marry her, she accepts. However, life with her Husband offers no joy: the honeymoon is a hideous experience, and she hates her baby when it is born. In a speakeasy, she meets the Young Man, an outlaw on the run. She falls in love with him, and her affair with him is ‘all she ever knew of Heaven’. When her Husband refuses to let her go, she murders him, is tried and sentenced to death. When told her head must be shaved, she resists for the first time in her life. Rejecting remorse, she goes steadfastly to the electric chair.

AT: The Life Machine A: Sophie Treadwell Pf: 1928, New York Pb: 1929 G: Drama in 9 scenes S: New York and a seaside hotel, 1920s C: 17m, 10f, extras

Based on the real-life murder trial of Ruth Snyder, the first woman to be executed in the electric chair just eight months before the play's premiere, Machinal is a powerful Expressionist treatment of a woman whose crime appears almost justified. The clamour of contemporary technology, the routines of urban life, and, above all, the oppression of her gender, drive her to make her futile bid for freedom and fulfilment. The Young Man was played at its premiere by Hal K. Dawson (known later as Clark Gable). Because of its early feminist implications, Machinal has been successfully revived in recent years.

Subjects: Theatre — Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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