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Introduction & Overview of The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O'Neill

This Study Guide consists of approximately 94 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Iceman Cometh.
This section contains 246 words
(approx. 1 page at 300 words per page)
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The Iceman Cometh Summary & Study Guide Description

The Iceman Cometh Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Further Reading and a Free Quiz on The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O'Neill.


Written in 1939, Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh was not produced until seven years later, largely because O'Neill was concerned that America was not ready for the play's dark vision. When it was staged in 1946, the play received mixed reviews. By that time, O'Neill was already an internationally-known playwright. In addition, the 1946 production marked the end, for O'Neill, of a twelve year absence from Broadway. Critics praised the play's passion, suspense, and well-drawn characters but complained about its prosaic language, redundancy, and excessive length—the play runs for almost four hours. In 1956, The Iceman Comethwas revived and this time, widely acclaimed as a masterpiece that would ensure for O'Neill a place among the greatest of modern dramatists. There have been numerous revivals of the play since.

The Iceman Cometh is noted for its dark realism; its setting and characters closely resemble real life. The world of the play is a cruel place. Despair is a constant presence, love only an illusion, and death something to which one looks forward. Relief comes in alcohol and pipe dreams—groundless hopes for a future that will never arrive. Some critics find hope in the characters' camaraderie and endurance. Others consider such a reading too optimistic, believing O'Neill's vision to be unremittingly dark.

In spite of critical disagreement, however, the importance of The Iceman Cometh to twentieth-century theater is undisputed. It is truly a modern classic, considered by many to be the greatest play by one of America's greatest playwrights.

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This section contains 246 words
(approx. 1 page at 300 words per page)
Purchase our The Iceman Cometh Study Guide
The Iceman Cometh from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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