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Tennessee Williams

1911–1983
Tennessee Williams, 1956. (Ray Fisher/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Major works:
The Glass MenagerieA Streetcar Named DesireThe Roman Spring of Mrs. StoneCat on a Hot Tin RoofIn the Winter of CitiesSweet Bird of Youth

“The newest writing talent in the American theatre is that of Tennessee Williams. His The Glass Menagerie was a lyric fragment of limited scope but undeniable poignancy. Tennessee Williams’ latest play—A Streetcar Named Desire—stands very high among the creative contributions of the American theatre since 1920. If we had a national repertory theatre, this play would unquestionably be among the few worthy of a permanent place there. Its impact at this moment is especially strong, because it is virtually unique as a stage piece that is both personal and social and wholly a product of our life today. It is a beautiful play.”
—Harold Clurman (1948)

Read an excerpt from

A Streetcar Named Desire

Tennessee Williams

BLANCHE: I never was hard or self-sufficient enough. When people are soft—soft people have got to court the favor of hard ones, Stella. Have got to be seductive—put on soft colors, the colors of butterfly wings, and glow—make a little—temporary magic just in order to pay for—one night’s shelter! That’s why I’ve been—not so awf’ly good lately. I’ve run for protection, Stella, from under one leaky roof to another leaky roof—because it was storm—all storm, and I was—caught in the center. . . . People don’t see you—men don’t—don’t even admit your existence unless they are making love to you. And you’ve got to have your existence admitted by someone, if you’re going to have someone’s protection. And so the soft people have got to—shimmer and glow—put a—paper lantern over the light. . . . But I’m scared now—awf’ly scared. I don’t know how much longer I can turn the trick. It isn’t enough to be soft. You’ve got to be soft and attractive. And I—I’m fading now!

Read a passage from A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
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