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Greatness of Tennessee Williams

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Tennessee Williams was a prominent play writer in the United States.  He put lots of focus in emotional and sexual forces, physical needs and spiritual needs. Tennessee Williams was born in Columbus Mississippi in March 26 1911. At birth, he was given the name Thomas Lanier Williams. Later he was famous with the name Tennessee Williams.  He was the second child and at the same time, the first son of Cornelius and Edwina Williams. His father sold shoes internationally. He was also a heavy drinker and strong gambler. During his childhood, Tennessee grew up with his sister, mother, and grandparents. This made him dislike his father and develop respect for his maternal grandparents.

At the age of Seven, Tennessee fell ill and was diagnosed with diphtheria. For a period of two years, he was helpless and could do nothing on his own. His mother was always by his side and kept encouraging him to come up with something creative and do it from his own imaginations. When he was thirteen years old, his mother gave him a typewriter, which at that time was similar to having a modern computer. His mother did not allow him to play with other children. Therefore, after completing his high school in 1929, he had to look for a college. His first college was the University of Missouri. Here, he studied how to become an author, which his father was against. After his first year at the college, his father had to make him quit and work in the shoe company.

At this time, Tennessee had already developed a passion for writing. Despite working in the shoe company, he had to spare some of his free time and dedicate it to writing. He even went ahead to stay awake all night writing. Since he did not get enough sleep and his body was exhausted, Tennessee developed nervous breakdown and a heart problem. He went to hospital and later his father permitted him to go to the University of Washington. While the University of Washington, he got some of his papers published, though he did not win any of the writing contests that he entered. He later quit studying at Washington and went to the University of Iowa. Thomas received the name Tennessee while at Iowa University. This was his nickname, as the boys from the university knew he came from the south and more or less the Tennessee as his nickname. He decided to keep it. During this period, he received his Bachelor’s degree.

Tennessee was so close to his elder sister Rose. Her sister had schizophrenia, which she got after accusing her father of making sexual advances towards her. This made Rose to be institutionalized as she spends a greater percentage of her life in mental institutions. Later in 1937, her parent Cornelius and Edwina permitted prefrontal lobotomy done on her. This left her incapacitated. On the other part, this condition affected Tennessee so much that he would not forgive his parents for approving the operation. In return, Tennessee suffered from depression and was feared running mad. Later in 1969, Tennessee suffered a severed nervous breakdown, which led to his institutionalization. As a result of this, he would not forgive his younger brother Dakin for permitting his stay in a madhouse (D’Alessandro).

Williams went back to school and he graduated from the University of Iowa in 1938. In 1939, He then relocated to New Orleans where he was commonly referred to by the name Tennessee. In New Orleans, Williams stayed in the French quarters where he worked hard as a writer. He wrote his first play, “A battle of angels,” which failed in 1940 during the Boston tryouts.

  Another problem that Tennessee had was that he was that apart from alcoholism, he was also addicted to prescription drugs. In the early 1940’s, William moved through different cities searching for different jobs and obtaining play writing classes. During this time, he was also working as a scriptwriter with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). In 1944, this was the year that marked a great turning point in his entire life. The play, the Glass Menagerie, was his own composition after the depressions he had faced. The play transferred to Broadways in 1945 and won the NY Critics Circle Award (Hills, & Gale, p.420).

William had gone through lots of struggles with his sexuality during his youth and this time he began a new era in his love life as a gay. His inspiration was his new name, his new home and his promising new career. Among the many relationships he had, the most stable and longest relationship that Tennessee ever had was with a sailor Frank Merlo (Albert). Their relationship began in 1947 and was on and off until the death of Merlo from cancer in 1963. Apart  from his relationship with Merlo, Williams also had other relationships with men who were violent and predatory. After the death of Merlo, William became unstable emotionally that he was not able to make great creativities as he had done before.

The failure that he got from the play “The Milk Train Does Not Stop Here Any More,” was the end of the greatness of Tennessee Williams in the dramatic Broadway Theater. The production, “The Milk Train,” closed after making sixteen performances. Williams continued to drop. His original Broadway production “Slapstick Tragedy,” which composed of two short plays also closed after seven performances in 1966. In 1968, another original performance named “The Seven Descendants of Myrtle” just survived for only twenty nine performances. In 1973, “Outcry,” lasted for only twelve performances and the dual bill, “A Memory of Two Mondays,” lasted for only 63 performances (Charles Scribner's Sons, p.887). With the challenges he had, Williams did not settle well as the states man of the theater and was thus replaced by Edward Albee who was also gay.

Tennessee Williams died on February 25, 1983 after chocking from a cap of a bottle of eye drops, which were lodged in his throat.

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