Eugene O'Neill : an American Dramatist

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      Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953) is the first American dramatist of international significance. The son of an actor; he spent his early years in a great variety of occupations. Journalism, gold-prospecting, acting, office work, and experience as a merchant seaman were among the many jobs which gave him that experience of real life which has proved so valuable in his plays. He studied drama at Princeton University, and was for a time at Harvard. He wrote his first play in 1913, and his earliest work was produced by the Provincetown Players. Recognition came quickly; however, and in 1920 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

O'Neill began in the realist tradition, but abandoned it after Annu Christie (1922), a strongly realistic work dealing with the redemption of a prostitute. Since then he has experimented unceasingly wit new techniques of presentation, new dramatic forms, and origina dialogue.
Eugene O'Neill

      O'Neill began in the realist tradition, but abandoned it after Annu Christie (1922), a strongly realistic work dealing with the redemption of a prostitute. Since then he has experimented unceasingly wit new techniques of presentation, new dramatic forms, and origina dialogue. He is, indeed, a versatile dramatist of great originally Strange Interlude (1931) illustrates his use of aside and soliloquy by means ot which the action of the play is carried on at: two levels. Other experiments are his revival of the chorus, his use of a highly his stylized speech and of rather confusing masks. On occasion his originality leads to obscurity, and his audience cannot always be certain of his meaning, but he is a dramatist of immense force and powerful imagination, and his best plays show a real sense of theatre.

      He is a serious dramatist, concerning himself with major issues of his time - religion, philosophy, psycho-analysis, and scientific thought are the basis of many of his works, such as Dynamo (1929), Mourning Becomes Electra (1931), and Days Without End (1934). Not infrequently he runs to great length-Days Without End is at ast twice the length of the normal play, while his latest play, The Iceman Cometh (1946), contains ten acts.

      O'Neill is by far the greatest exponent in English of the 'expres sionist' drama, of whose aims and techniques more is to be said (see p. 557). Among his plays are The Emperor Jones (1920), Beyond the Horizon (1920), The Hairy Ape (1922), Desire under the Elms (1924), All God's Chillun got Wings (1924), The Great God Brown (1926), Lazarus Laughed (1927), Ah! Wilderness (1933), and a Long Day's Journey into Night (1956).

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