Marco Millions: Play by Eugene O'Neill - Summary & Analysis

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Plot-Summary

      Marco Millions is divided into two parts. The first half of the play belongs to Marco, the second half, to the great Kaan. The first part develops the comedy of Marco Polo in terms of broad satire, and then the tragedy of Kublai Khan in terms of poetic mysticism. The two halves of this play not only dramatize different characters, but use different techniques. The first act deals with the material growth of young Marco Polo, and narrates the travels to the Orient. The early scenes of the play skip from Venice, where the young Marco is ridiculed for writing a love poem to Donata, to the progressively learning the ways of the world and to suppress his romantic idealism. In a climactic scene, he, with brash self-assurance, confronts Kublai Kaan and drives a good bargain for the privileges of trading in his realm.

      In the second act Marco progressively instructs the Kaan in ways of Western materialism, while the Kaan’s beautiful grand-daughter, Kukachin, tragically falls in love with this “strange, mysterious dream-knight from the exotic West”. Meanwhile Kukachin romantically intercedes for her Western dream-knight; and, at her request, old Kaan permits Marco to return with his wealth to Venice, on the condition that on the way he delivers Kukachin to the Shah of Persia to be married. But Marco instructed that every morning he must gaze deeply into her eyes love-filled eyes, but can detect only the symptoms of bilious fever. Impervious to love and beauty, he returns to Venice with his millions.

      The third act, which describes the spiritual development of old Kublai Khan, tells of his progressive disillusionment and tragedy.

      In the final act the Great Kaan hears from Persia that Kukachin is dying of a broken heart. Meanwhile, Marco, who has returned to Venice, is about to wed his fat Fontana.

Critical Analysis

      In Marco Millions O’Neill represents his critique of American materialism and vulgarity through both realistic and expressionistic techniques. He deftly satirizes America’s numbing optimism and go-getting through the character of Marco. O’Neill employs a parallel structure in setting and characterization to represent his ironic theme of western moral and spiritual bankruptcy.

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