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11 - O'Neill's female characters

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 May 2006

Michael Manheim
Affiliation:
University of Toledo, Ohio
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Summary

Like many other male writers, Eugene O'Neill created a world populated primarily by men. From the sea plays at the beginning of his career to such late works as The Iceman Cometh and Hughie, men dominate his theatrical space. A simple number count confirms that only about one-third of the onstage characters in O'Neill's dramas are female. It is also true that the playwright's conception of women is rooted in a traditional equation of “feminine” with “maternal” that limits his ability to cast women in subject positions rather than as objects of masculine desire. Still, O'Neill's female characters cannot all be easily pigeonholed into neat categories, and even his myriad Madonnas and whores frequently transcend the cultural and theatrical clichés he inherited.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1998

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