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The Tyrone Anthology: Authority in the Last Act ofLongDay'sJourney into Night Lawrence Dugan The stage directions for the opening of act 4 of O'Neill's Long Days Journey into Night are"The same. It is around midnight?During the act the argument between father and sons reaches full pitch; but the anger ofthe family is tempered by repeated deference to literary authority, asTyroneandhis sonsquote fourteen times from eightwritersandmake references to seven others.As I shall demonstrate, the act is largely anger and consolation, for the great problem of the play—who bears most responsibility for the family's downfall—has been answered in the third act where we see the wife and mother of the house resort to her own authority, and her own distorted memory of the past, which feeds her embittered personality. Our understanding of the family's defeat at the end ofthe third act makes the fourth all the more moving, and a consideration of the writers each character quotes, Shakespeare, Rossetti, Kipling,or Baudelaire, and even the writers referred to by O'Neill in earlier stage directions,is an essential element in understandingwho speaks with most authority in the play, in discovering who is right and who wrong in its extended argument. Brenda Murphy argues convincingly that the playhas two endings, a valuable analysis in explaining the use of quotation, as I shall note. Michael Hinden and Marc Maufort are the only other critics to address this question at length. Maufort concentrates on quotation from Baudelaire alone, and not as an authorityquoted but rather as an important influence on O'Neill's thinking. Hinden sees the quotations as representing differences in taste across generations, and as an important part of the family's literary and theatrical background, but again, not as an almost forensic leavening in the play.1 1 shall discuss act 4 first,giving 379 380Comparative Drama the essential arguments made by the characters in defense ofthemselves and against others, and then look back at the end ofact 3, where the play has its first conclusion. II At midnight Tyrone, half-drunk and unhappy, is dealing cards to himself . Edmund comes home before his older brother Jamie, and Tyrone is glad to see him, although they argue over lights being left on. They will be onstage for the first half of the act, with Jamie and Mary coming in later, both badly impaired by alcohol or drugs. They settle whatever is left ofthe argument over Tyrone's cheapness, both dreading Mary's descent from the second floor. They argue almost to forget about her. After the argument over the lights being on, Edmund accuses his father of sentimental religious romanticism, for Tyrone has claimed in the past that the Duke ofWellington and Shakespeare were Irish Catholics .Wellington was Irish, although a Protestant; and we know from earlier scenes thatTyrone came ofage,professionally,in the late-nineteenthcenturyAmerican theater,when eccentric theories about the authorship ofShakespeare's plays were at their peak. Ignatius Donnelly, in The Great Cryptogram (1887), and others advanced wild theories that would have baffled the intelligent and sensible young actor.2 So O'Neill has Tyrone make a transfer of nationality and religion concerning Shakespeare. If others deny that he wrote at all, in the face of overwhelming evidence, why should not young Tyrone, while touring the Midwest in the 1870s and 1880s, have made his own suitable adjustment to Shakespeare's life? O'Neill does not tell us this directly, but I think I have reasoned back from the dialogue without going astray from his intent.3 Tyrone: Stubbornly. So he was. The proof is in his plays. Edmund: Well he wasn't, and there's no proofof it in his plays, except to you! )eeringly. The Duke ofWellington, there was another good Irish Catholic! Tyrone: I never said he was a good one. He was a renegade but a Catholic just the same. (127) Lawrence Dugan381 The use of"renegade"is important, for Tyrone's great weakness that emerges in the play is not stinginess,a substantial but commonplace failing that he barely acknowledges as a flaw and that his decency more than offsets.4 His chiefflaw, his...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 379-395
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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