Tennessee Williams is one of the celebrated creative and classical writers who contributed to the success of America theatrical industry. America not only acknowledged William as the cream of the playwright industry but also as an inspiration to the upcoming young writers. Most of Williams plays are one-act plays, the examples include summer at the lake, Fat man’s wife and the suddenly, Last Summer among others. In addition, some of the plays like a streetcar Named Desire and Baby doll are doing great in the film industry and they have led to the recognition of some actors/actresses like Malden, Brando, and Leigh at the Oscar awards. Although William work was popular, he also received criticisms questioning his moral values mainly because his work majorly centered on sexuality and inhumanity rather than the life issues affecting the contemporary world. Therefore, William is a successful playwright who overlooked his critiques to not only inspire the next generations but also contribute to film industry thus redefining the theater and cinema industry.
Critical Analysis of some of his plays
Although William passed away in 1983, his work still lingers in the minds of very many people especially in the theater world.
A twist of the events is that some of the plays he wrote in the twentieth century are now becoming popular in the twenty first century. For instance, the play summer at the lake is about a young man with oppressive, strict parents who do not give him a chance to make his life choices (Isherwood 1). They force him to desert his education and look for employment. Written in 1937 the play was only available in the Texas archives but in 2004, the theater industry retrieved and published it for both academic and entertaining purposes. In addition, the plays are modeling the careers of different people in the theater industry including actors and producers just to mention a few. Kathleen Chalfant and Hunter Gilmore are among the famous actors who are benefiting from the ancient plays. Therefore, despite having died two decades ago Tennessee William’s legacy still lives up to today especially in the cinema/drama world. Similarly, to the play summer at the lake, the fat man’s wife is another Williams’ work that remained dormant in the Texas archives in New York.
Written in 1938, the play focuses on a woman who has a chance to choose between a youthful playwright, a producer in the theatre and a piggy, awkward, ill-mannered husband. The play became popular in November 2004 after finding its way in the New York theatres. According to Isherwood, the aim of the entertainment industry was to carry on Williams’ legacy by staging plays that were not popular before (1). The play questions Williams’ morality because despite Vera Cartwright being legally in matrimony, he still gives her a chance to go out with other men some even being younger than her. Likewise, the producer and playwright admire Cartwright yet she is legally married. The play is currently in the New York theatres, therefore enabling actors/actress to not only become popular but also earn a living.
A movie of the play is yet to hit the film industry. Finally, the publication of the play is a good contribution to the academic world especially for the students studying literature. Some of William’s plays focused on the problems that faced his society at that time. For instances, the play Suddenly, Last summer recaptures or is parallel to his sister’s life. Written in 1958, the play touches on the author’s personal life and morality issues (homosexuality) in the society. In the play, Catherine loses her sanity after the death of her cousin Sebastian while he was away in Europe. Contrary to his death, the truth reveals Sebastian was a homosexual and a victim of cannibalism.
Originally, produced in 1958, the play was successful winning the Obie award. Similarly, in real life his sister suffers from schizophrenia therefore behaving as a mad person. Williams’ personal experience with his sister inspires him to write a gothic play that eventually receives a worldwide criticism. Due to his creativity and worldwide recognition, some of Williams plays paved way into the film industry and the BBC television. Suddenly, Last summer is one of the plays that ended up in nearly all entertainment categories like the film, television, Broadway and off-Broadway among others.
The play is both artistic and poetic making it attractive to academicians. In 1959, the Columbia pictures company released the film and due to its popularity, the movie won three awards nomination with two of its actors Hepburn and Taylor receiving nominations for best actors. Furthermore, in 1993 the film was on the entertainment industry through television like the BBC. The movie was in episodes branded Great performances. Consequently, Maggie Smith received nomination in the Emmy’s awards for the best actor.
Recently, in 1995 and 2006, the Circle in the Square Theater and round about Theatre Company respectively ran the movie suddenly, last summer on both Broadway and off-Broadway. Additionally, in 2004, Albery theatre replayed the play, which led to collection of different views from the public because of its subject on homosexuality. Thusly, Williams’ plays significantly have modeled the careers of actors/actresses throughout the years. Currently, the movies are accessible to the whole world through the internet services. On the other hand, in 1983, a song called Suddenly, Last summer hit the American charts. Therefore, William’s literary ideas benefited both the film and music industries.
Beneficiaries of Williams’ work
Williams’ work did not only redefine the entertainment industry but also built personal careers of many actors. Some of the plays led to the recognition of individual talents in the theatre by receiving various nominations and awards in both film and cinema industries.
For instance, Maggie Smith, Ann Meacham, Diana Rigg, and Victoria Hamilton are some of the beneficiaries of Williams’ plays. Hamilton received the Evening Standard award while Rigg got the Obie award. The film versions of the plays also led to recognition of different personalities in the categories of directors, producers, and managers. Among the renown directors are Michael Kahn, Mandy Greenfield, and Paige Adams (Isherwood 2).
Therefore, Williams’ plays are inspiration to the youths who want to venture into the cinema, drama, or film industry because through his achievements he acts as a role model. The beneficiaries of Williams’ work especially actors still stage his plays as away of both earning a living and popularizing the works to the younger generations. Although most of Williams’ works received admiration from the eyes of many people, some of his literary works received worldwide criticism.
The controversial themes in Williams’ work were the main source of criticism; he concentrated on crucial topics like homosexuality, heterosexuality, cannibalism, and violence, which were sensitive subject at the time (Tennessee “Vol. 11” 36). Some critiques cited his obsession with sex and his ungodly character as the themes of his literary works. Furthermore, during the production of some of his plays, the film producer had to edit or remove the gothic parts. The recent criticized works are the fat man’s wife and suddenly, last summer due to their focus on controversial themes like sexuality and morality. On the other hand, some of the critics asserted that his plays carried similar themes. For instance, the play summer at the lake has a similar theme to the play the glass menagerie. Both of the plays had a domineering mother who ruled the life of her son.
According to Lahr’s views “Donald is an early snapshot of Tom, for whom home is also ‘a hideous trap’” (1). Therefore, Lahr connects the two plays mainly because of the similarity in the characters. Anybody who had watched the summer at the lake would definitely conclude the glass menagerie before watching it to the end. Moreover, Williams’ critics are against the repetition or redundancy in his literary works especially the similarity in the characters and subject matter.
Worldwide reception of Williams work
Suddenly, last summer is one of the plays that received criticism because the play revolved around crucial topics like homosexuality, cannibalism, insanity, and violence.
For instance, a character like Sebastian is a homosexual whom the boys or man-eaters eat. Sexuality is one of the topics that always involve privacy and up to today, people are against anyone who publicizes it. Most of the terminologies in the play draw images of human depredation, which are a symbol of inhumanity or cruelty. The play highlights characters that are gruesome, inhuman, crazy, and irrational.
Critics argue that these characters are in line with Williams’ personal interests. The critiques of his work are against his sadistic nature and high level of humiliation as his characters illustrate. According to some critiques, the fiction in Williams’ plays lacked basis and therefore rating it as incomplete, uncreative and sketchy (Tennessee “Vol. 15” 63). On the contrary, they are yet to understand why most of his plays received many awards yet through them, he promoted inhumanity in the society. The fat man’s wife is a play that is currently in the theatre after its publication in 2004. According to critiques, the play is a case of his poor or bad writing, because its theme mainly promotes infidelity in marriage.
According to Williams, Cartwright is free to choose a man she likes and her husband cannot hinder her. In the end, she starts to save her marriage that seems to be falling apart. Lahr asserts that heterosexuality is a crucial topic that the society should not handle carelessly as Williams did in this play (1). Additionally, Williams’ plays are unrealistic, emotional and not touching the real events that people incur in the world (Spoto 10). Williams’ ways of life as an alcoholic and drug addict are source of inspiration for his literature (Leverich 8). Consequently, his way of life drives him to write on subjects he mainly fantasizes on such as homosexuality.
In comparison to other authors, Williams’ literary work differs slightly from the rest because he concentrates on reality and expresses his ideas explicitly. Moreover, he did not write about the political issues such as the World War II, which were affecting the society at that time. Some of his critiques compare his work with other writers like Carson McCullers who promoted gothic literature although he was not an American. Due to frequent criticisms and alcoholism, Williams’ career started to faint in 1960. Furthermore, the themes of his writings lacked sensation and creativity especially for those plays that had less fiction (Saddik 10).
Most of the plays written after 1970 were not as successful as the plays written before 1960. On the other hand, Williams had supporters who appreciated and enjoyed his work. One of his supporters positively comments on his literary works when he says that,” it is Williams’ unique ability to adapt elements of realism and expressionism that distinguishes his work from that of his contemporaries” (Tennessee “Vol.
11” 36). Finally, Williams’ literary works draws parallelism from other writers at his time but the dynamic nature of the plays slightly elevates him above the other authors.
In summary, Williams is a celebrity in the literary world who has creatively written more than fifty plays. His writing career started in the 1930s and up to date, art lovers still enjoy his plays in cinemas, theatres, and film industries. Some of the plays have film versions, which further contribute to his legacy.
The plays are source of livelihood for many actors/actresses in theatre and film industry. His absence does not hinder the current staging of his plays in the entertainment industry. Although the themes of his play revolve around sexuality and violence, which led to worldwide criticism, he won a number of awards. A critical analysis of his critiques and supporters reveals that his plays are better than other plays written at his time.
Isherwood, Charles. “Theatre Review: Rhinestones Are Next Door to Glass.” The New York Times, November 12, 2004.
Print. Lahr, John. “Soul sketches: Tennessee Williams’ unknown one-acts.”The New Yorker, November 22, 2004. Print. Leverich, Lyle.
Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams. W. W. Norton & Company, 1997. Print Saddik, Annette. The Politics of Reputation: The Critical Reception of Tennessee Williams’ Later Plays London: Associated University Presses, 1999.
Print Spoto, Donald. The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams. New York: Da Capo Press, 1997. Print Tennessee, Williams.
Introduction: Contemporary Literary Criticism Vol. 11. Ed. Jeffrey, Hunter. New York: Gale Cengage, 1999. Tennessee, Williams. Introduction: Contemporary Literary Criticism Vol.
15. Ed. Sharon, Gunton.New York: Gale Cengage, 1980.eNotes.com.2006.24