Complete Plays 1913–1920
Beyond the Horizon • "Anna Christie" • The Emperor Jones • The Glencairn cycle (4 one-act plays) • 22 other plays
"These handsome books present Eugene O'Neill's plays in the order for their composition, making it possible to trace the evolution of his skills and ideas.... The Library of America volumes display O'Neill more thoroughly than any playhouse ever could."
This volume includes the first twenty-nine plays of Eugene O'Neill's that are known to be extant, beginning with A Wife for a Life , copyrighted August 15, 1913, and ending with The Emperor Jones, completed in October 1920. In this seven-year period O'Neill began to write plays while living in New London, attended George Pierce Baker's playwriting class (English 47) at Harvard, joined The Provincetown Players on Cape Cod and went with them to New York, and saw the first Broadway production of one of his plays. O'Neill regarded many of the plays included in this volume, either at the time he wrote them or later, as apprentice pieces. Ten of the plays in this volume were never published by O'Neill, although he registered nine of them with the Copyright Office at the Library of Congress. (After they were copyrighted, he continued to work on some of them, but he later destroyed his typescripts containing the revisions.) He did publish five of his earliest plays (in Thirst and Other One Act Plays, 1914, an edition paid for by his father) but these plays were never published again during his lifetime.
When O'Neill joined The Provincetown Players in 1916 he began attending rehearsals of his plays whenever possible, a practice that he would continue for most of his career, preferring to make any revisions considered necessary himself. The printed form became for him at least as important as the staged production, because he had more control over the text. He often made revisions in preparing his plays for publication, including some of those made during productions. A few plays were published before he could incorporate his revisions into them; in these instances he inserted the revisions in the next edition. This volume prints the texts of the plays that incorporate O'Neill's final revisions. For the plays he did not publish, the text is either that of the first printing made from the typescript or, in three instances, that of the typescripts on file in the Library of Congress. The arrangement here follows, as nearly as can be determined, the order O'Neill wrote the plays rather than the order of their first publication.
O'Neill later described his earliest surviving play, A Wife for a Life (copyrighted August 15, 1913), as "a vaudeville skit" rather than a play, although the typescript subtitle is "A play in one act." He did not include the play in Thirst, his first book of one-act plays. This volume prints the text of the play from the first printing of Lost Plays of Eugene O'Neill (introduction by Lawrence Gellert, New York: New Fathoms Press, 1950), an unauthorized edition, printed from the typescripts on file at the Library of Congress, of five plays whose copyrights O'Neill had failed to renew. (The play also appeared in Ten "Lost" Plays of Eugene O'Neill, published by Random House in 1964, but that edition was based on the earlier editions Thirst and Lost Plays.)
The next five plays, beginning with The Web (which O'Neill wrote shortly after A Wife for a Life and later described as "the first play I ever wrote"), are printed in the order of their composition. The revised manuscript of Thirst is dated fall 1913; Recklessness, November 25, 1913; Warnings, dated 1913, is thought to have been written in December; and O'Neill placed Fog in 1914. Final arrangements for their publication by The Gorham Press in Boston were made in March 1914, with James O'Neill, O'Neill's father, paying the costs. Thirst and Other One Act Plays was published in an edition of 1,000 copies in August 1914. Though two of the plays in the book were staged at least once by The Provincetown Players, Thirst on the wharf in Provincetown in August 1916, and Fog in New York City on January 5, 1917, O'Neill never republished any of them (although he did renew the copyright in 1942). The texts of the five plays in The Gorham Press edition (1914) are printed here.
O'Neill completed at least five more plays before he left New London for Harvard University in the fall of 1914: Bread and Butter, Bound East for Cardiff, Abortion, The Movie Man, and Servitude. Bread and Butter was copyrighted May 2, 1914. He continued to work on the play after that date; in a letter of May 5, 1914, he wrote to a friend that he was "pruning the first act" of this four-act drama. Later in the summer he sent a revised version to his father's friend, producer George C. Tyler, but nothing came of this submission and O'Neill destroyed his own copy. This volume prints the text of the typescript copy deposited for copyright in the Library of Congress.
Bound East for Cardiff, copyrighted under the title Children of the Sea on May 14, 1914, was the first play of O'Neill's to be produced and the earliest play included in his collected works. O'Neill carefully revised the typescript of Children of the Sea: he changed the title, cut and revised some of the speeches and stage directions, and rewrote the dialect spelling. He also changed the order of the names in the list of characters, giving more prominence to the larger roles, and made the "First Officer" into "The Second Mate." (The typescript of Children of the Sea was published in transcript form in "Children of the Sea" and Three Other Unpublished Plays by Eugene O'Neill, edited by Jennifer McCabe Atkinson, Washington, D.C.: NCR Microcard Editions, 1972.) The play was produced at The Wharf Theatre in Provincetown on July 28, 1916; a second production was staged by The Provincetown Players in New York City, November 3, 1916. It was first published in pamphlet form with two other plays in The Provincetown Plays, First Series, edited by Frank Shay, November 1916. O'Neill made less extensive revisions in the play when he prepared it for inclusion in The Moon of the Caribbees and Six Other Plays of the Sea, the first book of his published by the firm of Boni & Liveright, which appeared in May 1919. The tramp steamer was given the name Glencairn, and "The Norwegian" was identified as "Paul." Driscoll was changed from a "red haired giant" to a "brawny Irishman," and "blond" was no longer used to describe the Norwegian Paul. He changed or added a few descriptive sentences and changed the spelling of "Oleson" to "Olson." O'Neill made his last revisions when he prepared the play for inclusion in The Complete Works of Eugene O'Neill (a limited, autographed, two-volume edition published by Boni & Liveright, dated 1924 but not distributed until early 1925). O'Neill went over the proofs for this edition with particular care, revising many of the plays, some more extensively than others. Only a few revisions were made in Bound East for Cardiff: two of the captain's speeches were changed and one sentence deleted; some dialect was corrected. None of the plays from The Moon of the Caribbees and Six Other Plays of the Sea were included in the four-volume uniform trade edition made from the type used for The Complete Works that Boni & Liveright published in 1925. Later editions of the seven sea plays were set from the 1919 edition (the type set for The Complete Works possibly having been dispersed by then) and therefore did not incorporate the revisions O'Neill made for The Complete Works edition. The text of Bound East for Cardiff printed in this volume is from The Complete Works of Eugene O'Neill (1924).
The next three plays in this volume were not published by O'Neill, nor were they produced. Abortion was copyrighted on May 19, 1914, The Movie Man on July 1, 1914, and Servitude on September 23, 1914. O'Neill believed that all three had been destroyed, but the typescripts remained in the Copyright Office at the Library of Congress and were printed in Lost Plays of Eugene O'Neill (1950). The texts printed here of the three plays are from that edition.
The Sniper and The Personal Equation are the only two plays known to survive from those O'Neill wrote while attending George Pierce Baker's English 47 playwrighting course at Harvard in 1914-15. O'Neill never published them. The Sniper was copyrighted March 13, 1915, and was staged once by The Provincetown Players in New York City on February 16, 1917.
The play was first printed, from the text of the copyrighted typescript in the Library of Congress, in Lost Plays of Eugene O'Neill (1950); the text of that edition is printed here. The Personal Equation, written at Harvard during the spring 1915 semester, was never copyrighted by O'Neill, published by him, or produced on the stage. A typescript of the play was deposited in the Houghton Library at Harvard University. The play is published for the first time in The Unknown O'Neill, edited by Travis Bogard (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988). The text of that edition is printed in this volume.
Before Breakfast was written in the summer of 1916, while O'Neill was living in Provincetown. The one-act play was staged in New York by The Provincetown Players, December 1, 1916, and published in Provincetown Plays, Third Series, edited by Frank Shay, December 1916. A second edition appeared in A Treasury of Plays for Women, edited by Frank Shay (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1922), but O'Neill was not involved in this edition. He made his last revisions in the play, deleting words in both dialogue and stage directions, when he prepared the proofs for The Complete Works of Eugene O'Neill (Boni & Liveright, 1924). The text of Before Breakfast in The Complete Works is printed in this volume.
Now I Ask You was written while O'Neill was in Provincetown in the summer and fall of 1916, but not copyrighted until May 23, 1917, and was never staged or published in his lifetime. The text printed here is from the typescript on file in the Library of Congress Copyright Office.
O'Neill wrote four plays in rapid succession in Provincetown during the spring of 1917. All of them were produced, and all appeared in book form for the first time in The Moon of the Caribbees and Six Other Plays of the Sea published by Boni & Liveright in May 1919. In the Zone was presented by the Washington Square Players on October 31, 1917; Ile, staged by The Provincetown Players, November 30, 1917, was printed in The Smart Set, a journal edited by H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan, in May 1918; The Long Voyage Home, staged by The Provincetown Players, November 2, 1917, was printed in The Smart Set, October 1917; and The Moon of the Caribbees, presented by The Provincetown Players, December 20, 1918, was printed in The Smart Set, August 1918. Following its editorial policy, the language of the seamen was toned down in the plays printed in The Smart Set. O'Neill restored his original language in The Moon of the Caribbees and Six Other Plays of the Sea. O'Neill read proofs of the plays once more in 1924 for the two-volume Boni & Liveright edition, The Complete Works of Eugene O'Neill. At this time he made a few small revisions in the stage directions for Smitty, the central character of In the Zone. A few dialect spellings in the play were inadvertently normalized in the new typesetting, but O'Neill's own revisions outweigh this defect. Later editions of the play were printed from the 1919 edition, not The Complete Works; although new editorial elements were introduced, O'Neill's last revisions were not included. The text of In the Zone printed in this volume is from The Complete Works (1924). O'Neill did not revise Ile or The Long Voyage Home for the 1924 edition. He may have been responsible for the deletion of two clauses in the stage directions setting the scene in The Moon of the Caribbees in the 1924 edition, but in this case the loss of original dialect readings through inadvertent normalization seems to outweigh the possibly authorial deletions in the stage directions. He made no other revisions in later editions. The texts of Ile, The Long Voyage Home, and The Moon of the Caribbees printed here are therefore from the first book publication, The Moon of the Caribbees and Six Other Plays of the Sea (1919).
O'Neill finished writing The Rope in Provincetown in March 1918; the play, produced by The Provincetown Players, opened on April 26, 1918. It was first published in The Moon of the Caribbees and Six Other Plays of the Sea (1919). O'Neill worked on the play again in October 1924 when he read proofs for The Complete Works edition, making several revisions: he added repetitions in speeches by Mary, corrected Luke's age to twenty-one, and altered a few other words. Because later editions of the play were set from the 1919 edition, these last revisions were not included in them. This volume prints the text of The Rope in The Complete Works of Eugene O'Neill (1924).
O'Neill obtained two copyrights for Beyond the Horizon: the first on June 7, 1918, and the second on August 5, 1918. The play was produced by John D. Williams; it opened (after a tryout the day before in Yonkers, New York) at the Morosco Theatre for a series of special matinee performances on February 3, 1920. O'Neill made cuts in the play during rehearsals and helped with the direction. This was both his first long play to be produced and his first experience with the commercial theater. A few days before the play opened he wrote his wife, Agnes: "I have learned a lot. I'm a better playwright already, I feel it." The first edition, Beyond the Horizon, published by Boni & Liveright on March 10, 1920, appeared too close to production to incorporate revisions made during rehearsals; they were included in the second edition, The Complete Works of Eugene O'Neill (1924). O'Neill made no other revisions in later editions; the text of Beyond the Horizon in The Complete Works is printed here.
Shell Shock, written in Provincetown and copyrighted August 5, 1918, was never produced or published in O'Neill's lifetime. The text here is from the typescript deposited for copyright in the Library of Congress.
The Dreamy Kid was written in Provincetown in the summer of 1918, but The Provincetown Players decided not to use it in their opening program that year; the play was staged the following year on October 31, 1919, and first published in Theatre Arts Magazine in January 1920. Its first book publication was in Contemporary One-Act Plays of 1921 (American), selected and edited by Frank Shay (Cincinnati, Ohio: Stewart Kidd Company, 1922), but O'Neill had nothing to do with this edition. He reviewed it again when he prepared The Complete Works edition in 1924, but made no revisions in the play. This volume prints the text of the play's first appearance in Theatre Arts Magazine.
O'Neill apparently decided to write Where the Cross Is Made after The Provincetown Players expressed doubts about The Dreamy Kid. The manuscript is dated "1918, fall." The Provincetown Players gave its first performance on November 22, 1918. The one-act play was made from the last act of another play, Gold, which he did not complete until 1920. As O'Neill explained in a letter to George Jean Nathan, "I merely took the last act situation and jammed it into the one-act form because I wanted to be represented on the Provincetown Players' opening bill." Where the Cross Is Made was first published in The Moon of the Caribbees and Six Other Plays of the Sea (1919) and was never revised by O'Neill. The text from that edition is printed in this volume.
O'Neill began The Straw in the fall of 1918 and finished it in May 1919. Boni & Liveright published it on April 7, 1921, in The Emperor Jones, Diff'rent, The Straw; it was produced by George C. Tyler and opened, after a tryout in New London on November 4, at The Greenwich Village Theatre on November 10, 1921. O'Neill attended rehearsals and made cuts and revisions in the play at that time, but he was not able to incorporate them into print until he prepared the play for inclusion in The Complete Works of Eugene O'Neill (1924). O'Neill made no further revisions; the text of the second edition of The Straw from The Complete Works edition is printed here.
Chris Christophersen was copyrighted June 5, 1919; it was produced by George C. Tyler and opened with the title Chris in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on March 8, 1920, but it never opened in New York. O'Neill then rewrote the play and retitled it "Anna Christie." The earlier version, taken from the typescript deposited for copyright in the Library of Congress, was published as Chris Christophersen by Random House in 1982, edited by Leslie Eric Comens. The text of that edition is printed here.
Gold, the long version of Where the Cross Is Made, was completed in the spring of 1920. O'Neill attended only three rehearsals before the play opened on June 1, 1921, and he felt too discouraged by what he saw to do further work on the play. The first edition, Gold , was published by Boni & Liveright, September 10, 1921. O'Neill extensively revised the play in 1924, when he was preparing it for inclusion in The Complete Works edition; the text of this second edition is printed here.
O'Neill completed "Anna Christie" (the play made from Chris Christophersen) in the summer of 1920, and it was copyrighted November 29, 1920, as The Ole Davil. O'Neill made some revisions while attending rehearsals. The play, produced by Arthur Hopkins, opened in New York City on November 2, 1921. The first edition was published by Boni & Liveright, July 24, 1922, in The Hairy Ape, Anna Christie, The First Man. O'Neill made no revisions in the play in later editions; the text of the first edition (1922) is printed here.
O'Neill began writing The Emperor Jones late in September 1920 and finished it in early October. It was immediately put into production by The Provincetown Players and opened in New York on November 1, 1920. The first publication was in the January 1921 number of Theatre Arts Magazine. O'Neill made a few revisions and cuts in the play when he prepared it for book publication by Boni & Liveright in The Emperor Jones, Diff'rent, The Straw, on April 7, 1921. He gave permission for a third edition, The Emperor Jones (Cincinnati: Stewart Kidd Company, 1921), but took no part in its preparation. O'Neill made his last revisions in the play when he prepared it for The Complete Works of Eugene O'Neill, including cutting two of Smithers' speeches, one from the end of Scene One and the second from the end of the play. (The deleted words are given in the notes to this volume.) The text printed here is from The Complete Works (1924).
This volume presents the texts of the editions and typescripts chosen for inclusion here. It does not attempt to reproduce features of the physical layout or design of these documents, such as the typography of speech headings and stage directions. The texts are reproduced without change, except for the correction of errors in the lists of characters and typographical errors. Spelling, punctuation, and capitalization are often expressive features, and they are not altered, even when inconsistent or irregular. O'Neill's own usage in spelling is retained.
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