Desire Under the Elms

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For the film adaptation, see Desire Under the Elms (film).
1958 publication of the play, issued to tie-in with the film version starring Sophia Loren (pictured).

Desire Under the Elms is a play by Eugene O'Neill, published in 1924, and is now considered an American classic. Along with Mourning Becomes Electra, it represents one of O'Neill's attempts to place plot elements and themes of Greek tragedy in a rural New England setting. It is in context a tribute to the myth of Phaedra, Hippolytus and Theseus. A film version was produced in 1958, and there is an operatic setting by Edward Thomas.



The hulking widower Ephraim Cabot abandons his New England farm to his three sons, who hate him but share his greed. Eben, the youngest and brightest sibling, feels the farm is his birthright, as it originally belonged to his mother. He buys out his half-brothers' shares of the farm with money stolen from his father, and Peter and Simeon head off to California to seek their fortune. Later, Ephraim returns with a new wife, the beautiful and headstrong Abbie, who enters into an adulterous affair with Eben. Soon after, Abbie bears Eben's child, but lets Ephraim believe that the child is his, in the hopes of securing her future with the farm. The proud Ephraim is oblivious as his neighbors openly mock him as a cuckold. Madly in love with Eben and fearful it would become an obstacle to their relationship, Abbie smothers the infant in its cradle. An enraged and distraught Eben turns Abbie over to the sheriff, but not before admitting to himself the depths of his love for her and thus confessing his own role in the infanticide.

Major productions[edit]

Provincetown Players (off-Broadway, 1924) - Starring Walter Huston as Ephraim Cabot, Mary Morris as Abbie Putnam and Charles Ellis as Eben Cabot. After two months at the Greenwich Village Theater, this production transferred to Broadway and played an additional nine months, first at the Earl Carroll Theater, then at George M. Cohan's Theater and finally at Daly's 63rd Street Theatre, for a total of 420 performances.

Broadway (1952) - Directed by Harold Clurman, produced by The American National Theater and Academy. Starring Karl Malden as Ephraim Cabot, Douglass Watson as Eben Cabot and Carol Stone as Abbie Putnam, 46 performances.

Asmita Theatre (India, 1995) - Directed by Arvind Gaur, translated by Nadira Babbar, starring Deepak Dobriyal, Manu Rishi, Deepak Ochani and Arachana Shintre Joshii, 14 performances.

Goodman Theatre (Chicago, 2009) - Directed by Robert Falls, starring Brian Dennehy as Ephraim Cabot, Carla Gugino as Anna Putnam and Pablo Schreiber as Eben Cabot.

Sri Ram Centre Theatre (Mandi House, New Delhi, INDIA, 2010) -A RAS production. Directed by Deepak Ochaney and Gajraj Nagar, starring Mukul Saran Mathur as Ephraim Cabot, Sanjeela Mathur as Anna Putnam.Has done 6 Shows.

Broadway (2009) - Transfer of the Goodman production; opened April 27, 2009 at the St. James Theater, 32 performances.

New Vic Theatre (Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, U.K., 2010) - Directed by James Dacre, starring Gareth Thomas as Ephraim Cabot, Victoria Lloyd as Anna Putnam, Cary Crankson as Eben Cabot, Owen Oakeshott as Peter Cabot and Timothy Chipping as Simeon Cabot.

Lyric Hammersmith (2012) - Directed by Sean Holmes and designed by Ian MacNeil, starring Morgan Watkins as Eben Cabot, Denise Gough as Anna Putnam and Finbar Lynch as Ephraim Cabot. Play was Adapted by Balwant Gargi under the name Balde Tibbe in ppunjabi..


External links[edit]