Desire Under the Elms by Eugene O'Neill: Summary

"This quatrain seems to have been inspired by four lines in a Monody on the Death of Queen Caroline by G.'s friend Richard West (reprinted in Dodsley's Collection (1748) ii 269 ff.): 'Ah me! what boots us all our boasted power, / Our golden treasure, and our purpled state, / They cannot ward th'inevitable hour, / Nor stay the fearful violence of fate.' But the sentiment occurs frequently in Horace, e.g. Odes I iv 13-4: pallida Mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas / regumque turres (Pale Death with foot impartial knocks at the poor man's cottage and at princes' palaces); I xxviii 15-6: sed omnes una manet nox, / et calcanda semel via leti (But a common night awaiteth every man, and Death's path must be trodden once for all); and II xvii 32-4: aequa tellus / pauperi recluditur / regumque pueris (For all alike doth Earth unlock her bosom - for the poor man and for princes' sons). Cp. also Cowley, translation of Horace, Odes III i 15-16, 21: 'Beauty, and strength, and wit, and wealth, and pow'r, / Have their short flourishing hour / ... / Alas! Death mows down all with an impartial hand'; Mallet, Excursion i 290-2 'Proud greatness, too, the tyranny of power, / The grace of beauty, and the force of youth, / And name and place, are here-for ever lost!'; and Dart, Westminster Abbey I xviii (see ll. 17-20 n above): 'To prove that nor the Beauteous, nor the Great, / Nor Form, nor Pow'r, are Wards secure from Fate.' G.'s lines have also been compared to Edward Phillips's Preface to Theatrum Poetarum (1675), in J. E. Spingarn, Critical Essays of the 17th Century (1908-9) ii 258 (and cp. l. 59n below): 'no wonder if the memories of such Persons as these sink with their Bodys into the earth, and lie buried in profound obscurity and oblivion, when even among those that tread the paths of Glory and Honour, those who have signaliz'd themselves either by great actions in the field or by Noble Arts of Peace or by the Monuments of their written Works more lasting sometimes than Brass or Marble, very many ... have fallen short of their deserved immortality of Name, and lie under a total eclipse.'"

Analyzing the Dramatic Structure of Desire Under the Elms by ..

"This quatrain seems to have been inspired by four lines in a Monody on the Death of Queen Caroline by G.'s friend Richard West (reprinted in Dodsley's Collection (1748) ii 269 ff.): 'Ah me! what boots us all our boasted power, / Our golden treasure, and our purpled state, / They cannot ward th'inevitable hour, / Nor stay the fearful violence of fate.' But the sentiment occurs frequently in Horace, e.g. Odes I iv 13-4: pallida Mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas / regumque turres (Pale Death with foot impartial knocks at the poor man's cottage and at princes' palaces); I xxviii 15-6: sed omnes una manet nox, / et calcanda semel via leti (But a common night awaiteth every man, and Death's path must be trodden once for all); and II xvii 32-4: aequa tellus / pauperi recluditur / regumque pueris (For all alike doth Earth unlock her bosom - for the poor man and for princes' sons). Cp. also Cowley, translation of Horace, Odes III i 15-16, 21: 'Beauty, and strength, and wit, and wealth, and pow'r, / Have their short flourishing hour / ... / Alas! Death mows down all with an impartial hand'; Mallet, Excursion i 290-2 'Proud greatness, too, the tyranny of power, / The grace of beauty, and the force of youth, / And name and place, are here-for ever lost!'; and Dart, Westminster Abbey I xviii (see ll. 17-20 n above): 'To prove that nor the Beauteous, nor the Great, / Nor Form, nor Pow'r, are Wards secure from Fate.' G.'s lines have also been compared to Edward Phillips's Preface to Theatrum Poetarum (1675), in J. E. Spingarn, Critical Essays of the 17th Century (1908-9) ii 258 (and cp. l. 59n below): 'no wonder if the memories of such Persons as these sink with their Bodys into the earth, and lie buried in profound obscurity and oblivion, when even among those that tread the paths of Glory and Honour, those who have signaliz'd themselves either by great actions in the field or by Noble Arts of Peace or by the Monuments of their written Works more lasting sometimes than Brass or Marble, very many ... have fallen short of their deserved immortality of Name, and lie under a total eclipse.'"


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Desire Under The Elms

Desire Under The Elms is a play that will stay with you long after the curtains fall. It caresses the inner child in all of us and exemplifies the finer conflicts of our families before our eyes. Desire reveals the dangers of possession and greed and the violent blistering of all human connections in search of them. Our characters redemption, and that of humanity, rests in our ability to accept ownership & responsibility for our actions and perhaps for others.