James Tyrone, who is sixty-five years old but looks ten years younger. This strikingly handsome, vital man is based on the playwright’s father, James Tyrone, a popular actor. Of Irish peasant stock, this character has never been sick and is impatient with those who are, like his wife and younger son. Because of his poverty-stricken youth, he is incredibly stingy, compulsively turning off light bulbs and reluctant to pay for anything except the cheapest goods and services, except when he is investing in land. His stinginess has brought on the play’s central tragedy, the morphine addiction of his wife, for whom he called a quack doctor rather than getting qualified medical help when she was sick after bearing her younger son. Now that the son has tuberculosis, James wants to send him to the cheap state sanatorium rather than pay for decent medical services. Although he loves his family, he is the victim of his own ingrained compulsions. They have damaged him as well: He was a promising Shakespearean actor and thinks he could have become a great actor but squandered his talent by buying the rights to a potboiler play in which he performed for a generation to secure a comfortable income. Consequently, he is a disappointed man who drowns his frustrations in drink.
Mary Cavan Tyrone
Mary Cavan Tyrone, his wife, fifty-four years old. Her figure still is young and graceful, but her once beautiful face is thin and pale, her hair is white, and her hands are disfigured by rheumatism. She was educated by nuns in a Catholic school and wanted to become a nun herself. Instead, she met James Tyrone, fell in love, married him, and became addicted to morphine prescribed by an inexpensive...
(The entire section is 712 words.)