(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 4/10.)
The past is the present," says Mary Tyrone, and that is as true in O'Neill as in Ibsen or Sophocles. As we watch the Tyrone family's grief unravel in the course of a single summer's day in Connecticut we see how everything has its origins in the past.
The poverty of James Tyrone's Irish immigrant upbringing led him to sacrifice his dream of becoming a great Shakespearean actor and turned him into a popular matinee idol and penny-pinching tightwad. That miserliness, in turn, caused him to engage a cheap hotel quack who disastrously prescribed morphine when his wife, Mary, gave painful birth to their son Edmund.