The Conflicts of Hardship and Marriage
Eugene O'Neill's play "Before Breakfast" shows an unhappily married couple living out sad lives that they never imagined when they were first married. The story tells of what could happen when dreams and aspirations are dashed by cold reality and hardship. As a result, we see two desperate people struggling with one another in a downward spiral, and can conclude that perhaps they were never meant to be married. “Before Breakfast,” which is one of O'Neill's earliest plays, shows his characteristic control of point of view, conflict, character, and setting. The play was first staged in December 1916 by the Provincetown Players in New York City's Greenwich Village. The play contains little action, and yet it is charged with conflict. The plot is simple and straightforward, a wife onstage berates her offstage husband for twenty minutes. The conflict between them is long-standing and bitter, and it is resolved in the play's horrifying conclusion. “Before Breakfast” illustrates O'Neill's skillful control over the dramatic point of view. By giving Mrs. Rowland every word spoken on the stage, O'Neill causes the audience to understand everything as it is filtered through her mind. Because Mrs. Rowland dominates the stage so completely, it is tempting to see her character as one of constantly nagging spitefulness. It is to O'Neill's credit, however, that she is not without basic strength, and that her bitterness is not without cause. Alfred, the unseen and unheard offstage husband, has contributed to their estranged relationship. Stage directions are directions given to the actors by the director. They involve the physical movement of the actors on stage. The actors are supposed to note the directions in their scripts. The Stage Manager is also supposed to write down all stage directions in their master book, known as the "Prompt Book". If there is any disagreement about where...