O’Neill and Camille: Domestic Drama In“The Web” and “Recklessness”

30 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2020 Publication Status: Under Review

See all articles by Thomas F. Connolly

Thomas F. Connolly

Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University - Department of Humanities and Social Sciences


At the start of his career Eugene O’Neill aspired to be a popular playwright. This is at odds with the conventional assessment of O’Neill’s ambitions. Dramas that take their inspiration from popular modes and from cultural nodes outside the canonical texts of playwrights’’ “major “periods are neglected. These earliest plays drawing on popular melodrama and relying on explicitly commercial theatrical inspiration do not fit the established model of O’Neill who insisted he wanted ‘to be an artist” or nothing. “Recklessness” could not find a theatrical production, but was produced as a film. “The Web” draws on popular conventions of “working girl” melodramas.The plays also draw heavily on the influence of adaptations of Dumas’ Camille, which had been a favorite for decades. The generic “domestic drama” in early 20 th century theatre has been limited to conventional households.  These plays offer a somewhat different view. O’Neill is known to have been influenced by Ibsen and Strindberg in his later works, but these plays reveal these influences as present from the start. Finally, they demonstrate that O’Neill had family relationships that had nothing to do with the allegedly autobiography in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. O’Neill intended “Recklessness” as a possible vehicle for his father.O’Neill must be placed firmly in the context of late 19 th and early 20 th century theatre. To continue to regard him as sui generis , hobbles our understanding of American theatre and O’Neill’s genius.

Keywords: Eugene O'Neill, melodrama, feminist drama, Ibsen, Strindberg, James O'Neill, popular theater, The Web, Recklessness, one-act plays, American drama, modern drama, American theater

Suggested Citation

Connolly, Thomas F., O’Neill and Camille: Domestic Drama In“The Web” and “Recklessness”. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3688057 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3688057

Thomas F. Connolly (Contact Author)

Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University - Department of Humanities and Social Sciences ( email )

Al Khobar
Saudi Arabia

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