A Streetcar Named Desire
by Tennessee Williams
27.03.2004 Jelena Pažin
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tennessee Williams was born Thomas Lanier Williams III in Columbus, Mississippi, in 1911. His friends began calling him Tennessee in college, in honor of his Southern accent and his father’s home state. Williams’s father, C.C. Williams, was a traveling salesman and a heavy drinker. Williams’s mother, Edwina, was a Mississippi clergyman’s daughter prone to hysterical attacks. During the early years of World War II, Williams worked in Hollywood as a scriptwriter and also prepared material for what would become The Glass Menagerie.
In 1944, The Glass Menagerie opened in New York and won the prestigious New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, catapulting Williams into the upper echelon of American playwrights. A Streetcar Named Desire premiered three years later at the Barrymore Theater in New York City. A Streetcar Named Desire cemented Williams’s reputation, garnering another Drama Critics’ Circle Award and also a Pulitzer Prize. Williams went on to win another Drama Critics’ Circle Award and Pulitzer for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955.
Much of the pathos found in Williams’s drama was mined from the playwright’s own life. Alcoholism, depression, thwarted desire, loneliness, and insanity were all part of Williams’s world. His experience as a known homosexual in an era unfriendly to homosexuality also informed his work. Williams’s early plays also connected with the new American taste for realism that emerged following the Depression and World War II. However, most critics agree that the quality of Williams’s work diminished as he grew older. He suffered a long period of depression following the death of his longtime partner, Frank Merlo, in 1963.
Williams died in 1983 when he choked on a medicine-bottle cap in an alcohol-related incident at the Elysée Hotel in New York City