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O’Neill’s Transcendence of Melodrama in A Touch of the Poet and A Moon for the Misbegotten


BY Michael Manheim
FROM Critical Approaches to O'Neill, edited by John H. Stroupe, NY: AMS Press, 1988


I have limited this discussion to a pair of late O’Neill plays which transcend melodrama by means of their comparable plots, themes, and characterizations. They are similar chiefly in that both begin with formulaic melodramatic intrigues which are spoofed or actually displaced as the plays develop. I intend in time to explore this theme in all O’Neill’s later drama.


Melodrama, just about everyone is agreed, is indefinable, though that has not stopped people from attempting to define it.1 In Europe of the mid-nineteenth century, it meant a serious play with much scenic spectacle, musical background, a set of “stock” characters (which usually included a hero, heroine, and a villain), and an ending in which the “right” (the definition of which was not subject to discussion) always triumphed. Later, it was broadened to include any play, serious or comic, which was built around an elaborate set of intrigues; which contained a good deal of secrecy, deception, and evasion; in which the dialogue was full of explosive outburst and unexpected revelation; and which was peopled by the old stock characters supplemented by a variety of secondary figures. According to Frank Rahill, under the influence of several American dramatists—notably David Belasco and William Gillette—American melodrama near the turn of the century was being “modernized.” These playwrights, says Rahill, sought to make melodrama “plausible, adult, and even intellectually respectable.”2


Melodrama continues to be seen as a kind of drama in which good and evil are self-evident entities. As Robert B. Heilman points out, its characters are invariably “whole,” undivided as to right and wrong, and “free from the agony of choosing between conflicting imperatives and desires.”3 This “wholeness,” of course, is opposed to the chief quality of the leading characters in tragedy, which is their frequent agony over conflicting imperatives, their essentially divided natures. “In melodrama,” says Heilman, “man is seen in his strength or in his weakness; in tragedy, in his strength and his weakness at once.”4 It follows that melodrama so conceived need not be resolved happily. While right and wrong may be clear cut, there is no assurance in much melodrama that right will necessarily triumph. Recent studies have also focused on the pre-eminence of plot over characterization in melodrama.5


Eugene O’Neill grew up on a diet of melodrama provided by the theatre of his youth, especially as it was represented in his father’s famous The Count of Monte Cristo, a classic nineteenth­century melodrama. John Henry Raleigh makes amply clear the degree to which that play—with its theme of ravaged innocence, its complicated intrigues and revenges, and the undivided personalities of its heroes and villains—was ground into O’Neill’s consciousness from earliest memory and influences almost every play in his entire canon.6 O’Neill’s attempts to overcome the influence of the image of theatre his father’s work projected were less successful than he hoped they would be until quite late in his career. He did not easily forsake his theatrical heritage.


At the same time, a melodrama was critically associated with O’Neill’s heritage in another way. As we know from Long Day’s Journey Into Night and from two highly detailed biographies,7 O’Neill’s family home had all the characteristics of a real-life melodrama. The O’Neill home in New London was shrouded in secrecy, suspicion, deception, and evasion all surrounding Ella Quinlan O’Neill’s now well-known drug addiction. It was a setting of endless intrigue, in which mother sought to deceive father and sons, and father and sons plotted against mother. Paralleling the story of young Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo, the story of young Eugene O’Neill (significantly called Edmund Tyrone in the later play) was one of rejection, intrigue, deception, escape, and if not violent revenge then certainly violent feelings growing out of a deeply vengeful spirit. Further, the characters of O’Neill’s personal domestic melodrama viewed one another as “wholly” good, or “wholly” bad—usually the latter. That Long Day’s Journey itself, written so many years after the events it dramatizes, is finally not a melodrama, is a subject I have recently explored and shall be exploring further.8


In his most famous plays of the 1920’s and 1930’s O’Neill obviously sought to avoid traditional conceptions of melodrama. He blurred clear distinctions between good and evil, and seemed determined to avoid heavy dependence on undivided characters and on intrigue. For example, his early sea plays, in particular Moon of the Caribbees of the SS Glencairn series, prefigure The Hairy Ape and The Emperor Jones as dramatic explorations of the psychological complexity of their characters. These plays all but abandon intrigue—at least of the Monte Cristo variety. But as the 1920’s progressed, and O’Neill experienced the loss of father, mother, and brother in rapid succession, the characteristics of melodrama became increasingly evident in his plays. Even O’Neill’s admirers of that period acknowledge this.9 While O’Neill clearly hoped his plays would generate interest in the psychological states of his characters, the interest that is generated has more to do with their intrigue and their explosive dialogue than with any conflicting motives lying beneath the surfaces of their characters.10


Several plays which might not at first appear to substantiate this view actually do substantiate it. In Strange Interlude, O’Neill’s use of the “interior monologue” is clearly designed to reveal the complexity of the play’s characters. Similarly, in The Great God Brown, O’Neill reveals deep divisions in his characters through the use of masks. Deep divisions do not seem to fit the characters of melodrama. But the interior monologues and the masks have a more melodramatic effect than O’Neill might have imagined. What we see and hear on stage often suggests two undivided and opposing personalities rather than the single divided personality of Heilman’s tragic hero, two personalities which often feel more like the hero and villain of melodrama than the conflicting forces within a single individual. This distinction is particularly evident in a play of the early 1930’s, Days Without End, in which the hero John Loving is divided into two characters, John (the hero) and Loving (the villain). Each of these two characters is quite undivided in his stage personality, and much of the effect of their dialogue is melodramatic. Interestingly, however, in a scene from the second act of that play, when John’s lover Lucy describes the single person John Loving she has had an affair with, the effect of her description is more genuinely probing than the scenes in which we encounter the doubled character. Her described John Loving seems more truly a single, divided individual. We find a similar split of a single personality into two dramatic characters, with similar melodramatic effect, in the figures of Lavinia and Orin Mannon in Mourning Becomes Electra.


Beyond characterization, what has kept audiences attentive to these plays, some of which are quite long, is their complex melodramatic plots. Despite O’Neill’s efforts to the contrary, plot takes precedence over characterization in them. In the nine-hour-long Strange Interlude, for example, a gothic tale of hidden family insanity is introduced, with a father who died mentally ill and a mad old aunt locked away in an upstairs bedroom. Out of this intrigue about inherited madness there emerges the second and more famous of the play’s intrigues, a tale totally dependent on secrecy, deception, and revenge for the interest it achieves. It is a story of forbidden love, with secret assignations, the expenditure of great efforts to deceive an unsuspecting husband, and the birth of a child whose illegitimacy is known only to its parents. This intrigue in turn leads to a new intrigue involving the attempt to hide that illegitimacy until the child’s adulthood.


In the same way, while enigmas associated with sensitive individuals are important in two other well-known plays of the period—Desire Under the Elms and the aforementioned Mourning Become Electra—their melodramatic plots are still more important. The deception of old Ephraim Cabot in Desire Under the Elms, which grows out of the lust Eben and Abbie Cabot submit to, engages audience attention more than Eben’s adolescent moodiness, though Eben is a genuinely divided figure. And the most engaging aspects of Mourning Becomes Electra—its secrecies, deceptions, suicides, revenges, and scenes of madness—are clearly melodramatic. Raleigh attributes these qualities to the influence of Monte Cristo, citing Robert Benchley’s review of the play, in which the reviewer “conjures up an old actor with a white wig and sword standing in the wings and exhorting:

‘That’s good, son! Give ‘em the old Theatre!’“11

I would simply add that O’Neill’s home life, which Benchley probably knew nothing about, has as much to do with the blatant melodrama of this play as the influence of old Monte Cristo. Like all O’Neill’s earlier plays, Mourning Becomes Electra disguises O’Neill’s compulsion to reveal (while carefully hiding) the personal melodrama of his family home.12 The events and emotions centering on Ella O’Neill’s addiction and later death are its much-varied theme. While O’Neill’s hostility toward his mother is in the ascendancy, she is represented by the sinning Christine Mannon and he is represented by the outraged Lavinia. When O’Neill’s guilt is in the ascendancy, however, his mother becomes the suicidal Christine and he becomes the guilt-ridden Orin.


And so it goes in O’Neill’s other earlier plays—the pattern of unspeakable crimes committed by guilt-ridden women set against young men oscillating between fierce hostility and equally fierce guilt, or of deaths which heroes or heroines cannot face or (with similar effect) cannot bear. Throughout the entire earlier canon there is an unbroken rhythm of hostility followed by guilt followed by new hostility followed by renewed guilt—all taking place in an atmosphere of plotting and counter­plotting, suspicion and spying, vengefulness and accusatory outburst, sudden reversal and angry defensiveness—in short, all the characteristics customarily associated with melodrama.


Toward the end of the 1930’s, O’Neill’s plays begin to suggest a coming-to-terms with his memories of his family. Concomitantly, the plays reveal a new attitude toward melodrama. The new attitude is first reflected in the essential lightness with which very noticeable melodrama is treated in A Touch of the Poet.13 Raleigh notes that this play parodies The Count of Monte Cristo.14 Con Melody, like the outraged Edmond Dantes, wears Napoleonic period military garb, broods endlessly on past wrongs done him, and constantly plots revenge. But Raleigh fails to note the degree to which Con’s characterization is a loving satire of James O’Neill, Sr., and his famous role. Con’s personality is clearly the most important element in this play, and that personality is equally clearly that of the old campaigner both on stage and off. A Touch of the Poet shows O’Neill’s understanding of his father while demonstrating the excesses of both his father’s personality and his theatre.


But that the treatment of the melodrama in this play is comic is also important in understanding O’Neill’s own artistic development. Throughout the play, Con sees his melodrama in serious terms while we take it in comic terms. When his daughter, for example, cannot marry her lover because the lover’s father refuses his son permission to marry into Con’s family, Con is described angrily journeying to the rich Yankee’s home to get revenge. Needless to say, he takes this very seriously, though we do not. Further, when we hear that Con has been refused admission and beaten by the police for his efforts, the action approaches farce. O’Neill is thus revealing a growing sophistication not only about his father’s art but about his own. As in The Count of Monte Cristo, so in O’Neill’s earlier plays we took the characters as seriously as they took themselves. In this play we take the characters less seriously than they take themselves. As O’Neill began to put his family in perspective, he was becoming more able to put his own melodramatic excesses m perspective.


O’Neill’s transcendence of melodrama in this play may also be explored from another point of view. Con’s daughter Sara, at her father’s suggestion, plots melodramatically and with great singleness of purpose to entice Simon Harford to sleep with her so that she may trap him into marrying her. At a crucial point late in the play, however, she suddenly loses her melodramatic certainty about what she has been doing. She becomes undecided over whether her enticements have been the result of her desire to trap Simon or the result of her genuine love for Simon, and her indecision is never resolved in the play. She moves quite suddenly from undivided character to divided character. By the end of the play, in fact, her indecision becomes so great that she seems about to become a genuinely tragic figure. She perceives through her own divided feelings a new image of her father. Con has throughout the play been posing as the aristocrat, speaking in lordly tones and treating everyone, including Sara, in a distinctly haughty manner. Late in the play, as a result of his humiliation by Simon Harford’s father, Con “reverts” to his “peasant” origins, carousing loudly with low companions and speaking with a thick brogue. What Sara observes is that this peasant nature is but a second pose, that Con is no more truly a peasant than he was an aristocrat. She panics at the realization that Con is caught between two irreconcilable natures—both genuine yet at the same time both poses. Her panic unexpectedly introduces a tragic cast to a play which has appeared anything but tragic because the new feeling shifts audience interest away from the story of Con’s revenge and toward a serious consideration of the contradictions in human personality. Sara can never know whether he is an aristocrat or a clown. The tragedy is inherent in the fear that neither she nor her father has a true self, the fear that human personalities may be entirely facades


A Touch of the Poet thus begins to explore issues which are central to O’Neill’s next two plays—More Stately Mansions and The Iceman Cometh—issues which are too varied and complex to explore in detail here.15 The central struggles of these two plays—which immediately precede his last, great plays, directly concerning O’Neill’s own family—are struggles between the avoidance of self and the facing of self. They attest potently man’s heavy dependence on illusion, but at the same time they recognize the heroic in the individual who is capable of facing an existence without illusion, who will accept the heavy contradictions and seeming emptiness that constitutes self-knowledge. Their transcendence of melodrama is very much tied with self-knowledge in ways that more than ever pertain to O’Neill’s coming to terms with himself and with his past.


A Moon for the Misbegotten, which deals with the last days of O’Neill’s brother, goes beyond the gentle mocking of melodrama in A Touch of the Poet to an actual displacement of it as the play’s basis of construction. That O’Neill was probably thinking about melodrama when he was writing the play is suggested by a reference late in the play to David Belasco.16  Belasco, referred to earlier, was, of course, an important writer and producer of American melodrama spanning a period from the time James O’Neill was at the height of his successful career until the time Eugene O’Neill was making his first efforts as a playwright. His attempts to up-date melodrama fit O’Neill’s earlier drama rather well. While undeniably melodramatic, O’Neill’s earlier plays are certainly plausible, adult, and intellectually respectable—the terms used at the opening of this paper to describe Belasco’s modernization. Thus, late in his career, O’Neill could be identifying the melodrama of his own earlier work with the work of a modernizer like Belasco, who took melodrama a few steps beyond that of the Monte Cristo variety.


That O’Neill had melodrama in mind in writing this play is also evident from the nature of its plot. As in A Touch of the Poet, the play starts out as a comic intrigue. The scheming Irishman Phil Hogan tries to trap his landlord, the “rich” Jim Tyrone, into marrying his oversize but not unattractive daughter Josie. This directly parallels the second intrigue referred to in A Touch of the Poet, both intrigues of course involving the oldest of melodramatic routines, with a father (shotgun in hand) discovering his daughter and her lover in bed together. Much more involved than this element of the plot in the earlier play, here this intrigue actually takes up more than half the action. A revenge theme is also introduced here. Believing her father’s story that Jim is trying to cheat them out of their farm by selling it to a “Standard Oil millionaire,” Josie goes along with the entrapment routine as a means of getting revenge on the unsuspecting Jim. Throughout a large portion of Jim’s and Josie’s late-night dialogue, Josie seeks to carry out what she sees as her bluffing seduction of Jim. Almost an hour and a half of this play, in other words, strikes its audience as good, old-fashioned melodrama—with tricks, deceptions, outbursts, and revelations of supposed villainy. Some viewers of the play never do get the point that melodramatic intrigue is not finally the central interest of this play.


Rather early following Jim’s first-act entrance, we are made to sense that something quite removed from the activity at hand is occupying Jim’s mind. Facial expression and seemingly irrelevant remarks on his part indicate-first quite subtly, then with increasing frequency and intensity—that something is haunting Jim Tyrone, something which may ultimately make Phil’s intrigue and Josie’s revenge seem insignificant. Jim is haunted, of course, by the memory of his recently dead mother (never specifically named Mary Tyrone) and by his personal behavior following her death. Having watched his mother die of a stroke during a trip to California, Jim, a supposedly reformed alcoholic, has abruptly and vengefully returned to his drink. He brought his mother’s body back to New York by train, during which ride he consumed close to a case of whiskey and had nightly relations with a whore, for whose services, he pointedly observes, he paid “fifty bucks a night!”17  Upon his return, he had to be carried off the train and did not attend his mother’s funeral. Since then, he has regularly suffered violent DT’s while trying to sleep, and feelings of unbearable guilt while awake and sober. He has also unsuccessfully been trying to drown his sorrows in ever huger quantities of alcohol.


On the surface during the first act, Jim appears the friendly drunken Irish wit, providing and receiving great bursts of laughter in the company of his tenant Phil Hogan and Phil’s buxom daughter. Under these circumstances, Jim’s repeated assertions that he loves that large colleen seem unconvincing, especially to Josie. But, on the contrary, we come to learn by the middle of the play that everything except that love is Jim’s bluff. His humorous manner is but the deceptive tip of a large iceberg of pain. He says he loves Josie “in his fashion”; and that fashion involves her capacity to provide him the immense forgiveness which will allow him to die at peace with himself. Jim has already destroyed himself irrecoverably through his drink.


Jim and Josie, throughout a large part of their long midnight meeting, speak tantalizingly at cross-purposes. Josie is playing her game, of course, deceptively saying things that will arouse Jim’s sexual interest, though her deep affection for him makes her have to keep reminding herself that she is playing a part in a melodramatic deception. She really wants to make love to him. For his part, Jim begins by acknowledging his guilt only in truncated asides; then he does so more openly as he drunkenly forgets where he is and who Josie is. As she becomes more brazen, Jim begins to confuse her with the whore on the train, and thus with his monumental guilt. At one point, he does in fact behave as though he intends to rape her, which only adds to his guilt when he recalls who she is. His statements become extremely self-accusing and self-pitying—to Josie’s growing amazement. Finally the subject turns to Phil’s false accusation that Jim intends to sell the farm out from under them, which Jim dismisses with surprised contempt at Josie’s gullibility. With Josie’s realization that her father has made a fool of her, the intrigue is over, and all semblance of the play’s original melodrama disappears. The play assumes a new shape built around its central characters’ attempts to be totally honest with one another about their deepest feelings. Although there remains the question about what is disturbing Jim so critically, the interest of the play arises not out of that question but out of its characters’ determination to give full expression to their until now unspoken pain. From being a play about the entrapment of a rich suitor, it becomes quite unexpectedly a play about confession, forgiveness, and freely given love. The play’s interest moves from that associated with melodramatic intrigue to that associated with the total release of pent-up feeling—to a catharsis not unlike that associated with classical tragedy.


While the climax of the scene in question is Jim’s long confession, the first of the two to speak openly about what for years has been her shame is Josie. She loves Jim because he sees through her coarse posturing. He gets her to confess quite simply that she is a virgin, and that her playing “the whore” has been her means of arousing sexual interest in men because she feels her size makes her physically unattractive. Jim brings her to realize that her pose has been damaging both to her suitors and herself, to them because of their resentment of inevitable rebuffs, and to herself because of the feelings of personal debasement her behavior arouses.


Jim then fully opens up Josie’s feelings by telling her that while his love for her certainly includes sexual attraction, at the moment he desperately needs her help. Josie, abruptly realizing that sex has nothing to do with what Jim came for, must learn the terrible nature and extent of his shame and self-hatred. Jim’s confession is something more than simply the story of his mother’s death, his renewed drinking, and the whore on the train. It is a full reliving of the emotions associated with those events—the awesome fear which followed the loss of his mother, and the equally awesome hostility toward her for leaving him, the loss which prompted his renewed drinking and his taking up with the whore. These in turn have prompted the vengeance his personal furies are taking on him, drunk or sober. Josie’s reactions are at first those of extreme disgust, but these change quickly to feelings of great affection. She is prepared to give him what he really came for, and her capacity for forgiveness is of a size proportionate to her body’s. She first lets him fall asleep on her breast, then holds him between her legs for the remaining hours of their long night.


Jim Tyrone’s fear and shame, when it is finally released, create the pity and terror Aristotle speaks of because his experience is made so immediate and familiar. His confession—like Hickey’s in The Iceman Cometh—and his own confession as Jamie Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey assumes the proportions of Lear’s great, agonized periods in Shakespeare, or of the rich outbursts of pain and suffering in Greek tragedy. He becomes Oedipus expressing his overwhelming agony late in Sophocles’ play, or Theseus giving expression to his pain at losing his son in Euripides’ Hippolytus. He becomes bare, unaccommodated man proclaiming his agony to the universe.


Jim’s reference to David Belasco referred to earlier drives home the point I have been making about this play’s transcendence of melodrama. During the last act, following his night­long alliance with Josie, Jim observes the dawn, associating its beauty with that of his new-found (though soon-to-be-ended) love for Josie. She has just made renewed reference to his earlier, whorish lovers:

Don’t remind me of that now, Josie. Don’t spoil this dawn! (A pause. She watches him tensely. He turns slowly to face the east, where the sky is now glowing with all the colors of an exceptionally beautiful sunrise. He stares, drawing a deep breath. He is profoundly moved but immediately becomes self-conscious and tries to sneer it off—cynically). God seems to be putting on quite a display. I like Belasco better. Rise of curtain, Act-Four stuff. (Her face has fallen into lines of bitter hurt but he adds quickly and angrily) God damn it! Why do I have to pull that lousy stuff? (With genuine feeling) God, it’s beautiful, Josie! I—I’ll never forget it—here with you.18

When we recall Belasco’s association with melodrama, we recognize that Jim is here identifying the false theatrical dawn of melodrama with his past cynicism and self-loathing, and the real dawn he is viewing with his transcendence of his own melodramatic fear through his love for Josie. The Belasco dawn is associated in Jim’s mind with his great sins and guilt—and that dawn for O’Neill (seeing it in terms of his own life) has to do with the melodrama of his past, with its secrecies, deceptions, and excessive outbursts. The dawn at hand is an untheatrical new dawn—a dawn associated with openly confessed shame fully forgiven.


O’Neill had sought to recreate Greek tragedy ten years earlier in Mourning Becomes Electra and achieved there what is for many a prolonged and heavy melodrama. He finally did recreate the essential effect of classical tragedy, however, in a play where a fake melodrama is displaced by a mimesis rooted in the total release of the deepest emotions. He could write only melodrama—with its mysteries, disguises, secrets, and deceptions—while his plays of the 1920’s and early 1930’s served as suitable disguises for the circumstances of his personal hell. He came to control his art as he came to understand himself, and that artistic control is best represented in his rejection of melodrama in favor of the free and open pathos of traditional tragedy.




1.  There has been a flourishing interest in the study of melodrama over the past two decades covering a considerable gamut of perspectives. At one extreme are historical studies which consider the forms and look at examples of typical nineteenth-century melodrama. Michael R. Booth, English Melodrama (London: Herbert Jenkins, 1965); and Frank Rahill, The World of Melodrama (University Park, Pennsylvania, and London: The Pennsylvania State Univ. Press, 1967) are two such studies. At the other extreme are works which use the term much more generally, examining how melodrama and tragedy create the basic categories of all serious drama. Such a work is Robert Bechtold Heilman, Tragedy and Melodrama: VersIons of Experience (Seattle: Univ. of washington Press, 1968). A brief work which lucidly summarizes the different approaches is James L. Smith, Melodrama (London: Methuen, 1973).


2.  Rahill, The World of Melodrama, p. 268.


3.  Quotation is taken from James L. Smith’s summarizing of Heilman’s ideas, in Melodrama, p. 7. Heilman defines the undivided nature of the characters in melodrama versus the divided nature of the characters in tragedy in Tragedy and Melodrama, pp. 79-81.


4.  Tragedy and Melodrama, p. 90.


5.  Joseph wood Krutch stated succinctly the idea that plot is more important than character in melodrama in What is Melodrama?” The Nation, 138 (9 May 1934). 544, 546. Recent discussions of the importance of plot in melodrama are Earl F. Bargainnier, “Melodrama as Formula,” Journal of Popular Culture, 9 (winter 1975), 726-33; and Daniel Gerould, “Russian Formalist Theories of Melodrama,” Journal of American Culture, 1 (Spring 1978), 151-68. Gerould and others demonstrate that melodramatic plot formulas provide much raw material for formalist literary analysis.


6.  See John Henry Raleigh, “Eugene O’Neill and the Escape from the Chateau D’If,” in O’Neill: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. John Gassner (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1964), pp. 7-22.


7.  Louis Sheaffer, O’Neill: Son and Playwright (Boston: little, Brown, 1968); and Arthur and Barbara Gelb, O’Neill (New York: Harper and Row, 1973). In Eugene O’Neill’s New Language of Kinship (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse Univ. Press, 1982), I survey in detail the pervasive influence of O’Neill’s home life throughout his drama. See also Virginia Floyd, Eugene O’Neill At Work (New York: Frederick Ungar, 1981).


8.  My chapter on Long Day’s Journey in O’Neill’s New Language of Kinship (pp. 164-90) emphasizes the forthright confessional nature of the play, suggesting its overall subordination of intrigue. I plan shortly to study the play’s relationship to melodrama more specifically.


9.  One of O’Neill’s most outspoken admirers of the 1930’s, Homer E. Wood-bridge, made clear in an essay interestingly entitled “Beyond Melodrama” that  plays up to that point missed being great tragedy largely because he was indeed “at times melodramatic.” The essay is reprinted in O’Neill and His Plays, ed. Oscar Cargili et al. (New York: New York Univ. Press, 1961), pp. 307-20. O’Neill’s denigrators on those grounds are well represented by Francis Fergusson, “Melodramatist,” in O’Neill and His Plays, pp. 27 1-83.


10.  On the “failure of language” in O’Neill’s plays of this period, see Jean Chothia, Forging a Language: A Study of the Plays of Eugene O’Neill (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1979), pp. 84-110.


11.  Raleigh,”  Escape from the Chateau D’If,”.p. 12. In the same review Raleigh refers to, Benchley also concludes that while he could not figure out what the play meant, “It sure did scare the bejeezus out of you!”—which is perhaps the most typical of all responses to melodrama. See The New Yorker, 7 November 1931, p. 28.


12.  I discuss reflections in Mourning Becomes Electra of O’Neill’s family crises in Eugene O’Neill’s New Language of Kinship, pp. 76-88.


13.  While some might view Ah, Wilderness from this perspective, I feel the sentimentality of that play outweighs its lightaess of tone. Instead of reflecting O’Neill’s understanding of troubled memories, Ah, Wilderness attempts to cover them over. See Eugene O’Neill’s New Language of Kinship, pp. 101-05.


14.  Raleigh, “. . . Escape from the Chateau D’If,” p. 21.


15.  See Eugene O’Neill’s New Language of Kinship. pp. 116-56.


16.  Eugene O’Neill, A Moon for the Misbegotten (New York: Random House,1974), p. 111.


17.  ibid., p. 97.


18.  Ibid.. p. 111.


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