‘A Moon for the Misbegotten’ by Eugene O’Neill – A Doomed Romance


‘A Moon for the Misbegotten’ by Eugene O’Neill, a play  (1943) – 115 pages


Anyone who has a real interest in literature must finally confront the soul-searching dramas of Eugene O’Neill. Eugene O’Neill was the first United States playwright to take drama seriously, and performances of his plays hold up well even today.

O’Neill’s plays are often about people not facing or finally facing the hard truths about themselves, how people lie to themselves about who they really are in order to make it through the day.

Eugene O’Neill had already won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936, years before he wrote his two most famous plays, ‘A Long Day’s Journey into Night’ and ‘The Iceman Cometh’. It was a movie production of ‘The Iceman Cometh’ in 1973 that really spurred my interest in literature. That production of the play caused me to conclude that literature had some things important to say to me.

‘A Moon for the Misbegotten’, like ‘A Long Day’s Journey into Night’, is closely related to O’Neill’s own family, and O’Neill did not allow stage production of either play until after O’Neill died. One of the main characters in both plays is Jamie Tyrone who is based closely on Eugene O’Neill’s actual older brother Jamie O’Neill.

The year is 1923. Since his actor father James has already died, Jamie is now known as James Tyrone. He is 33 and also a stage actor and a hopeless alcoholic. He has come home from New York to recover and manage his father’s holdings which includes a farm rented to Phil Hogan. Hogan lives with his daughter Josie after all six of her brothers have run off from the farm. When James comes to visit Hogan, the two joke around and kid each other while Josie listens. Then James and old man Hogan head off to the bar for the day. Hogan comes back by himself at late afternoon angry because James has said that he will sell the farm to this obnoxious rich guy Harder. So Hogan hatches this scheme for Josie to seduce James, then Hogan can catch them in bed and force them to get married.

Josie goes along with her dad’s scheme despite being strongly attracted to James anyhow. James harbors tremendous guilt because when his mother died, he was so drunk he couldn’t attend her funeral.

I won’t give away any more of the plot of this deeply affecting emotional drama.

As a dramatist, Eugene O’Neill had something of the Irish poet in him. And no one came up with better titles for his works than O’Neill.


Grade:   A




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