Dig Deeper: Art Reflects Life

                Tennessee Williams

                Tennessee Williams

More clearly than with most playwrights, the facts of Williams's life are found reflected in his best works.  As you watch the play, look for the following events or relationships from Williams’ past…

Birth Name:  Tomas Lanier Williams III

Father:  C.C. was a travelling salesman and heavy drinker.

Mother:  Edwina was a classic “Southern belle” and often prone to attacks of hysteria.

Sister:  Rose, an older sister, suffered from mental illness. While Williams was at the University of Iowa, Rose underwent a lobotomy, which left her institutionalized for the rest of her life.

Childhood:  The Williams family had produced several illustrious politicians in the state of Tennessee, but Williams’s grandfather had squandered the family fortune.  Until he was seven, he and his entire family lived with Edwina’s parents in Mississippi. After that, the family moved to St. Louis.

Young Adult:  C.C. forced Williams to withdraw from college and go to work at the same shoe company where C.C. himself had worked.  For three years, Williams found an imaginative release from this unpleasant reality in writing essays, stories, poems, and plays, but eventually suffered a minor nervous breakdown.

       Cassandra Proball

       Cassandra Proball

Williams saw himself as a shy, sensitive, gifted man trapped in a world where loneliness was, all too often, the standard human condition.  His contemporary, Arthur Miller, wrote in The Theatre Essays of Tennessee Williams that although Williams might not portray literal reality, "the intensity with which he feels whatever he does feel is so deep, is so great" that his audiences glimpse another kind of reality, "the reality in the spirit."