Eugene O'Neill's Joseph: A Touch of the Dreamer


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Since the publication in 1963 of John Henry Raleigh's "Eugene O'Neill and the Escape from the Château d'If,"1 the influence of James O'Neill's long-running stage romance Monte Cristo has become a given in any biographical reading of his son's works. But a play in which James acted after his final tour as Edmund Dantes in 1912, Joseph and His Brethren, may offer some further insight into the figure who appears in many of Eugene's plays-the young man with a "touch of the poet," the dreamer set apart from his fellows. Like the story of Edmund Dantes, the account of Joseph in the final chapters of Genesis develops themes closely parallel to those in O'Neill's plays: e.g., Joseph's sharply delimited role as a son and a brother; his sense of personal density; the descent into a pit, brought on by brothers' jealousy and ill-will; his disastrous dealings with women; his eventual re-emergence in power; and perhaps most crucially, his healing final gesture of forgiveness and family reconciliation. These themes in the Joseph story may even be said to define an essential aspect of O'Neill's writings.

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