Poetic References Poetry, like many art forms (music, dance, painting) inspires moods and emotions. Throughout Tennessee Williams' life, he read the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, D. H. Lawrence, and Hart Crane some examples of poetry that inspired Tennessee Williams throughout the writing of A Streetcar Named Desire. After asking Stella "What on earth are you doing in a place like this?" Blanche claims that "Only Mr. Edgar Allan Poe - could do it justice! Out there, I suppose, is the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir." This reference comes from Poe's poem entitled Ulalume -a piece that highlights Poe's macabre style of writing.

Mitch owns a silver cigarette case given to him by a former lover. The inscription reads: "And if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death." This quote, as Blanche recalls, comes from Elizabeth Barrrett Browning's Sonnet 43 Throughout the play, we witness the world of reality in which Stella and Stanley live and Blanche's world of broken illusion. Hart Crane, captures the feeling of Blanche's world in his poem The Broken Tower: ... And so it was I entered the broken world To trace the visionary company of love, its voice An instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled) But not for long to hold each desperate choice. Characters & Setting A Streetcar Named Desire is a three-act play, a rarity in the contemporary world of one-act and two-act plays. Although the play could could have been broken into two acts to satisfy the needs of audiences (who are used to one intermission in between acts) Tennessee Williams wrote the play in three acts with the specific purpose of suggesting the passage of time.

Act One opens in late spring, Act Two takes place in the summer, and Act Three occurs in the early fall. These references to time pose a question as to whether Blanche has overstayed her welcome (as she states later in the play). Blanche DuBois A fading Southern belle from an aristocratic background. She has just lost her ancestral home, Belle Reve, and her teaching position as a result of promiscuity. Blanche was described by Tennessee Williams as delicate and moth-like.

She is a refined, sensitive, cultured, intelligent woman who is never willing to hurt someone. Blanche is at the mercy of the brutal, realistic world. Stanley Kowalski Stanley is a common, working man who is simple, straight forward and honest. He tolerates nothing but the bare, unembellished truth and lives in a world without refinements. Stanley views women in a limited capacity.

He could be seen as common, crude and vulgar. He is the opposing force to Blanche's struggles and her world of illusion. Stella Kowalski Blanche's younger, married sister who lives in the French Quarter of New Orleans. She has turned her back to her aristocratic upbringing to enjoy common marriage. Stella is caught in between the two opposing worlds of Blanche and her husband, Stanley. She is also a pawn in the struggle between Blanche and Stanley.

Stella is a passive, gentle woman. Mitch (Short for Harold Mitchell), is Stanley's best friend and colleague who went through the war with him. He is an unmarried man who lives with his ailing mother for whom he feels a great devotion. His soft-hearted and sensitive nature allows him to relate to Blanche and her world but often places him in conflict with Stanley. Steve & Eunice Hubbell - Stanley and Stella's landlords who live upstairs and are very much a part of the Kowalski household. Steve is Stanley's friend and poker buddy, and Eunice acts as Stella's confidante.

This couple and the location of their apartment adds another layer of atmosphere to the New Orleans setting. Other Characters: Mexican Woman, Negro Woman, Pablo, A Young Collector, Nurse and Doctor - These characters make small appearances throughout the play, but contribute to the diverse New Orleans atmosphere. They punctuate the scenes with their thematic dialogue and opposing viewpoints. In short, they often serve as extensions of the lead characters. Playwright Setting & Characters Poetic References Discussion Topics Tandy vs. Tennessee Poetic References Poetry, like many art forms (music, dance, painting) inspires moods and emotions.

Throughout Tennessee Williams' life, he read the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, D. H. Lawrence, and Hart Crane (In fact, he was known to carry a worn out copy of Crane's poetry everywhere). Below are some examples of poetry that inspired Tennessee Williams throughout the writing of A Streetcar Named Desire.

After asking Stella "What on earth are you doing in a place like this?" Blanche claims that "Only Mr. Edgar Allan Poe - could do it justice! Out there, I suppose, is the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir." This reference comes from Poe's poem entitled Ulalume -a piece that highlights Poe's macabre style of writing. Mitch owns a silver cigarette case given to him by a former lover. The inscription reads: "And if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death." This quote, as Blanche recalls, comes from Elizabeth Barrrett Browning's Sonnet 43. What significance do you think it has? Throughout the play, we witness the world of reality in which Stella and Stanley live and Blanche's world of broken illusion. Hart Crane, captures the feeling of Blanche's world in his poem The Broken Tower: ...

And so it was I entered the broken world To trace the visionary company of love, its voice An instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled) But not for long to hold each desperate choice. Playwright Setting & Characters Poetic References Discussion Topics Tandy vs. Tennessee The Playwright Tennessee Williams Tennessee Williams was born Thomas Lanier Williams, the second child of three, in Columbus, Mississippi on March 26, 1911. Tom, as he was known for most of his life, earned the nickname Tennessee from a college roommate who attributed the name, jokingly to Williams heritage as a Tennessee pioneer. Tennessee Williams family life was full of tension and despair. His parents often engaged in violent arguments that frightened his older sister, Rose, so much that one evening she went running out of the house.

His father, Cornelius, was a stern businessman who managed a shoe warehouse. Cornelius' bouts with drinking and gambling (habits that later ailed Tennessee) sent rumors about the family throughout the towns in which they lived (Williams moved 16 times in 15 years). His mother, who is often compared to the controlling Amanda in The Glass Menagerie, allowed Rose's doctor to perform a frontal lobotomy on Rose - an event that greatly disturbed Williams who cared for Rose throughout most of her adult life. However, Tennessee, Rose and his brother Walter remained close to their mother, Edwina, often encouraging her to leave their abusive father. In 1931, Williams was admitted to the University of Missouri where he saw a production of Ibsen's Ghosts and decided to become a playwright. His journalism program was interrupted however, when his father forced him to withdraw from college to work at the International Shoe Company.

There, he worked with a good friend named Stanley Kowalski who would resurface as a character in Streetcar. Williams re enrolled in college at Washington University only to be dropped in 1937. Finally, in 1938, Williams graduated from the University of Iowa, already having produced several of his plays locally (first by a lively theater group in St. Louis called "The Mummers"). After failing to find work in Chicago, he moved to New Orleans where he changed his name from Tom to Tennessee and launched his career as a writer. Tennessee's primary sources of inspiration for his works were the writers he grew up with, his family and the South.

The work that had the most influence on Williams was that by Frederick Garcia Lorca, Arthur Rimbaud, Rainer Maria Rilke, Hart Crane and D. H. Lawrence. His play I Rise in Flame, Cried the Phoenix was written as a tribute to D. H. Lawrence, dramatizing the events surrounding Lawrence's death.

In 1945, Tennessee earned his first commercial success with The Glass Menagerie. The play tells the story of Tom, his disabled sister, Laura, and their controlling mother Amanda who tries to make a match between Laura and a gentleman caller. Many people believe that Tennessee used his own familial relationships as inspiration for the play. Shortly after Menagerie closed, the playwright was already at work on a new piece which contained the image of a young woman who had just been stood up by the man she was planning to marry. He saw her sitting alone in a chair by a window in the moonlight. By 1947, this piece was finished and performed on the stage as A Streetcar Named Desire.

Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski became household names nearly overnight, and the script continued to make its way into theaters and cinemas worldwide (most recently it was remade for television, starring Jessica Lange and Alec Baldwin). In 1955, after winning the Donaldson Award, the New York Drama Critics Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Streetcar, Tennessee Williams produced another commercial success, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. This play dramatizes the conflicts of a Mississippi family following the diagnosis of their father's cancer. It also won a Pulitzer Prize and became a popular film starring Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman and Burl Ives. In 1979, Williams returned to Florida, where he had previously spent time in Key West and St. Augustine relaxing and collecting ideas for his work.

This time, Williams served as Artist-In-Residence at the Hippodrome State Theatre in Gainesville where audiences saw the world premier of Tiger Tail - his stage adaptation of the film Baby Doll. Williams died tragically in 1983 (he choked to death on the plastic top to his eye medication which he possibly mistook for a sleeping pill). He left behind a series of successful plays and screen adaptations. He was noted for bringing to his audiences a slice of his own life and the feel of southern culture. Elia Kazan said of Tennessee: "Everything in his life is in his plays, and everything in his plays is in his life." Playwright Setting & Characters Poetic References Discussion Topics Tandy vs. Tennessee There is more information about Tennessee Williams on the pages of our 1998 production of The Glass Menagerie and the Perspectives guide for that show.

New Orleans and the French Quarter are often referred to as "Vieux Carre." Tennessee Williams named a play after it and several poems have been published under the same title. In Walter Adolphe Roberts' poem, the city is described with romantic undertones. Write a poem in the voice of Blanche, Stella or another character describing "Vieux Carre." Vieux Carre by Walter Adolphe Roberts This city is the child of France and Spain, That once lived nobly, ardent as the heat In which it came to birth. Alas, how fleet The years of love and arms! There now remain, Bleached by the sun and moldered by the rain, Impassive fronts that guard some rare retreat, Some dim, arched salon, or some garden sweet, Where dreams persist and the past lives again. The braided iron of the balconies Is like locked hands, fastidiously set To bar the world. But the proud mysteries Showed me a glamour I may not forget: Your face, camellia-white upon the stair, Framed in the midnight thicket of your hair.

Playwright Setting & Characters Poetic References Discussion Topics Tandy vs. Tennessee Play in three acts by Tennessee Williams, first produced and published in 1947 and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama for that year. One of the most admired plays of its time, it concerns the mental and moral disintegration and ultimate ruin of Blanche DuBois, a former Southern belle. Her neurotic, genteel pretensions are no match for the harsh realities symbolized by her brutish brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski.

Blanche's "world" is often contrasted to the world of Stanley's and Stella's. Blanche firmly states the kind of world she wants: "I don't want realism. I want - magic!" In what way is Blanche's world an illusion? Is it any less real than Stanley or Stella? What defines reality in A Streetcar Named Desire? What defines illusion? Tennessee Williams uses astrology to further define Blanche and Stanley. Research the astrological birth signs of Blanche and Stanley. What do these signs reveal about these characters? What about their names? What significance does the name Blanche DuBois hold? What about Stanley Kowalski? Music is as much a part of A Streetcar Named Desire as the dialogue. It is often argued that music acts as a second dialogue within a play.

Tennessee Williams made specific reference to the Varsouviana throughout the play. When is it mentioned? What significance does it have for the character (s)? Does everyone hear this piece of music, or is it intended to be shared only by the audience and one or two other characters? What other music is used in the play? How is it used? Blanche makes reference to being trapped in the last few scenes of the play: "This place is a trap!" ... "In desperate, desperate circumstances! Help me! Caught in a trap!" What does she mean? Is Blanche the only person trapped? Who else is trapped? Explain your answer with concrete examples. Images of light, both literal and figurative, appear throughout the play. Find at least two references to light and describe their significance... Desire is a pole on another of Streetcar's axes.

As Blanche herself remarks, death is its opposite. Blanche turned to sex, to intimacies with strangers, when she could no longer bear the death that surrounded her. Her parents died, her relatives died, and she nursed them all. What's more, she had never recovered from the suicide of her husband.

To wantonly follow her immediate desires and detach herself from the consequences can be seen as a sort of survival mechanism: to find a deathlike oblivion apart from death itself. Williams the symbolist underscores the relationship between death and desire in the very first act. Blanche: "They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at -- Elysian Fields!" There you have desire, you have death, and together they lead to an oblivion (pagan, in this case) called Elysian Fields. Unable to deal with desire, unable to deal with death, Blanche ultimately finds a third oblivion: dementia.

Discussion Topics "Desire" is used throughout the play, both literally and figuratively. At the end of Act II, Blanche tells Mitch that Desire is the opposite of death. Explain her use of desire. At the end of the play, Blanche is taken away to an asylum. Do you believe she is insane? If she isn't, what defines her sanity? Do you think she is responsible for her circumstances? Blanche's "world" is often contrasted to the world of Stanley's and Stella's. Blanche firmly states the kind of world she wants: "I don't want realism.

I want - magic!" In what way is Blanche's world an illusion? Is it any less real than Stanley or Stella? What defines reality in A Streetcar Named Desire? What defines illusion? Tennessee Williams uses astrology to further define Blanche and Stanley. Research the astrological birth signs of Blanche and Stanley. What do these signs reveal about these characters? What about their names? What significance does the name Blanche DuBois hold? What about Stanley Kowalski? Music is as much a part of A Streetcar Named Desire as the dialogue. It is often argued that music acts as a second dialogue within a play. Tennessee Williams made specific reference to the Varsouviana throughout the play. When is it mentioned? What significance does it have for the character (s)? Does everyone hear this piece of music, or is it intended to be shared only by the audience and one or two other characters? What other music is used in the play? How is it used? Blanche makes reference to being trapped in the last few scenes of the play: "This place is a trap!" ...

"In desperate, desperate circumstances! Help me! Caught in a trap!" What does she mean? Is Blanche the only person trapped? Who else is trapped? Explain your answer with concrete examples. Images of light, both literal and figurative, appear throughout the play. Find at least two references to light and describe their significance. When the doctor escorts Blanche out of the house, Blanche delivers her famous line: "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." Why does she say this? Do you think this departure is a defeat or victory for Blanche? What about for Stanley and Stella? Defend your answer. The play makes several references to the old streetcars of New Orleans and places found in literature. Describe the significance of the use of Desire, Cemetaria, Elysian Fields, and "the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir." How does the play reveal violence and antagonistic behavior? Who is affected by this behavior and in what ways? How does this violence progress throughout the play and change the course of action? New Orleans and the French Quarter are often referred to as "Vieux Carre." Tennessee Williams named a play after it and several poems have been published under the same title.

In Walter Adolphe Roberts' poem, the city is described with romantic undertones. Write a poem in the voice of Blanche, Stella or another character describing Playwright Setting & Characters Poetic References Play in three acts by Tennessee Williams, first produced and published in 1947 and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama for that year. One of the most admired plays of its time, it concerns the mental and moral disintegration and ultimate ruin of Blanche DuBois, a former Southern belle. Her neurotic, genteel pretensions are no match for the harsh realities symbolized by her brutish brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski.