The Plays of Eugene O'Neill

The Plays of Eugene O'Neill

The Plays of Eugene O'Neill

The Plays of Eugene O'Neill

Excerpt

O'Neill's plays are best approached in the manner that one of his dramatic mentors, Strindberg, enjoined his audience to consider his own Miss Julie. In his "Author's Foreword" to this complex and powerful play Strindberg said: "What will offend simple minds is that my plot is not simple, nor its point of view single. In real life an action -- this, by the way, is a somewhat new discovery -- is generally caused by a whole series of motives, more or less fundamental, but as a rule the spectator chooses just one of these -- the one which his mind can most easily grasp or that does most credit to his intelligence." Strindberg then proceeds to list twelve, or really thirteen, motives for Miss Julie's actions and her tragedy. Four of them are long- term, that is, issuing from her life in the large sense: her mother's character; her father's mistaken upbringing of her; her own nature; and the influence of her fiancé on a weak, degenerative mind. The other eight or nine motivations are short-term and immediate: the festive mood of Midsummer Eve; her father's absence; her monthly indisposition; her preoccupation with animals; the excitement of the dancing; the magic of dusk; the strangely aphrodisiac influence of flowers; and the chance that drives the couple into a room alone -- to which must be added the urgency of the excited man. Strindberg continues: "My treatment of the theme, moreover, is neither exclusively physiological nor psychological. I have not put the blame wholly on the inheritance from her mother, nor on her physical condition at the time, nor on immorality. I have not even preached a moral sermon; in the absence of a priest I leave this to the cook. . . ."

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