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O'Neill, Eugene - Complete Plays 1920–1931

Eugene O'Neill

Complete Plays 1920–1931

Marco Millions • The Hairy Ape • The Great God Brown • Strange Interlude • Desire Under the Elms • Mourning Becomes Electra • 7 other plays

"Bigness—as copiousness rather than monumentality, though that doesn't hurt either—matters. And Eugene O'Neill had it in all its forms. The only thing he did not have until now was a truly satisfactory edition of his works, but with the three-volume Complete Plays, edited for The Library of America series by Travis Bogard, that gap has finally been filled."
—John Simon, The New Leader
Overview  |  Note on the Texts  |  Reviews  |  Table of Contents

For Eugene O'Neill, the publication of a play was at least as important as its stage production. He had more control over the printed form than was possible on the stage, where individual characterizations by actors and cuts to shorten the running time often made the play different from what he had wanted it to be. He attended rehearsals of his plays whenever possible; if revisions were considered necessary, he wanted to make them himself. Some of his revisions, made to fit particular productions, were retained in the published plays because he thought they were improvements. A few plays were published before he could incorporate his revisions in them, and in these instances he inserted the revisions in the next publication. All thirteen plays in this volume were staged during O'Neill's lifetime; he was able to attend rehearsals for all but two of them, Lazarus Laughed and Dynamo. The plays went through several editions and printings, but O'Neill did not proofread all of the new editions and he seldom made further revisions in a play once he had revised it for publication. The plays in this volume are arranged in the order O'Neill wrote them rather than in the order of their first publication.

Diff'rent was written in October 1920 and had its first production December 27, 1920. It was first published in The Emperor Jones, Diff'rent, The Straw by Boni & Liveright, April 7, 1921. A second edition was published by Boni & Liveright in The Complete Works of Eugene O'Neill (two volumes, limited to 1250 autographed sets; dated 1924, but not distributed until early 1925). O'Neill took particular care correcting the proofs for this edition in October 1924, revising most of the plays, some extensively. Diff'rent was one of the plays only slightly revised; a few words were deleted and some punctuation was changed. No further revisions were made in later editions of the play. This volume prints the text of Diff'rent from The Complete Works edition (1924).

O'Neill finished writing The First Man (copyrighted originally as The Oldest Man) in October 1921; it was produced March 4, 1922, and published in The Hairy Ape, Anna Christie, The First Man by Boni & Liveright, July 24, 1922. In preparing the proofs for The Complete Works edition in October 1924, O'Neill cut and tightened some of the speeches. No other authorial changes were made in later editions; the text of the play in The Complete Works of Eugene O'Neill (1924) is printed here.

O'Neill wrote The Hairy Ape in less than three weeks in December 1921. The play was produced March 9, 1922, and published July 24, 1922, by Boni & Liveright in The Hairy Ape, Anna Christie, The First Man. Although O'Neill did not make many revisions in this play for The Complete Works edition, there is evidence that he corrected some punctuation and spelling. Therefore the text of The Hairy Ape from The Complete Works of Eugene O'Neill (1924) is printed here.

O'Neill began work on The Fountain in the spring of 1921 and completed it in the fall of 1922. The play was not included in The Complete Works edition, perhaps because O'Neill wanted to see it in rehearsal before he published it. The play was produced December 10, 1925, and was published in The Great God Brown, The Fountain, The Moon of the Caribbees, and Other Plays by Boni & Liveright, March 15, 1926. In correcting proofs, O'Neill overlooked the omission of the name "Christopher Columbus" from the character list; it was added when Charles Scribner's Sons brought out a second edition (1934-35), but the name was left out again in the Random House third edition (1941). O'Neill made no changes in these later editions and there is no evidence that he ever went over proofs of the play again. The text printed here is that of the first edition published by Boni & Liveright (1926), with the addition of "Christopher Columbus" in the list of characters.

Welded was written between the fall of 1922 and the spring of 1923, but was not produced in New York until March 17, 1924. The play had been tried out first in Baltimore, where on March 5 O'Neill saw a performance he disliked. He attended rehearsals in New York but was still dissatisfied with the presentation. The first edition, All God's Chillun Got Wings and Welded, was published by Boni & Liveright, April 17, 1924, too soon after the production to allow the insertion of revisions. On July 14, 1924, he reported in his work diary that he had "worked cutting 'Welded' for Collected Works edition Liveright is to get out." This cutting was done on tear sheets from the first edition. In October, he made further revisions in the play when he was going over proofs for The Complete Works Of Eugene O'Neill. As he made no other changes in later editions, the text of Welded in The Complete Works (1924) is printed here.

O'Neill finished writing All God's Chillun Got Wings in the late fall of 1923. It was published in the February 1924 issue of The American Mercury (O'Neill received his copy January 22). Boni & Liveright brought out the first book edition, All God's Chillun Got Wings and Welded, on April 17, 1924. The play was produced May 15, 1924. Though O'Neill had not seen the play in production before its first two editions, he made only a few revisions in it for The Complete Works Of Eugene O'Neill: two lines were added to the chorus of a song, two spoken words and a stage direction were changed. These were the last changes he made in the play; therefore the text from The Complete Works (1924) is printed here.

O'Neill began writing Desire Under the Elms in January 1924 and completed it on July 2, 1924, in time for inclusion in his Complete Works edition. The play was produced November 11, 1924. A separate edition of Desire Under the Elms was published by Boni & Liveright April 11, 1925. O'Neill read the proofs and made some revisions both in stage directions and speeches in the second edition; the text of this edition is printed here.

O'Neill began work on Marco Millions in the summer of 1923, then put it aside to work on Desire Under the Elms. After finishing that play, he again worked on Marco Millions until it was completed in October 1924, but by that time it was the length of two four-act plays and had a cast of thirty-four characters. Because he was anxious to have it produced, he spent January 1925 making it into one long play. As no production was in sight by December 1926, O'Neill decided to prepare the play for publication. (The play was finally produced January 9, 1928.) Boni & Liveright brought it out on April 23, 1927, with a limited autographed printing following in May. No other edition was ever prepared by O'Neill, and this first edition text is printed here.

The Great God Brown was written by O'Neill between January and March 1925. Rehearsals of the play began January 4, 1926, a performance was given for an invited audience on January 22, and it opened on January 23, 1926. O'Neill corrected proofs of the play early in February but apparently did not notice that the list of characters still reflected an earlier version of the play: "a stenographer" was listed and "a client," "three committeemen," and "a police captain" were omitted. (Only the third edition brought out by Charles Scribner's Sons, 1934-35, corrects the list of characters.) The play was published in The Great God Brown, The Fountain, The Moon of the Caribbees, and Other Plays by Boni & Liveright, March 15, 1926. O'Neill took no part in the preparation of later editions; the text of the first edition, with the list of characters corrected, is printed here.

O'Neill began the scenario of Lazarus Laughed in September 1925 and continued to work on the play until late November. He picked it up again in March of the following year and finished it in June 1926. In June 1927, he revised Act One for publication in The American Caravan: A Yearbook of American Literature, edited by Van Wyck Brooks, Lewis Mumford, Alfred Kreymborg, and Paul Rosenfeld (New York: The Macaulay Company, 1927). In July 1927, he again revised the play, this time in preparation for book publication by Boni & Liveright, November 12, 1927; a limited autographed printing of this edition came out two weeks later. O'Neill was unable to get the play produced in New York; the first production was given by The Community Playhouse in Pasadena, California, April 9, 1928, while he was living in France. No further editions were supervised by O'Neill. The text of the Boni & Liveright edition of Lazarus Laughed (1927) is printed here.

O'Neill worked on Strange Interlude from May 1926 until July 25, 1927, when he wrote in his diary that he would "call this play finally finished now!" He corrected first proofs from October 31 to November 6, 1927, and went over the last proofs in January 1928 while attending rehearsals for the Theatre Guild's production, which opened on January 30, 1928. Boni & Liveright published the trade edition on March 3, 1928, and later that month produced a special autographed two-color edition, which for some reason failed to incorporate O'Neill's last proof corrections in the early pages. Therefore, it is the text of the trade edition of Strange Interlude that is printed in this volume.

O'Neill had done some work on Dynamo in 1927 and then put it aside for other projects. In March 1928, soon after he and Carlotta had settled in France, he began working on the play in earnest. By September 10, 1928, he considered the play finished and sent it off both for publication by Horace Liveright, Inc. (the firm had been reorganized and changed its name) and for production by the Theatre Guild. After learning when the play was to be produced, he reviewed the script and was very dissatisfied, writing in his work diary on February 4, 1929, that he "would like to rewrite entirely but too late now--opens 11th." When he received proofs from Horace Liveright in March, he decided to rewrite and revise some portions of it, to add new scenes to the second act, and to change the opening of Act Three. The revised play was therefore very different from the play that had been performed; the program bill, for example, included some characters who no longer appear in the printed version. He made further corrections on page proofs June 10-14 (these late corrections, unlike corrections he made for other plays, were not incorporated into the text published in England). The book was published in two editions again, the trade edition on October 5, 1929, and the autographed limited edition soon after. Though O'Neill often said that he would like to revise the play further, he made no more changes. The text printed here is that of the Horace Liveright first edition (1929).

Between May 1929 and April 7, 1931, when he sent the script to the Theatre Guild, O'Neill wrote six drafts of Mourning Becomes Electra. He continued making extensive revisions in proofs from July 26 to October 13, 1931. The Theatre Guild began rehearsals of the play on September 7, so O'Neill was able to continue making revisions in the proofs while attending rehearsals. The play opened October 26, and the first trade printing was published by Horace Liveright on November 3. A limited autographed printing from the same plates, in which a first-printing error was corrected and a separate section ("Working Notes and Extracts from a Fragmentary Work Diary") added, was published late in November. This corrected second printing, without the added section, is the text printed in this volume.

This volume presents the texts of the original editions 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 lists of characters and typographical errors. O'Neill's own usage in spelling (for example "ballin' " for "bawlin'") and his handling of apostrophes ("on'y" or "o'ny," "its" for it's," "your's" for "yours," etc.) are retained. Spelling, punctuation, and capitalization are often expressive features, and they are not altered, even when inconsistent or irregular.

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