In his early days as an author, Eugene O’Neill modeled himself on Maxim Gorki, even mimicking the Russian playwright when posing for an early portrait. Gorki’s 1902 play, Na dnie, had an immediate impact on European and American writers by demonstrating radical new ways a drama could speak to the modern world. O’Neill probably first encountered the play in its 1912 translation as The Lower Depths. In its many translations and productions Gorki’s play established for early twentieth-century theater artists a standard of integrity, though the play was also frequently misinterpreted. Near the end of his career, O’Neill utilized many elements of The Lower Depths in The Iceman Cometh, for reasons that have been debated. But Gorki’s play informs an interpretation of many other O’Neill plays, and the example of Gorki as a figure of modern artist resonated in the way O’Neill self-consciously fashioned himself as a modern artist.

You do not currently have access to this content.