O`Neill, Eugene Gladstone

Presentation / Essay (Pre-University), 1999

3 Pages

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Eugene Gladstone O'Neill

A. Schmitt

- was born in New York City on Oct. 16, 1888
- as a child, he accompanied his father James on theatrical tours
- later he attended a Catholic boarding school and a preparatory school
- entered Princeton in 1906, but remained there only a year
- After secretarial work in New York he went on a trip to Honduras in order to search for gold, but he got malaria and had to return to the USA
- Afterwards O'Neill worked as assistant manager of his father's company
- But soon he was keen on leaving the States again, so he shipped as a seaman for Buenos Aires in Argentina, then to South Africa and via Buenos Aires back to New York
- His last experience at sea followed, when he worked on ships between Southampton and New York
- Next he tried acting during one of his father's tours, and reporting for a Connecticut newspaper
- But he suffered a physical breakdown in 1913 and was sent to a sanatorium for 6 months
- O'Neill had already written verses, but during this period of rest at the sanatorium he turned to the drama as a medium to express the view of life he began to develop, based on his life at sea and among outcast (= ausgestoßen) and oppressed people in many places
- during the following winter (1913/14) he wrote his first play called "The Web", 7 other oneact plays and 2 long plays
- 1914 - 1915 he gained further experience as a student in George Pierce Baker's "47 Workshop" at Harvard (Baker tried to encourage and inspire many little theatres and dramatists, his workshop served as a laboratory for the staging of plays)
- 1916 he became associated with the Provincetown Players, who produced many of his one-act plays during the next 3 years, e.g. "Bound East for Cardiff" in 1916
"The Moon of the Caribbees" in 1918

_ modern American drama unofficially began

- this period of practical experiment brought to a climax his years of apprentice work
- O'Neill began to win general recognition when three of his plays were printed in The Smart Set
- with the New York production of "Beyond the Horizon" in 1920, a bitter domestic(= familiär) tragedy, he was acknowledged as the leading creative American playwright (= Dramatiker)

O'Neill had to cope with an audience that didn't believe in God, will and destiny. Bowing to his time, he wrote tragedy of personal psychology. He mixed the determinism of Freud and Calvin in order to produce the only kind of tragic hero the 20thcentury could understand: the victim of circumstances.

His themes also deal with

- Naturalistic studies of tragic frustration set in modern American backgrounds

e.g. "Chris Christopherson" (1920)

rewritten as "Anna Christie", for which he won a Pulitzer Price

- symbolic expressionism

e.g. "The Emperor Jones" (1920)

- Romantic and poetic elements dominate

e.g. "The Fountain" (1925), an affirmation (= Bejahung) of life and spirit

- As he was an experimenter in forms, he created a new dramatic technique in "Strange Interlude" (Pulitzer Price 1928)

- problems of religion in the modern world

e.g. "Dynamo" (1929)

- psychological analysis of motives

e.g. "Mourning becomes Electra" (1931), where he adapted the Greek theme showed the dominant emotions of fear, horror and malignant (= bösartig) hate

- autobiographical tragedy

"Long Day's Journey into Night" (Pulitzer Price 1956)

His career divided U.S. theatrical history in two:

Before O'Neill: only genteel (vornehm) plays he pioneered the drama of serious realism and honesty


- language of failure, flavoured with the accent of tragedy

Excerpt from "The Great Good Brown":

"Why I am afraid to dance, I who love music and rhythm and grace and laughter? Why am I afraid to live, I who love life and the beauty of the flesh and the living colors of earth and sky and sea?

Why am I afraid of love, I who love love?

Why was I born without a skin, o God... Or rather Old Greybeard, why the devil was I ever born at all?"

- Grace to his own stage experience and his own insight into character he got one of America's most popular and successful playwrights and therefore he earned a Nobel Price for Literature in 1936

- The coming of World War II stopped his will to write, then a muscular disorder made it physically impossible

- O'Neill finally died in Boston on the 27 th of November, 1953

3 of 3 pages


O`Neill, Eugene Gladstone
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O`Neill, Eugene, Gladstone, English
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A. Schmitt (Author), 1999, O`Neill, Eugene Gladstone, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/95533


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