The Timeless World of a Play by Tennessee Williams: Summary

Classical Greek tragedies were really excellent. The actors wore masks, moved like dancers and used highly literary language. The Greek audiences considered all these artificial things quite normal. Perhaps they supposed that the created world of a play did not make people valueless and their emotions unimportant.


Tennessee Williams (1911-1983)



An artist (a sculptor) copies the shape of the human body to sculpture. But the repose (restful condition) of the sculpture changes the human shape into a perfect, pure and beautiful thing. We cannot get such beauty in the body of a living human being. Similarly, repose (harmonious combination) of a play makes it worthy of serious thought and the tragedy an important thing. In real life, first people love, then fall asleep after their sexual desire is satisfied. Lovers may be sincere at one moment and distrustful at the other. It is possible first to love and then to deceive. It is reasonable to be sexually excited without any cause first and to take no interest in sex later. In real life two opposing things follow one after the other, if not at the same time. Drama presents this truth to us.

We all know that life is short, so we are worried. That is why the writer drinks strong wine at cocktail parties as soon as he gets it. At parties people smoke, and drink and gossip and try to forget that life is short. Inwardly, they all know that life is short but they never express it sincerely. They never talk about the impermanence of life especially when the partygoers are not close friends. Unconsciously they all feel like the person who is going to be hanged very soon and who is given his last choicest dish. We are all like such a prisoner, whom the dish cruelly and mockingly reminds of his remaining minutes to live.

In a play, time stops and even an ordinary event looks like an important event as if by a magician's trick. While watching a play if we forget the development of time, we feel that we are watching the real world before us. After death, everything in a person will be in a restful condition, which people praise in drama. Flow is temporary. Like a dramatic character, a self-respected person chooses certain moral values and tries to live following these values. Getting permanent things out of temporary life is the secret of human life. In a game of human being against non-human being, it is not possible to defeat the human being.

In tragedies, we find certain moral values. As spectators, we can see them clearly. The actors do not show any response to our behaviour. We become impartial observers. So we see them clearly and our hearts are filled with pity.

Human beings pity and love each other very deeply. We write down the message of close relative's death and drink strong wine to forget the sad news. When we are afraid, we want to avoid the unpleasant thing. If we feel too much about things, time makes us forget them.

We have successfully been able to hide our own feelings and sensibility from ourselves. So the tragedy looks untrue. We surrender ourselves to the world of drama as long as we watch it. But when the curtain falls and the hall is lighted, we begin to express our doubt about it. When we are out of the theatre, we are convinced that life is completely different from the occurrences on the stage. A dramatist must know this condition of his audience in advance and he must include time in his play. It only makes the problem softer. But if he does not include time in his play, he will be collapsed. His audience might answer him that he innocently did not include the destructive time in his play, but they knew its existence and that he would be criticized for this ignorance in the morning papers.

Tennessee Williams Study Center

The Timeless World of a Play: Commentary

Biography of Tennessee Williams

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