Several other plays that are important to the Williams canon include Camino Real (1953), The Rose Tattoo (1951), Orpheus Descending (1957), Sweet Bird of Youth (1959), and The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (1963). Williams’s stylistic distinction consists of his theatrically poetic language. His main thematic concerns are his sympathetic portraits of women (sometimes his alter egos), his creation of what Ruby Cohn calls “garrulous grotesques,” who have left indelible impressions on the American consciousness, his rebellion against the repressiveness of puritanical attitudes, and his use of Darwinism’s “nature red in tooth and claw” as a metaphor for the cruelty of repressive, conventional attitudes.
Descended on his mother’s side from a southern minister and on his father’s from Tennessee politicians, Thomas Lanier (Tennessee) Williams moved with his family from Mississippi to St. Louis shortly after World War I. He attended the University of Missouri and Washington University, finally graduating from the University of Iowa. After odd jobs in the warehouse of a shoe factory, ushering at a movie house, and even a stint screenwriting in Hollywood, he turned full-time writer in the early 1940’s, encouraged by grants from the Group Theatre and Rockefeller Foundation. Despite purchasing a home in Key West, Florida, in 1950, Williams spent most of the remainder of his life living for short periods in a variety of locales in Europe, the United States, and Mexico. His two Pulitzer Prizes early in his career, plus four Drama Critics Circle Awards, solidified Williams’s reputation as a playwright; the quality of his writing declined, however, after the early 1960’s, in great part as a result of drug dependency. He died, alone, in a New York City hotel room in 1983.
Tennessee Williams was born Thomas Lanier Williams in 1911 in Columbus, Mississippi, the son of Cornelius Coffin Williams and Edwina Dakin Williams. He lived his early years in the home of his grandparents, for whom he felt great affection. His grandfather was a minister, and Williams’s father was a traveling salesperson, apparently at home infrequently. In about 1919, his father accepted a nontraveling position at his firm’s headquarters in St. Louis. The move from a more or less traditional southern environment to a very different metropolitan world was extremely painful both for Williams and for his older sister, neither of whom ever really recovered from it.
The Glass Menagerie is clearly a play about...
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Although Williams has been widely acknowledged as one of the leading modern American playwrights, his work has often been criticized for its violence and an obsession with sexuality. A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), for example, was a Broadway hit. It helped launch Williams’ creative writing career when it won the Drama Critics’ Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. However, it was criticized for being uncouth and overly violent. Williams publicly responded to such criticism by arguing that it was all right for a play to be violent and full of motion, so long as it has the “special kind of repose” that allows contemplation and produces a climate “in which tragic importance is a...
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Tennessee Williams is considered one of the greatest American playwrights, ranking alongside Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller. He was born Thomas Lanier Williams, the son of Cornelius Coffin Williams, a traveling salesman, and Edwina Dakin Williams, a minister’s daughter. Williams, his mother, and his older sister, Rose, lived with Williams’s maternal grandparents until his father was transferred to his firm’s main office in St. Louis in 1918. The move was shattering to both Williams and his sister, and it was almost certainly at least partially responsible for Williams’s emotional instability and for his sister’s retreat from reality—which resulted in a prefrontal lobotomy and institutionalization. The Glass...
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Thomas Lanier Williams, known as Tom during his boyhood and later as Tennessee, was born in his maternal grandparents’ home, an Episcopalian rectory in Columbus, Mississippi, on March 26, 1911, to Edwina Dakin and Cornelius Coffin Williams. His mother came from a prominent old Mississippi family and his father from an equally prominent old Tennessee family with a proud military and patriotic background. Williams was immediately thrust into a conflict between the genteel Puritanism of his mother and the cavalier lifestyle of his father.
From his father’s origins, he was given his nickname, and he chose to use it for the rest of his life. Because of his father’s continual absence from home during Williams’s...
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