Desire Under the Elms
A Play in Three Parts
By Eugene O'Neill
The play opens at the exterior of a farmhouse in New England. It is sunset on an early summer day in 1850. Eben Cabot enters and walks to the edge of the porch. He rings a bell to call in his half brothers, Simeon and Peter, who emerge soon after Eben goes back inside. The two brothers begin to talk about gold in the west and the risk of leaving everything they have worked for here. Eben sticks his head out the window as the two brothers speculate over their father’s disappearance to the west saying that he hasn’t left the farm in 30 years or more. They decide they can’t go west until their father dies. Eben reveals himself then by saying he prays his father is dead. With one last look at the setting sun and the promise of the west, the brothers retreat inside for supper.
Desire Under the Elms is a 1924 play written by Eugene O’Neill. Like Mourning Becomes Electra, Desire Under the Elms signifies an attempt by O’Neill to adapt plot elements and themes of Greek tragedy to a rural New England setting. It was inspired by the myth of Phaedra, Hippolytus, and Theseus. A film version was produced in 1958, and there is an operatic setting by Edward Thomas.