Cover image for
Complete plays
O'Neill, Eugene, 1888-1953.
Personal Author:
Physical Description:
volumes ; 21 cm.
Library of America ; 40-42

Library of America ; 40-42.
General Note:
"Travis Bogard wrote the notes and selected the texts for this volume"--5th prelim. p., v. 1-3.
[1] 1913-1920: A wife for life. The web. Thirst. Recklessness. Warnings. Fog. Bread and butter. Bound east for Cardiff. Abortion. The movie man. Servitude. The sniper. The personal equation. Before breakfast. Now I ask you. In the zone. Ile. The long voyage home. The moon of the Caribbees. The rope. Beyond the horizon. Shell shock. The dreamy kid. Where the cross is made. The straw. Chris Christophersen. Gold. Anna Christie. The Emperor Jones -- [2] 1920-1931: Diff'rent. The first man. The hairy ape. The fountain. Welded. All God's chillun got wings. Desire under the elms. Marco Millions. The great god Brown. Lazarus laughed. Strange interlude. Dynamo. Mourning becomes Electra -- [3] 1932-1943: Ah, wilderness. Days without end. A touch of the poet. More stately mansions. The iceman cometh. Long day's journey into night. Hughie. A moon for the misbegotten. Appendix: Tomorrow.
Added Author:
Pub Date:
Literary Classics of the United States : Distributed to the trade in the U.S. and Canada by the Viking Press, [1988]



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The only American dramatist awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, Eugene O'Neill wrote with poetic expressiveness, emotional intensity, and immense dramatic power. This Library of America volume (the first in a three-volume set) contains twenty-nine plays he wrote between 1913, when he began his career, and 1920, the year he first achieved Broadway success.

Many of O'Neill's early plays are one-act melodramas whose characters are caught in extreme situations. Thirst and Fog depict shipwreck survivors, The Web a young mother trapped in the New York underworld, and Abortion the aftermath of a college student's affair with a stenographer.
His first distinctive works are four one-act plays about the crew of the tramp steamer Glencairn that render sailors' speech with masterful faithfulness. Bound East for Cardiff , In the Zone , The Long Voyage Home , and The Moon of the Caribbees portray these "children of the sea" as they watch over a dying man, sail though submarine-patrolled waters, take their shore leave in a London dive, and drink rum in a moonlit tropical anchorage.

In Beyond the Horizon Robert Mayo begins a tragic chain of events by abandoning his dream of a life at sea, choosing instead to marry the woman his brother loves and remain on his family farm. The sea in "Anna Christie" is both "dat ole devil" to coal barge captain Chris Christopherson and a source of spiritual cleansing to his daughter Anna, an embittered prostitute. When a swaggering stoker falls in love with her, Anna becomes the apex of a three-sided struggle full of enraged pride, grim foreboding, and stubborn hope. Both of these plays won the Pulitzer Prize and helped establish O'Neill as a successful Broadway playwright.

The Emperor Jones depicts the nightmarish journey through a West Indian forest of Brutus Jones, a former Pullman porter turned island ruler. Fleeing his rebellious subjects, Jones confronts his violent deeds and the tortured history of his race in a series of hallucinatory episodes whose expressionist quality anticipates many of O'Neill's later plays.

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation's literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America's best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.

Author Notes

Eugene O'Neill was born in New York City on October 16, 1888, the son of popular actors James O'Neill and Ellen Quinlan. As a young child, he frequently went on tour with his father and later attended a Catholic boarding school and a private preparatory school. He entered Princeton University but stayed for only a year. He took a variety of jobs, including prospecting for gold, shipping out as a merchant sailor, joining his father on the stage, and writing for newspapers. In 1912, he was hospitalized for tuberculosis and emotional exhaustion. While recovering, he read a great deal of dramatic literature and, after his release from the sanitarium, began writing plays.

O'Neill got his theatrical start with a group known as the Provincetown Players, a company of actors, writers, and other theatrical newcomers, many of whom went on to achieve commercial and critical success. His first plays were one-act works for this group, works that combined realism with experimental forms.

O'Neill's first commercial successes, Beyond the Horizon (1920) and Anna Christie (1921) were traditional realistic plays. Anna Christie is still frequently performed. It is the story of a young woman, Anna, whose hard life has led her to become a prostitute. Anna comes to live with her long-lost father, who is unaware of her past, and she falls in love with a sailor, who is also unaware. When Anna finds the two men fighting over her as though she were property, she is so angry and disgusted that she insists on telling them the truth. The man she loves rejects her at first, but then later returns to marry her.

Soon O'Neill began to experiment more, and over the next 12 years used a wide variety of unusual techniques, settings, and dramatic devices. It is no exaggeration to say that, virtually on his own, O'Neill created a tradition of serious American theater. His influence on the playwrights who followed him has been enormous, and much of what is taken today for granted in modern American theater originated with O'Neill. A major legacy has been the nine plays he wrote between 1924 and 1931, tragedies that made heavy use of the new Freudian psychology just coming into fashion. His one comedy, Ah, Wilderness (1933), was the basis for the musical comedy, Oklahoma!, itself a groundbreaking event in American theater.

O'Neill later began to write the intense, brooding, and highly autobiographical plays that are now considered to his best work. The Iceman Cometh (1946) is set in a bar in Manhattan's Bowery, or skid-row district. In the course of the play, a group of apparently happy men are forced to recognize the true emptiness of their lives. In A Long Day's Journey into Night (1956), O'Neill examines his own family and their tormented lives, a subject he continues in A Moon for the Misbegotten (1957).

O'Neill's work was highly honored. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1936 and Pulitzer Prizes for Anna Christie, Beyond the Horizon, Strange Interlude (1928), and A Long Day's Journey Into Night, which also received the New York Drama Critics Circle Award.

O'Neill died in Room 401 of the Sheraton Hotel on Bay State Road in Boston, on November 27, 1953, at the age of 65. He was also born in a hotel room in Times Square, NYC.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Riding the crest of a wave of current interest in Eugene O'Neill and his works, this current entry into the "Library of America" definitive-edition lists is, simply put, a three-volume set that no serious library can afford to be without. Since the last issuance by Random House of O'Neill's collected plays, there have been numerous additions to the O'Neill canon published by Yale and other presses; but not until now have, for instance, Ah, Wilderness! and The Iceman Cometh been available between the same boards as such other late discoveries as Long Day's Journey Into Night, Hughie, A Moon for the Misbegotten, and A Touch of the Poet. Nor, for that matter, have we encountered together the recently published Chris Christophersen and its later revision, the well-known Anna Christie. The editing and annotation are scrupulously thorough, and only a reader with a quibble about the right way to indent dialogue could cavil at the presentation's good, clear print. The 50 plays are presented chronologically as well, enabling the reader to get some idea of O'Neill's development as a playwright--an idea not readily accessible in the pages of the Random House edition. "Tomorrow," O'Neill's only published short story and a piece with a bearing on a couple of the plays, is also included as an appendix; and there is a very detailed chronology of O'Neill's life and career. While librarians are recommended to order it at once, it is also a comfort to know that this valuable item will never be allowed to go out of print. J. M. Ditsky University of Windsor

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