Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Three Plays: Desire Under the Elms / Strange Interlude / Mourning Becomes Electra” as Want to Read:
Three Plays: Desire Under the Elms / Strange Interlude / Mourning Becomes Electra
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Three Plays: Desire Under the Elms / Strange Interlude / Mourning Becomes Electra

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  1,407 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
Winner of the Nobel Prize

These three plays exemplify Eugene O'Neil's ability to explore the limits of the human predicament, even as he sounds the depths of his audiences' hearts.
Paperback, 432 pages
Published October 31st 1995 by Vintage (first published 1931)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Three Plays, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Three Plays

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Cameron Gordon
Oct 26, 2015 Cameron Gordon rated it really liked it
These are three prominent O'Neill plays, famous and celebrated in their time, and written before his acknowledged masterpieces that were more frankly autobiographical came out, such as Long Day's Journey into Night. Of the three plays, Mourning Becomes Electra is, in my view, the weakest and most contrived. It is not a bad play, to be clear -- O'Neill writes flawed not bad plays, such is his talent -- but it is the one most forced in its construction to drive to a tragic conclusion. The other tw ...more
Jul 21, 2010 Lance rated it it was amazing
Strange Interlude is very good, but Desire Under the Elms and Mourning Becomes Electra are both masterpieces. O'Neill's just a genius when it comes to displaying his characters' souls, and whether what we see is revolting or noble, there is an underlying sympathy for just about every character that he pens in the two plays.

Seth Kupchick
Feb 22, 2014 Seth Kupchick rated it it was amazing
I read "Strang Interlude" kind of by surprise at 23 years old, when I was taking myself seriously as a creative writing major, because it beat working at a bookstore. I bought a great old O'Neill compendium called "Nine Plays" I'm pretty sure, and I didn't buy it for "Strange Interlude," but "Desire Under The Elms," which I loved for its raw sensuality, and very brutal view of sex, death, and life. But "Strange Interlude" really took me for a ride and showed me what theater could be though I nev ...more
Cymru Roberts
Feb 27, 2015 Cymru Roberts rated it it was amazing
Shelves: other-plays
This review concerns Desire Under the Elms.

Just as I see the list of characters in a play as an interesting preview of where the author's head is at, so too I see a later authors' choice of play when seeking to adapt any of the many myths of yore. Choosing Hippolytus is significant. It's one of my favorites by Euripides, so the fact that O'Neill, someone who I've felt a kinship with ever since Long Day's Journey into Night first mortally wounded me in high school, shares a similar taste in the G
Nov 25, 2011 Esdaile rated it liked it
This is intense melodramatic stuff. What is striking about Eugene O'Neill's dramas is the awarenes and portrayal of what protagonists are thinking juxtaposed to what they are actually saying. I imagine that the plays are therefore onyl producable for the radio. A large part of the action takes place at two simultaneous levels (the spoken and the unspoken). This stresses the siunity of the human persona and is therefore intensely psychological in the modern, post-Freudian sense of the word. The c ...more
Apr 18, 2014 Jennifer rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014-reads
O'Neill was actively channeling Greek Drama when he churned out these plays, which explains why they're so monumental and deliberate (the unkind would say occasionally stilted), and laced with sins and expiations greater than most mortal lives can contain.

This much I remember from my high school English classes, but it would have been nice had this edition included a little critical introduction discussing the playwright's influences - or explaining just how in holy hell anyone ever managed to
Two stars for Desire Under the Elms

This probably wasn't the best O'Neill drama to start off with. For me it was coarse and dark, and none of the characters were really likable (although perhaps that was the point?).

The action was fast-moving and even a bit crazed. There also didn't seem to be a whole lot of true, believable character development.

Overall, just not my taste, but I still might try to read the others in the volume.

Update on April 30, 2011:

Four stars for Strange Interlude

In contrast
Paul Frandano
Apr 21, 2012 Paul Frandano rated it it was amazing
Shelves: drama
Re. Strange Interlude: this was the first O'Neill I'd read in more than 30 years - I'd read most of the major plays back in the day - and this was in fact a rereading. Given all the O'Neill tics and smothering stage direction, surprisingly contemporary, although wordier than even the wordy playwright needed it to be - did he really need to spell out, in explicitly abecedarian detail, every single thing? Controversial at the time, and O'Neill's most successful Broadway production, we have to wond ...more
So far I have only read one of the three playes - Mourning becomes Electra. I read it for a university course about "American Drama".

With a lot of references and similarities to Greek Mythology O'Neill wrote a family-drama taking place at the end of the Civil War in New England.

Right at the beginning is the heroic husband poisoned by his not-so-loving-anymore wife. His daughter, who always hated her mother and doted on her father, persuades her brother to take revenge and kill the lover of thei
Nov 28, 2014 Phillip rated it liked it
Shelves: drama
I read Desire Under the Elms for my dissertation. It's definitely a unique Hippolytus adaptation, but for me it didn't live up to the complexity of a play like Long Day's Journey into Night. Maybe it was tough to really get into this play because it is written in dialect--what sounds to me like a southern drawl, rather than a Connecticut dialect, but we can put that issue aside. And there are a lot of complex issues going on in this play, issues about rights, the nature of God, sons usurping fat ...more
Jan 14, 2013 Sketchbook rated it liked it
Out of largesse, 3-stars. Life is a "pipe dream," eh, and "dere's dat ol debbil sea." O, shut the fuk up, Gene. He yanked American drama away fr mawkish mellerdramer, and introduced sex & neurosis (on an adult level), bolstered by his knowledge of Freud, Jung and himself. Today he's unreadable and almost unplayable. I'm glad bio-writers keep his name flickering, I guess, but the only work that holds up is "Long Day's etc." Despite an interesting Life, his "theatre" of the psychic and subcons ...more
May 15, 2007 Allison rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who aren't afraid of dark nights of the soul
Shelves: never-finished, drama
I read Desire Under the Elms and Mourning Becomes Elektra. I was so disturbed by the latter that I can't get myself to read Strange Interlude. I probably won't ever read it without the pressure of academic supervision. O'Neill is a richly skilled writer, but he is dark and humorless. Martin McDonagh, another dark playwright, writes about similarly tragic people and families, but adds a comic undertone that makes them entertaining. Mourning Becomes Elektra I read over the course of two days, and ...more
May 29, 2014 Gregorio rated it really liked it
This one took me a while. A long while. A long long long while.

Desire Under The Elms is good, but I can barely remember what it is about.

Strange Interlude took me 3 months to read. Maybe more. However, when I finally finished it, I was amazed by the play. It has a great pay off... Though I do think it is too long, even though the length is necessary for the ending.

Mourning Becomes Electra is the quickest read, mostly because (in contrast to Interlude) there is so much action going on. It's no
Apr 08, 2016 Sebadiaz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So much darker than I imagined. Passions, greed, murder, jealousy are ripe throughout the plays. The amazing aspect is that though they are period pieces, they seem wholly capable of being presented today and speaking to modern audiences. The strongest of the plays in my opinion was Strange Interlude, with Mourning Becomes Electra the weakest of the three. The version I read went above and beyond the classical stage directions, almost as if the play was purposefully novelized, which made it much ...more
Steven Mcguire
Nov 03, 2008 Steven Mcguire rated it really liked it
Desire Under the Elms is a play about very simple people tossed into a very complex situation. But in there ignorance you get a very emotional look into such great problems as opposed to a logical approach. So in essence these people seem much more human and relatable. The language is very hard to get past because the author really nails the southern slang but makes it difficult to read quickly and burn through it.
Nov 23, 2014 Enikő rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting plays, well written, although I found myself put off by some of the characters. Eugene O'Neill certainly gets to the core of human beings, but I do find myself thinking that, although his depiction is probably very accurate, I do not care for human beings as he depicts them.

Three different plays, three very different kinds of love, all three... shudderworthy. Lots of food for thought.
Laura Little
May 30, 2014 Laura Little rated it really liked it
O'Neill channels Greek Oedipal tragedies strongly in this collection. Characters feel quite two dimensional - but that's precisely the point; the tragedies and deaths that unfold in each work are set in motion at the beginning, and each player must play their role to bring about ordained retribution. I've read Desire Under the Elms several times, but I find Mourning Becomes Electra a better exposition of a dysfunctional, vindictive, and jealous family.
Julia Curtis
Mar 26, 2012 Julia Curtis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I only read one play from this collection, Desire Under The Elms. However, it was fantastic. It is a wonderful play about the culture of New Endlang, and the time frame that it was in. It showed how dark New England can be, and the effects of marrying down. There were many twists in the play, and then some that were predictable. It's a show that makes you want to jump off a cliff, so keep yourself away from sharp objects once you get to the last act.
Jan 30, 2014 Gary rated it liked it
These are crazy plays, with Greek tragedy underpinnings--Oedipus Rex, anyone? Interesting, but a little too much for me. Strange Interlude was, well, strange. I kept thinking, "How would this really work on a stage?" More than half of the dialogue was the character's thoughts. Mourning Becomes Electra was probably the best of the three, but still a lot of weirdness to it.
Jul 05, 2009 Elizabeth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
These plays could be good if they were edited down or rewritten to make them more palatable to a contemporary audience, but as they're published here they're terrible. After reading these plays I can't help but think of O'Neill as a misogynist and that's a bit of a bummer.
Nicole Rubano
May 12, 2009 Nicole Rubano rated it liked it
am planning on seeing the broadway production of "desire under the elms" with a co-worker. The story is tragic, but the vernacular of the characters is fun and quick -despite the darkness of the storyline
Feb 24, 2014 Grace rated it really liked it
I had to read these for a school course, and while the writing is good and complex I hate the characters. I hate who they are as people, and I hope to never read this again.
Jun 09, 2010 Alwa rated it really liked it
Dialect in "Desire Under the Elms" was distracting, and "Strange Interlude" took a while to get going, but the Mourning Becomes Electra cycle is goooood.
Nov 18, 2008 Lauren rated it it was amazing
Eugene O'Neill has a crazy way of creating real-life characters doing strange stuff -- and I agree with it. If you like reading plays, I recommend reading one of his. llw
Myles Mchale
Dec 30, 2012 Myles Mchale rated it liked it
Desire Under The Elms - sexy and engrossing
Strange Interlude - groundbreaking and thematically compelling
Mourning Becomes Electra - interesting and yet slacking in dramatic purpose
Aug 17, 2007 Sharon rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: For writers
Shelves: plays
O'Neill is an overlooked playwright who was once studied consistently in academia. He's intense and very talented.
Oct 18, 2007 Kate rated it liked it
Read Desire Under the Elms and Strange Interlude in English 52: 20th Century Drama with Professor Donald Pease.
Melanie rated it it was amazing
Aug 13, 2015
Lana Mahony
Lana Mahony rated it it was amazing
Mar 18, 2012
Carolin Kopplin
Carolin Kopplin rated it it was amazing
Jul 01, 2013
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Four Plays: Summer and Smoke / Orpheus Descending / Suddenly Last Summer / Period of Adjustment
  • Five Plays: The Father / Miss Julie / The Dance of Death / A Dream Play / The Ghost Sonata
  • The Plays of Anton Chekhov
  • Four Major Plays, Vol. 1: A Doll House / The Wild Duck / Hedda Gabler / The Master Builder
  • Four Plays: Come Back, Little Sheba / Picnic / Bus Stop / The Dark at the Top of the Stairs
  • Three Plays: Juno and the Paycock / The Shadow of a Gunman / The Plow and the Stars
  • Fool for Love and Other Plays
  • The Beauty Queen of Leenane and Other Plays
  • The Coast of Utopia (Box Set)
  • Six Plays: The Children's Hour / Days to Come / The Little Foxes / Watch on the Rhine / Another Part of the Forest / The Autumn Garden
  • Naked Masks: Five Plays
  • Tiny Alice
  • The Collected Plays, Vol. 2
  • After the Fall
  • Three Tragedies: Blood Wedding, Yerma, Bernarda Alba
  • Three Plays: Blithe Spirit / Hay Fever / Private Lives
  • Rhinoceros and Other Plays
  • Three Plays: Our Town, The Skin of Our Teeth, and The Matchmaker
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
More about Eugene O'Neill...

Share This Book