eugene o’neill (1888 – 1953)


oneill

critic: barrett-h-clarkEugene O’ Neill-life

works:  o’neill first playsOpere O’Neill

Eugene O’Neill was born in New York on October 16, 1888. His father was an eminent Irish-born stage actor. After school, Eugene did various jobs and also spent a year on a boat  as a mariner (1910-11). back home he turned to writing for the thatre:  he  took part in George Baker’s dramatic workshop at Harvard (1914), and then he formed a productive association with the Provincetown Players who staged his first one-act plays (1916) about his experience on the sea. Later he transferred his activities to the Greenwich Village Playhouse. O’Neill  was very successful on the professional level –   he received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936 – but   his personal tragedies  never stopped: his  parents and older brother Jamie died within three years of one another;  he suffered from tubercolisis contracted when he was on the sea; his marriages proved to be a failure;  in 1943, he disowned (ripudiò) his eighteen-year-old daughter Oona who  had married Charlie Chaplin, 54 years old;  his two sons became alcohol and drug addicts (dipendenti) and committed suicide. O’Neill died in Boston, on November 27, 1953. Most of his plays are set in the America of his time and depict an oppressive, dehumanizing (disumanizzante) society: fragmented families, difficult relationships, profound racial divisions. His essential settings (scene), masks, strange sound effects, choruses, interior dialogues and dance intensify the subconscious response (risposta insconscia) of the audience. Among his most successful works are the realistic plays Beyond the Horizon (1920), Anna Christie (Pulitzer Prize 1922), The Hairy Ape (1922), Desire Under the Elms (1925). As to his experimental plays based on the stream of consciousness technique are Strange Interlude (Pulitzer Prize 1928), Mourning Becomes Electra (1931) and The Iceman Cometh (1946). But his masterpiece is considered the autobiographical Long Day’s Journey Into Night appeared three years after his death, which chronicles a day in the life of the Tyrone family.

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