The Iceman Cometh

The Iceman Cometh

by Eugene O'Neill
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The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O'Neill

"Spellbinding—soaring theater—. For reasons that remain mysterious, it seems especially moving today."—The New York Times

Eugene O'Neill mined the tragedies of his own life for this depiction of a seedy, skid row saloon in 1912, peopled by society's failures: worn-out anarchists, failed con artists, drifters, whores, pimps, and informers. The pipe-dreaming drunks of Harry Hope's bar numb themselves with rotgut gin and make grandiose plans, while waiting for the annual appearance of the big-spending, fast-talking salesman, Hickey. But this year's visit fails to bring the expected good times, as a changed Hickey tries to rouse the barflies from their soothing stupor with a proselytizing message of salvation through self-knowledge.

Considered by many to be the Nobel Prize-winning playwright's finest work, The Iceman Cometh exposes the human need for illusion as an antidote to despair. The recent gripping, critically acclaimed Broadway production, starring Kevin Spacey, has highlighted anew the subversive genius of O'Neill's play.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375709173
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/28/1999
Series: Vintage International Series
Edition description: VINTAGE
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 366,791
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Eugene O’Neill (1888-1953), the father of American drama, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama four times and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936. Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University and Berg Professor of English at New York University, is the author of many books, including The Western Canon, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, and Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine.

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The Iceman Cometh 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read it and saw the play performed at Brooklyn Academy of Music. Is not a light play, rather it is a tragedy that leaves you thinking about serious issues in life. In a superficial, quick overview, it is presented as what happens when people have their illusions shattered by someone who claims to be helping them to deal with the real world. The bad results are usually thought to illustrate that people need their illusions in order to survive the terrible realities of life. However, in this play, the shatterer of illusions/the helper is the traveling salesman who is initially presented as an uplifting member of the bar's long term drunken members. The playwright only gradually reveals the more sinister and untrustworthy true nature of the salesman, so that he is ultimately revealed to be an illusion himself. One could think that this is intended to convey the ultimate untrustworthiness of human beings, a cynical notion already fully endorsed and being lived out by the bar's drunks. And the salesman had tried to get them back out into and engaged in the world, only to have them all experience failure and to return to their previous hiding in the bottle. However, there is another possible lesson to this. And that would have to do with the way people can change and actually do better in living. Two things would have to differ from the course of this play. One would be for the "helper" to actually be living a healthy life himself, to be honest and a good, credible example of what he is trying to get the others to do. The other requirement is for the helper to better understand that people only give up their illusions, as well as their other defenses, only gradually and at their own pace, not the pace of an impatient helper. And they only let go of these protections as they succeed at finding good, trustworthy replacements, like experiencing good aspects of sobriety, better relationships, meaningful work, pride in accomplishments. This is why the trustworthiness of the helper is so crucial; it is the first risk the drunk is trying out and it needs to work well, not disappoint. It is not clear what the playwright intended as the takeaway message in this play. But it is very clear that the play is much more complex and thought provoking that just having to do with the illusions of a roomful of drunks.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's the author's best work, bar none. The play tells the lives of various men and women who reside at a bar, each one with a pipe dream. It's somewhat long, but always entertaining.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author shows realistic but depressing lives of a group of men and women that live in a bar type boarding house.