REPRINTS AND ABSTRACTS
1. Normand Berlin, "Ghosts of the Past: O'Neill and Hamlet," Massachusetts Review (Summer 1979), pp. 312-23.
As we approach the end of Long Day's Journey Into Night—with the three Tyrone men seated frozenly, listening to Mary's awkward playing of the piano in that other, darker room, then staring at her as she enters the living room, her face now youthful, her mind recalling moments in her dope-induced past—Jamie Tyrone breaks the heavy silence with the words: "The Mad Scene. Enter Ophelia." A shockingly vicious allusion, causing both James and Edmund to "turn on him fiercely." The Shakespearean allusion, at this crucial moment in the play, has powerful resonances; the dramatic entrance of Mary, like the remembered entrance of Ophelia, impresses itself vividly upon the mind. In writing Long Day's Journey, in facing his dead, the image of a dope-filled mother entering a room of helpless men was inescapable for O'Neill. Less inescapable, but still compelling, is O'Neill's allusion to the entrance of Ophelia. Not only this striking image, but the entire play Hamlet seems to have exerted considerable pressure on O'Neill's creative imagination when he was writing his last two plays, Long Day's Journey and A Moon for the Misbegotten. Shakespeare's Hamlet allowed O'Neill to become better acquainted with his own night and with the night of the dramatic world he created.
Jamie's reference to Ophelia is a specific O'Neill allusion to Hamlet, and the parallels between Mary Tyrone and Ophelia are many and evocative—a fragile woman taking center-stage, her isolation, revelations caused by dope or madness, musical props, "nunnery," remembrance of things past. But the strong relationship between Long Day's Journey and Hamlet goes beyond the specific allusion. Both are ghost plays; in both the past controls the present; both deal with family relationships, especially the relationship of son to mother; in both the mother's behavior informs the lives of members of her family; in both young men are "a little in love with death"; in both we find a religious undertone; in both we hear of sea voyages; in both drink provides a clue to character. The Jamie of Long Day's Journey and A Moon for the Misbegotten is as close to Hamlet as any character in modern drama. Bitter and cynical, his whole life revolves around the condition of Mary Tyrone, whom he considers to be both whore and mother, as the close parallel between Mary and Fat Violet makes clear. This mother-whore combination points directly to the agonizing dilemmas of both Jamie and Hamlet, and results in world-weariness and thoughts of death.
O'Neill's biography leads us to realize that Shakespeare was a member of the family, a companion in creativity. O'Neill could not avoid, especially in his last two auto-biographical plays, the psychic pressures exerted by his knowledge of Hamlet. Shakespeare's play gave O'Neill a denser view of the reality of his personal situation. Long Day's Journey and A Moon, dealing with ghosts of O'Neill's past, were written in the shadow of Hamlet, itself dealing with ghosts of the past. Like Hamlet, O'Neill had the courage to face his ghosts, and once he did he would write no more. He could have uttered Hamlet's dying words: "The rest is silence." (N.B.)
2. Carol Billman, "Language as Theme in Eugene O'Neill's Hughie," Notes on Modern American Literature, III (Fall 1979), #25.
Billman shows how O'Neill, in "one of his most optimistic plays," uses his "gift of gab" in a way that "affirms the need for human communication" and the possibility of its achievement. In contrast to Edward Albee's Zoo Story and LeRoi Jones's Dutchman—"two other American plays likewise set in New York City and devoted to depicting man's difficulty in communicating even in crowded spaces"--O'Neill's play "shows that humans need not resort to the violent acts of Jerry and Clay in Zoo Story and Dutchman—their language will suffice as the vehicle for communication." A brief essay (two 5½ x 8½" pages) but of interest as a comparative study and as a hasty introduction to fuller studies of Hughie by Bogard, Carpenter and Shaughnessy.
3. Eugene O'Neill, Selected Plays. Introduction by Jose Quintero. Garden City, N.Y.: Nelson Doubleday, Inc., 1979.
A worthy successor to, though insufficient as a substitute for, the Modern Library volume of Nine Plays. Of the nine that O'Neill himself had chosen for that previous edition, five remain here (Emperor Jones, Hairy Ape, Desire Under the Elms, Strange Interlude, Mourning Becomes Electra), and the four that have not been retained (All God's Chillun, Marco Millions, Great God Brown, Lazarus Laughed) have been replaced by Anna Christie, Iceman Cometh, Touch of the Poet, and Moon for the Misbegotten.
Quintero's introduction (pp. ix-xiv), while only half the length (and weight) of the Modern Library introduction by Joseph Wood Krutch, does have the immediacy and insightfulness of someone intimate with six of the nine. Accordingly, he introduces them to us "in the same way I would introduce you to a group of old and beloved friends." Amid theatrical memories of stars, rehearsals and performances, he defends the published version of Anna Christie ("hardly a cotton-candy, manufactured happy ending"), explains the virtue (the "glory") of O'Neill's use of abundant repetition, especially in Iceman ("O'Neill writes like a musician, and therefore repeats his themes again and again, utilizing different sections of the orchestra to realize the different shadings inherent in a feeling"), and discusses (p. xiv) the "two realities" that contribute to the "heightened breath" of "America's greatest dramatist":
4. James A. Robinson, "O'Neill and
Albee," Philological Papers (West Virginia University
Bulletin), 25 (February 1979), 38-45.
O'Neill's and Albee's work has many techniques in common as well. The central symbol unifies Desire Under the Elms, Long Day's Journey Into Night, Tiny Alice, and Box/Mao/Box; the musical device of variations on a theme structures The Hairy Ape, The Iceman Cometh, All Over and Counting the Ways; confessional monologues dominate Iceman, Long Day's Journey, Zoo Story, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and A Delicate Balance. The two playwrights also verge occasionally into allegory (Hairy Ape, Great God Brown, Zoo Story, Tiny Alice), largely because they share a vision of the symbolic and mysterious nature of existence.
Finally, O'Neill and Albee reach similar conclusions about this world: they suspect (especially in Strange Interlude and Tiny Alice) that we are ludicrous victims of a cosmic comedy; they suggest (Albee more ambiguously than O'Neill) that existence is insupportable without sustaining illusions. These and the many other parallels between O'Neill and Albee can perhaps be attributed to similar personal backgrounds, similar cultural assumptions, and the resemblance of the 20's to the 60's in American theatrical history; but they also argue for an important, albeit limited, influence of O'Neill on Albee. (J.A.R.)
5. James A. Robinson, "O'Neill's Symbolic Sounds," Modern Language Studies (Spring 1979), pp. 36-45.
Eugene O'Neill's claim that "I have always used sound in plays as a structural part of them" applies especially to his expressionistic dramas, which frequently feature aural environments that symbolize man's victimization by irrational, demonic forces. The sounds made by the tom-tom, the ghosts and the protagonist himself in The Emperor Jones, for example, dramatize the gradual victory of Jones's primitive unconscious over his ego; and the jarring whistles, gongs and mechanized voices in The Hairy Ape point up the defeat of Yank's emerging consciousness by a brutal, industrial civilization. Lazarus Laughed, on the other hand, contrasts the human sound effects of Lazarus's exultant, affirmative laughter and the grotesque, distorted laughter of others to suggest the domination of mankind by a subconscious love/hate of death—"the fearful obsession with death and hatred of life of nearly everyone in the play but Lazarus" (p. 42). Dynamo similarly contrasts sounds, of thunder and a generating plant, ostensibly to demonstrate the death of the old Christian god and the birth of the modern god of science; but like the other plays, its primary theme is man's helplessness in a universe where mysterious forces consistently alienate and destroy him. (J.A.R.)
6. Paul D. Voelker, "The Uncertain Origins of Eugene O'Neill's 'Bound East for Cardiff,'" Studies in Bibliography, 32 (1979), 273-81.
In May, 1914, Eugene O'Neill copyrighted three new plays, only one of which, "Chil¬dren of the Sea," was to be of much later importance. With revision and a new title, "Bound East for Cardiff," it became, in the summer of 1916, O'Neill's first produced play. Traditionally, "Cardiff" has been seen by O'Neillians as the first sign of O'Neill's dawning maturity as a playwright, a view encouraged by O'Neill himself in his well-known letter to Richard Dana Skinner.
Nevertheless, given the importance of "Cardiff," it seems surprising that no detailed textual comparison of it and "Children" has been published. No doubt O'Neill's recent biographers—the Gelbs, Doris Alexander, and Louis Sheaffer have been influential in this regard, because all have reported that there are only minor differences between "Children" and "Cardiff." Yet, textual analysis suggests that the opposite may be true.
The revisions which changed "Children" into "Cardiff" suggest that, in fact, O'Neill may have been doing more than simply "polishing" an essentially finished script. Among other things, he cut one page from his original ten-page manuscript, a page in which Driscoll recounts his murder of a ship's officer. O'Neill also revised the order of three key lines, making it clearer in "Cardiff" that Yank eventually overcomes his fear of death. Other revisions and cuttings suggest that, instead of polishing, O'Neill was re-thinking both his attitude toward Yank and Yank's role in the play. The net effect is that in "Cardiff" Yank is more heroic and more clearly the central character, while the overall tone is more elegiac. The differences between "Children" and "Cardiff," taken all together, seem more substantial than the biographers have suggested.
If they are, then a question arises: when did O'Neill make the changes? "Children" was copyrighted in 1914; "Cardiff" appeared in 1916. Yet, four months after copyrighting "Children," O'Neill enrolled in George Pierce Baker's playwriting course at Harvard. Traditionally, Baker's influence has been viewed as, at best, non-existent, and at worst, disastrous. Yet at present there is no documentary evidence to confirm O'Neill's recurrent report that he completed "Cardiff" before he went to Harvard.
The so-called "Cardiff" manuscript at the Museum of the City of New York is no help here. Close study clearly shows that it is actually the manuscript of "Children of the Sea." The Museum manuscript antedates the copyrighted typescript of "Children." So there exists a two and one-half year gap between the latest "Children" (the LC type-script of May, 1914) and the earliest "Cardiff," published in The Provincetown Plays, First Series, in November, 1916.
However, George Cram Cook's "part script" for the role of Yank, which Cook originated, survives in the Berg Collection of American Literature at the New York Public Library. Close study of it reveals that O'Neill had made the changes in "Children" which resulted in "Cardiff" before Cook made his script (presumably in the summer of 1916). This suggests that O'Neill did not make the changes because of what he saw in the rehearsals of his very first production.
So why did he make the changes? Did he, in fact, respond to Baker's criticism that "Cardiff" was not a play? O'Neill reported this comment to Barrett Clark, but when Baker wrote about O'Neill in 1926, he cited "Cardiff" before noting that O'Neill first perfected his art in one-acts, then in longer plays. Did Baker change his mind or had O'Neill changed his play?
Or did O'Neill respond to the suicide (by jumping overboard) of his real-life friend, Driscoll, in the fall of 1915, by rewriting "Children" and making the death of Yank more heroic and the tone of the play more elegiac? If so, this might explain why O'Neill brought "Cardiff" to the Provincetown Players in 1916, rather than a play he had completed after May of 1914.
Whatever motivated O'Neill to make his revisions, there is at present no proof that he did so before he went to Harvard. In fact, at present, no manuscript of the final "Cardiff" has been found in any of the major O'Neill collections. Yet he must have had one in Provincetown in the summer of 1916, If such a manuscript could be found, and dated with accuracy, it might serve to close the two-year gap and to indicate whether O'Neill finished "Cardiff" before, during, or after he went to study playwrighting under Professor Baker. (P.D.V.)
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