Life and Death in 'Sweet Bird of Youth'

American Lecture: Life & Death in ‘Sweet Bird of Youth’ (1959)                   17/12/09

• Self delusion, denial and identity
• Play produced in 1959 in final form but had complicated production history. Was originally written as a homosexual relationship, but at the time this could not be represented. Williams believed a male and female relationship would be more dramatically viable.
• Williams fused together 2 stories, to bring together the personal and the political.
• 1950’s: Williams was under personal strain, and had a high production rate, he has a series of mental collapses, complex and they began with the guilt about his sister rose who was given a lobotomy to cure a mental illness in 1930’s. He continually felt guilt about his family conspiring to do this.
• He was drinking and taking a lot of drugs through 1950’s, which is shown with Princess and Chance in this play as well as some of his other lays
• In terms of symbolism, his use of this becomes part of his concept ‘plastic theatre’ first mentioned in production notes to Glass Menagerie and is about the mis en sen-different elements of staging, lighting, music, set, props: going together to heighten the characters state of mind, exposing major themes in the play by using this whole theatrical experience, he was creating a realism that was more real and not stage realism.
• Quote 1: core to Williams’s dramatic technique where symbolism is woven into the fabric of the play.
• The starting point of this symbolist idea grew from Williams’ influence by the European symbolists.
• The symbolist concept: to provide an experimental technique and to move away from rigid ideas about art forms, dwelling on non narrative methods art form is not about telling a story but about the creation of atmosphere and emotion through the use of visual imagery.
• The use of music: in language and actual music on stage, guides the rhythm of the symbolism in the play a stage further.
• Symbolists used symbols that...