Tennessee Williams, original name Thomas Lanier Williams, (born March 26, 1911, Columbus, Miss., U.S.—died Feb. 25, 1983, New York City), American dramatist whose plays reveal a world of human frustration in which sex and violence underlie an atmosphere of romantic gentility.
Williams became interested in playwriting while at the University of Missouri (Columbia) and Washington University (St. Louis) and worked at it even during the Depression while employed in a St. Louis shoe factory. Little theatre groups produced some of his work, encouraging him to study dramatic writing at the University of Iowa, where he earned a B.A. in 1938.
His first recognition came when American Blues (1939), a group of one-act plays, won a Group Theatre award. Williams, however, continued to work at jobs ranging from theatre usher to Hollywood scriptwriter until success came with The Glass Menagerie (1944). In it, Williams portrayed a declassed Southern family living in a tenement. The play is about the failure of a domineering mother, Amanda, living upon her delusions of a romantic past, and her cynical son, Tom, to secure a suitor for Tom’s crippled and painfully shy sister, Laura, who lives in a fantasy world with a collection of glass animals.
Williams’ next major play, A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), won a Pulitzer Prize. It is a study of the mental and moral ruin of Blanche Du Bois, another former Southern belle, whose genteel pretensions are no match for the harsh realities symbolized by her brutish brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski.
In 1953, Camino Real, a complex work set in a mythical, microcosmic town whose inhabitants include Lord Byron and Don Quixote, was a commercial failure, but his Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), which exposes the emotional lies governing relationships in the family of a wealthy Southern planter, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and was successfully filmed, as was The Night of the Iguana (1961), the story of a defrocked minister turned sleazy tour guide, who finds God in a cheap Mexican hotel. Suddenly Last Summer (1958) deals with lobotomy, pederasty, and cannibalism, and in Sweet Bird of Youth (1959), the gigolo hero is castrated for having infected a Southern politician’s daughter with venereal disease.
Williams was in ill health frequently during the 1960s, compounded by years of addiction to sleeping pills and liquor, problems that he struggled to overcome after a severe mental and physical breakdown in 1969. His later plays were unsuccessful, closing soon to poor reviews. They include Vieux Carré (1977), about down-and-outs in New Orleans; A Lovely Sunday for Crève Coeur (1978–79), about a fading belle in St. Louis during the Great Depression; and Clothes for a Summer Hotel (1980), centring on Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, and on the people they knew.
Williams also wrote two novels, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1950) and Moise and the World of Reason (1975), essays, poetry, film scripts, short stories, and an autobiography, Memoirs (1975). His works won four Drama Critics’ awards and were widely translated and performed around the world.
Comparing Tennessee William’s Life and Streetcar Named Desire and Glass Menagerie
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Parallels in William’s Life and A Streetcar Named Desire and Glass Menagerie
Tennessee Williams is one of the greatest American playwrights. He was constantly shocking audiences with themes such as homosexuality, drug addictions, and rape. He broke free from taboos on such subjects, paving the way for future playwrights. He also was a very good writer. One of the things he is famous for is his dialogue, which is very poetic.
Williams wrote about his life. The Glass Menagerie is a very autobiographical play. A Streetcar Named Desire, although meant to a play that anyone can relate to, also contained characters and situations from his life. In both plays, the characters are drawn from his life. The other relationship…show more content…
During the depression, he worked for his father’s shoe factory. It was a horrible time for Tom. He hated working there and felt that those three years were wasted time (Roudane).
At the age of 16, Tom published a story for the first time. It was in response to the question, “Can a Good Wife be a Good Sport?” He took third place in the contest and won 5 dollars. In 1937, his first play, Cairo, Shanghai, Bombay, was produced in Memphis. After writing a series of other plays that weren’t so successful, he hit it big with The Glass Menagerie. This play was originally called “The Gentleman Caller”, and was turned down as a screenplay. He was 34 when he wrote it. In 1948, Williams wrote A Streetcar Named Desire, perhaps his best known play. This play earned him his first Pulitzer Prize. He earned his second Pulitzer in 1955, with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Cash).
Like his father, Tennessee gambled and drank. He was also a hypochondriac. He struggled with addictions to prescription drugs and alcoholism. He found love in 1947, with Frank Merlo. Merlo often provided stability in the playwright’s crazy life. Any lasting friendships that the couple had were many due to Merlo’s charm (Sullivan). They stayed together until 1961, when Merlo died of lung cancer. Williams fell into depression about Merlo’s death, and in 1983