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The Iceman Cometh

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3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  5,586 ratings  ·  151 reviews
Eugene O’Neill was the first American playwright to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. He completed The Iceman Cometh in 1939, but he delayed production until after the war, when it enjoyed a long run of performances in 1946 after receiving mixed reviews. Three years after O'Neill's death, Jason Robards starred in a Broadway revival that brought new critical attention to O ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published August 28th 2006 by Yale University Press (first published January 1st 1946)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: get real. It's a play.

The Publisher Says: Eugene O’Neill was the first American playwright to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. He completed The Iceman Cometh in 1939, but he delayed production until after the war, when it enjoyed a long run of performances in 1946 after receiving mixed reviews. Three years after O'Neill's death, Jason Robards starred in a Broadway revival that brought new critical attention to O’Neill’s darkest and most nihilistic play. In the half century since, <&
...more
Ken Moten
I'm afraid to live, am I?--and even more afraid to die! So I sit here, with my pride drowned on the bottom of a bottle, keeping drunk so I won't see myself shaking in my britches with fright, or hear myself whining and praying: Beloved Christ, let me live a little longer at any price! If it's only for a few days more, or a few hours even, have mercy, Almighty God, and let me still clutch greedily to my yellow heart this sweet treasure, this jewel beyond price, the dirty, stinking bit of withered ...more
Carac Allison

I enjoy going to the theater. I always have. But unless you live in New York or Toronto or Los Angeles and have unlimited money and endless free evenings you just can't see that many of the great plays in a lifetime. This simple fact is why I started reading plays and why I know that plays are meant to be read as well as performed.

No American drama supports this assertion more than "The Iceman Cometh". It has a huge cast and goes on for hours and hours. It has had some memorable productions, mos
...more
Sketchbook
"O'Neill uses the phrase the big sleep throughout his play as a synonym for death," advises Ray Chandler, "apparently in the belief that it's an accepted underworld expression. If so, I'd like to see whence it comes, because I invented the expression. I never saw the phrase in print before I used it. The tenor of his writing here shows that he knows very little about the subject."

The playwright also bops us over the head with the phrase "pipe dreams." It takes him over four hours to say life i
...more
Rhonda
Eugene O'Neill is America's finest playwright. You may argue that Miller or Inge or Capote have this or that or anything else, but no one put everything together is such a classic manner as O’Neill. To read or watch an O’Neill play is properly a life altering experience. Very often, as with the present work, it ought to leave one’s life in shambles, the veritable house of cards you always knew it was but hoped no one else would notice.

The Iceman Cometh is a tragedy, but one in which you find you
...more
Jake
Aug 08, 2009 Jake rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pipedreamers
Shelves: drama
"To hell with the truth! As the history of the world proves, the truth has no bearing on anything." -Larry, The Iceman Cometh Act One.

The first time I picked this play up, I had a feeling I was going to really enjoy it. Well, "enjoy" is probably the wrong word to use, even as I am a now twice-read, twice-seen, fan of this Eugene O'Neill play. Other words like "appreciate" and "identify with" come to mind. It's a hard play to digest.

Americans occasionally give great playwrights permission to be l
...more
§--
Apr 15, 2010 §-- rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: plays
A genius study in how we make excuses for ourselves, how some fear success. A brilliant field report from the land of the fallen (us), the sin-a-holics. O'Neill shows us that, contrary to Socrates and Plato, ignorance is not the root of all evil. People usually know what the right thing to do is and still do the wrong thing anyway. In this play, everyone is suicidal, everyone is masochistic and constantly does things to make their lives either shorter or more miserable. No one makes the right ca ...more
Jason
How jaded must I be? Chronic, neighborhood violence, damn! What kind of civilization cultivates a man that can read The Iceman Cometh and contemptuously think, ‘murder, that’s it; confessed and taken away? Okay...so, 3-stars?’

Use an RSS feed for your local news, watch the impresarios of late night comedy, see the plea deals that defile our legal system—you’ll know common, felony violence perpetrated across class, gender and age for senseless reasons that cheapen lives. It’s from this post-post-
...more
Carol Storm
I loved this play so much as a teenager, and I don't know why. I liked the way Hickey could pass himself off as a regular guy, always smiling and joking, while inside he was crazy with hatred. I think because I had a lot of anger myself I liked the idea that you could be angry and still "get away with it." Of course in the end Hickey falls apart but he's so much more heroic and tragic than a total failure like Willy Loman.

Another thing I really loved about this play was how young Parrit hates h
...more
Steven
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.

The play seems too dark and despairing to bear but stay with it ... It doesn't get any less depressing but there is much interesting philosophy along the journe
...more
Franky
Welcome to Harry’s bar, filled to the brim with desolate, disillusioned patrons clinging to their pipe dreams, their hopes that tomorrow, after all, will be another day.

The play opens with the patrons sitting around in a drunken stupor. We are introduced to the various types: Rocky, the bartender; Larry Slade, the protagonist who has given up on his pipe dream and awaits his exit from life; Parritt, a rebel anarchist; Willie, a failed law student; Harry Hope, proprietor of the bar; Watjoen and
...more
Megan
This is one of the richest plays, symbolically, of modern American theater. But like most if not all O'Neill plays, it is as interesting to read as it is to see on the stage. Lots of other plays of this era that are heavy on symbolism rely on the visual cues of the production to bring the meaning through, and therefore can seem remote and boring when reading them. (Unless you're a director perhaps, and particularly trained to read plays with an inner eye for staging them.) O'Neill really uses th ...more
Melissa
This sad saga chronicles a group of drunks who meet up at a local saloon. They are full of big dreams for the future, but anyone who knows them knows that they are all talk and no action. Each man has glossed over the story of his life in his own mind, leaving out the bad bits and chalk any failures up to someone else’s fault or a tragedy that befell him.

The patrons look up to a salesman named Hickman ("Hickey") who stops in when he can. During the first half of the play everyone gathers at the
...more
Petra
Wow....talk about despair! It's in every movement of this play.
Harry's bar & rooming house is the last stop for a rag-tag group of alcoholics. There's nowhere for them to go; they've reached rock bottom. As we hear of each of their pasts, it's so sad to know that their lives once held promise and it slipped away.
Along comes Hickey who tries to show them that they can break out of their pattern, return to their old lives. He tries to give them hope. But, even as they try, it's hopeless. How
...more
matt

Honestly, this play moves me in so many ways that I really want to give it a 5 star rating, except for the fact that in many cases it is dreadfully, irredeemably overwritten.

I tried to watch the movie which could boast of having Jason Robards and Robert Redford in it, but I got bored to death after the first 45 mins or so. I hate to say it but this one seems to be much much better when read privately rather than performed.

No slight to O'Neill, at least in terms of his writing (it could have bee
...more
Katie
*4.5
Four or five, five or four...I went back and forth for awhile and finally came to a decision. I was worried it'd be all that I couldn't stand in a play - too many characters, overly predictable, far too fast-paced...and I'd have been sad, but O'Neill does not disappoint. The characters were all clear, the New York accent was well-written and not overly distracting, the set is clear and I can easily picture it all. It's actually quite motivational, as well as being very depressing. Odd juxtap
...more
Alex Sarll
I've not sat down to read a play I didn't know in a long time, so maybe that's part of the problem, but this is poor. Perhaps at the time it seemed new and strange - but now it just feels like the grandfather of every clunking moment-of-truth modern play that every dramatist who ever thought Chekhov made it look easy wrote for every actor who wanted a showcase for their mighty skills. If Arthur Miller had a brother who'd had to make every point with a sledgehammer, who had never heard the phrase ...more
Tim
Mar 04, 2015 Tim rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: theatre
I saw an excellent documentary about O'Neill's life that painted a dark picture of a bitter, depressed man who was also a gifted dramatist. The film pointed to this as being one of his two great masterpieces. It was not far into the play that I began to disagree. Doesn't a masterpiece have to present something other than misery, depravity, and total cynicism to the world? Can a play portray human life as a nasty, ugly, booze-soaked joke and still be a great play? Maybe it can - if the characters ...more
Rick
It has been decades since I’ve read or seen this drama of delusions and dreams so I re-read it in anticipation of seeing the Goodman Theater production now at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It stands up well after all this time.

It is an epic tragedy, four acts, three intermissions, approximately four hours. The setting is Harry Hope’s end of the line bar in early 20th century New York City. Harry himself hasn’t been out of his bar in twenty years when he attended his wife’s funeral. The other de
...more
Liam
"What's it matter if the truth is that their favoring breeze has the stink of nickel whiskey on its breath, and their sea is a growler of lager and ale, and their ships are long since looted and scuttled and sunk on the bottom?" (Larry, 12)

"But I didn't mean booze. I meant save you from pipe dreams. I know now, from my experience, they're the things that really poison and ruin a guy's life and keep him from finding any peace. ... Just the old dope of honesty is the best policy -- honesty with yo
...more
Realini
The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O’Neil

To my surprise, I have just learned that The Iceman Cometh is appreciated by critics as one of the greatest plays of American Theatre. Not that I did not enjoy it, but had not heard of it, which is not saying all that much and had decided to listen to it, because George Constantin had a role in it.
As part of my reading and listening plan, plays in which our greatest actor had a role are advancing to the top of the list.
He was -and is in recordings- so great, tha
...more
Siobhan
This is the first O'Neill play I've read, which is a shame being that he did much of his work in my hometown and we share a birthday. But I digress...
The Iceman Cometh is depressing, resonant, and sadly realistic and relatable. The only thing that made me not give it five stars is that the dialogs can get pretty tired and unnatural feeling. Everyone responding to things in chorus is symbolic, but is unnecessary and becomes overused.
Sterlingcindysu
Isn't January the best time to read something from Eugene O'Neill? You know, all those deep and dark thoughts while it's gloomy and grey out and one turns to the bottle of whiskey wine hot chocolate to see you through the doldrums of winter.

Thank goodness it's short because a little of O'Neill's gloom goes a long ways.

You know, I don't think I would have caught much of the message if I had watched it as a play. The dialogue is everything--there's really no action and it's the same set througho
...more
Valente Babb
What makes this play so great is the fact that it captures a piece of life within the confines of a bar in the 1910s. The characters all represent something, but the biggest draw that they have to them is that they are all also realistic people with realistic problems and unrealistic dreams.

The plot is straight forward and throws you for a loop a few times throughout. I loved how each character is given different traits and different aspirations towards life.

I recommend for those who love good
...more
Alex
Jan 02, 2015 Alex rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: drunks, murderous drunks, anarchist drunks, drunken pimps, toits
It's all in de game. (Cora, Act V)

It's all in the game.

All in the game, yo.
Jim Leckband
O'Neill stretches his dramatic chops with a tragicomedy set in a bar with every character a drunk with a unrealistic pipe dream. Oh. wait.

In terms of dialogue, there is wonderful stuff - O'Neill rarely disappoints me with that. The drama is a little weak, people wait for a guy in a bar who throws a free party, guy arrives but has turned a new leaf and wants to pop everyone's pipe dream - but still throws the party to show everybody they are drunks and will always stay drunks. I guess the theme i
...more
Tommy
Really interesting play that I suspect I would enjoy seeing more than I necessarily enjoyed reading. There was some very good character development here but sometimes the lengthy stage descriptions and monologues had me thinking that O'Neill actually wanted to be a novelist.

Plotwise, I wish Larry had played a bigger role. I feel like his story and dynamic with Hickey deserved a bit more time. I think some of this time could have been gained by having fewer characters. Basically between Mosher, M
...more
Edward Cheer
A marvelous play. One of the best I've ever read. I've always heard this play so horribly joked at (Like in Batman and Robin, when Mr. Freeze yelled "The Iceman Cometh!"), and I wondered why people made fun of the name and honestly I don't get it. I could understand a joke on the name sounding somewhat sexual, but other than that I don't get the reason it's name is just thrown in as a joke. Sort of like, "Hey! Guess what!? This exists! Ha ha ha ha!". But enough about trivialities, what's the sto ...more
Don Incognito
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Eugene Gladstone O'Neill was an American playwright who won the 1936 Nobel Prize in Literature "for the power, honesty and deep-felt emotions of his dramatic works, which embody an original concept of tragedy." More than any other dramatist, O'Neill introduced American drama to the dramatic realism pioneered by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, and Swedish playwr ...more
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“To hell with the truth! As the history of the world proves, the truth has no bearing on anything. It's irrelevant and immaterial, as the lawyers say. The lie of a pipe dream is what gives life to the whole misbegotten mad lot of us, drunk or sober.” 15 likes
“God damn you, stop shoving your rotten soul in my lap!” 4 likes
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