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The Iceman Cometh

3.96  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,255 Ratings  ·  173 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

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Richard Derus
May 28, 2013 Richard Derus rated it liked it
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, <&
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
Jun 20, 2014 Carac Allison rated it it was amazing

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
Mar 06, 2016 Rhonda rated it it was amazing
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 in 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
Feb 16, 2015 Sketchbook rated it did not like it
"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
Apr 15, 2010 §-- rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 08, 2009 Jake rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Aug 09, 2012 Franky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
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
Oct 24, 2009 Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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?, 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-
Carol Storm
Sep 16, 2014 Carol Storm rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 13, 2013 Steven rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays, american
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
Jan 11, 2008 Megan rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-re-read, drama
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
Jan 24, 2013 Melissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: play
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
May 29, 2016 Petra rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stuff 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
Feb 20, 2008 matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theatrepieces

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
Mar 11, 2013 Katie rated it really liked it
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
Alex Sarll
Jan 28, 2012 Alex Sarll rated it it was ok
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
Laure Porché
Oct 27, 2014 Laure Porché rated it really liked it
I registered a book at!
Yihui Yeo
Feb 24, 2016 Yihui Yeo rated it really liked it
You think you know dark? THINK AGAIN. You think you know hopelessness? THINK AGAIN. You think you know depressing? THINK AGAIN.
Max Weidmann
Jul 18, 2016 Max Weidmann rated it it was amazing
The Iceman Cometh is a chilling exploration of self-deception in the face of life's disappointments. O'Neill uses his experience with the down-and-outers that populated one of his favorite Village hangouts to illustrate an extreme version of the kind of fantasizing that many readers may identify with in their own lives, when such fantasies help distract one from what they perceive as the central personality flaws that prevent them from being happy. O'Neill uses a wide range of characters to show ...more
Mar 04, 2015 Tim rated it liked it
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
Feb 27, 2015 Rick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
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
Dec 22, 2014 Liam rated it really liked it
"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
May 07, 2014 Realini rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 10, 2016 Marc rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, drama
I may be in the minority about not liking this one that much. It is way too long. It's another O'Neill work that has half its characters written with accents! This I found very distracting. It made reading the play aggravating. Most probably much better to watch than read it. Rocky, Chuck and the 3 prostitutes speak with thick, New York accents pronouncing "bird" as "boid", "Pearl" (prostitute's name) as "Poil", "that" becomes "dat"... when these characters are in a scene talking to each other, ...more
Oct 02, 2008 Siobhan rated it really liked it
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.
Andy Madajski
Aug 24, 2015 Andy Madajski rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While much of the theatre-going world enjoys happy and ennobling musicals, I enjoy a nice, depressing play. This one fits the bill.

Life in mid-century America must have been a super downer, judging by the drama produced then. Set in a dark and dirty bar, The Iceman Cometh starts with a group of losers frantically clinging to their alcohol fueled dreams of what they will do to improve their lives tomorrow. Into these drab and pointless lives comes a man who has it all figured out: the only way to
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
Owen Lucas
Jan 10, 2016 Owen Lucas rated it did not like it
Shelves: literature
It's difficult to imagine what kind of a dour state O'Neill was in when he wrote this play; in any case, "The Iceman Cometh" seems to demonstrate the maxim that great poems plays and novels about sadness are rarely written in that same state. It's a repetitive, anxious, pedantic, stodgy and overwritten story about ten or so men that are mostly distinguishable one from the next only on the basis of poorly-articulated ethnic and social stereotypes. Their common features are delusion and alcoholism ...more
Valente Babb
Oct 20, 2014 Valente Babb rated it it was amazing
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
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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.” 21 likes
“God damn you, stop shoving your rotten soul in my lap!” 5 likes
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