Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 31903
Modern Tragic Substance in O’Neill’s Desire under the Elms and Mourning Becomes Electra

Authors: Azza Taha Zaki

Abstract:

The position Eugene O’Neill occupies in the history of American drama is undisputable. Critics have agreed that the American theatre was waiting for O’Neill to give it substance, character, and value. The American dramatist continues to be considered as a major influence on the body of dramatic repertoire across the globe. The American theatre before O’Neill knew playwrights who were mostly viewed as entertainers. The serious drama had to wait until O’Neill started his career with expressionistic and social drama. His breakthrough, however, came in 1925 when he published Desire Under the Elms, described as the first important tragedy to be written in America. Mourning Becomes Electra, published in 1931, further reinforced the reputation of Eugene O’Neill and was described as his 'magnum opus'. Aspiring to portray the essence of life and man’s innermost conflicts, O’Neill turned to the classical model, rather than to social realistic drama, to create modern tragedies with the aid of the then-new science of psychology. The present paper aims to undertake an in-depth study of how overtones from classical tragedies by the classical masters Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides resonate through O’Neill’s two plays. The paper shows how leaning on classical themes and concepts interpreted in terms of psychological forces have added depth and tragic substance to a modern milieu and produced masterpieces of dramaturgy.

Keywords: classical, drama, O'Neill, modern, tragic

Procedia APA BibTeX Chicago EndNote Harvard JSON MLA RIS XML ISO 690 PDF Downloads 264

References:


[1] S. Cheney, The New Movement in the Theatre. New York, 1914.
[2] S. Churchwell, “Eugene O’Neill, Master of American Theatre” , The Guardian, March, 2012. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2012/mar/30/eugene-o-neill-master-american-theatre
[3] J. Kennedy, “Eugene O’Neill (1888-1953)” in Visions of Tragedy in Modern American Drama: From O’Neill to the Twenty First Century, D. Palmer, Ed. New York: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2018, pp 15-30.
[4] T. Bogard, Contour in Time: The Plays of Eugene O’Neill. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988, p. 209.
[5] V. Lamboropolous, “Eugene O’Neill’s Quest for Greek tragedy” in The Oxford Handbooks Online, Kathryn Bosher, Ed. Dec. 2015. Retrieved from https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199661305.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199661305-e-015
[6] All quotations from the play are from E. O’Neill, Desire Under the Elms. New York: New American Library, 1958.
[7] E. A. Engel, The Haunted Heroes of Eugene O’Neill. Cambridge: Massachusetts, 1953, p. 226.
[8] R. D. Skinner, A Poet’s Quest. New York: Longman, 1964, p. 145.
[9] A. Gelb and B. Gelb, O’Neill. New York: Harper and Bros, 1962, p. 538.
[10] B. H. Clark, Eugene O’Neill: The Man and His Plays. New York: Dover Publications, 1947, p. 70.
[11] J. Barton and K. Cavander, The Greeks: Ten Greek Plays Given as a Trilogy. Heinmann Educational Books, 1981, p. X.
[12] D. Grene and R. Lattimore, The Complete Greek Tragedies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959, p. 238.
[13] D. Grene, Tr. The Complete Greek Tragedies, Vol. II, Sophocles. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1959.
[14] G. Thomson, Aeschylus and Athens: A Study of the Social Origins of Drama. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1946, p. 270.
[15] W.H. Auden, The Portable Greek Reader. London: Penguin Classics, 1977, p. 21.
[16] All quotations from the play are from E. O’Neill. Mourning Becomes Electra: A Trilogy, London: Johnathan Cape, 1966.
[17] C. Leech, O’Neill. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1963, p. 238.
[18] D. Falk, Eugene O’Neill and the Tragic Tension. New York: Rutgers University Press, 1958, p. 54.
[19] R. F. Whitman, “O’Neill’s Search for a “language of the theatre” in O’Neill: A Collection of Critical Essay, J. Gassner, Ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1964, p. 156.
[20] H. D. F. Kitto, Greek Tragedy: A Literary Study. London: Methuen and Co. 1961, p. 133.
[21] H. Frenz, Eugene O’Neill. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing House, 1971, p.68.
[22] S. Young, “Eugene O’Neill’s new play: Mourning Becomes Electra” in O’Neill: A Collection of Critical Essays, J. Gassner, ED. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1964, p. 86.
[23] P. Roberts, The Psychology of Tragic Drama, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975, p. 171.
[24] E. Bentley, “Trying to like O’Neill” in O’Neill: A Collection of Critical Essays, J. Gassner, ED. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1964, p. 97.
[25] T. E. Porter, Myth and Modern American Drama. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. 1969, p. 40