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Eugene O'Neill

(1888—1953) American dramatist


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(1888–1953),

American dramatist. His first big success was the full‐length naturalistic drama Beyond the Horizon (1920), which was followed in the same year by his expressionistic The Emperor Jones, a tragedy, and Anna Christie (1921), a naturalistic study of a prostitute on the New York waterfront. Among other important plays of this period were The Hairy Ape (1922), All God's Chillun Got Wings (1924), and Desire under the Elms (1924). He experimented with a stream‐of‐consciousness technique in Strange Interlude (1928), and adapted the theme of the Oresteia to the aftermath of the American Civil War in his trilogy Mourning Becomes Electra (1931), Ah! Wilderness (1932) and Days without End (1934) were followed by a long absence from the stage during which he was awarded the Nobel Prize (1936). The Iceman Cometh (1946) is a lengthy naturalistic tragedy set in Harry Hope's Bowery Saloon, where a collection of down‐and‐out alcoholics nourish their illusions (‘pipe dreams’) with the aid of an extrovert salesman, Hickey. His masterpiece, Long Day's Journey into Night (1956), was written in 1940–41; it is a semi‐autobiographical family tragedy, portraying the mutually destructive relationships of drug‐addicted Mary Tyrone, her ex‐actor husband James, and their two sons, hard‐drinking Jamie and intellectual Edmund. His last play was A Moon for the Misbegotten (1947). O'Neill transcends his debt to Ibsen and Strindberg, producing an œuvre in which the struggle between self‐destruction, self‐deception, and redemption is presented as essentially dramatic in nature.

Subjects: Theatre — Literature.


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