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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

daddy death williams maggie

a play by Tennessee Williams, published in 1955 and revised in 1974, when it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. The play became notorious for its treatment of homosexuality, which is never directly presented, but is depicted in a way that took contemporary audiences by surprise. Set in the Deep South, in the Mississippi Delta, the drama has as its pivot the sixty-fifth birthday celebrations of the patriarch Big Daddy, who, unknown to himself, is dying of cancer. His elder son and daughter-in-law, parents of a large and growing family, display an avaricious desire to get their hands on the estate. His other daughter-in-law, Maggie, is determined this should not happen; her husband, Brick, a handsome ex-athlete who has taken to drink, is Big Daddy's favourite, even though the relationship is under strain. The reasons for this emerge as the drama progresses, and the father confronts the son with allegations about the nature of his relationship with Skipper, a former friend and fellow sportsman whose death appears to have been brought about by his unrequited love for Brick. Apparently appalled by this aspersion, Brick protests his innocence, claiming that the suggestion that the relationship was of a homosexual nature had been put about by Maggie, and that Skipper's death had been caused by his feelings of humiliation at the cruel rumour. He then turns the tables on his father, who has demanded to know the truth at all costs, by revealing to him the truth about his imminent death. Williams's exploration of the underlying theme of homosexuality, restrained as it is, prevented the play from being performed in Britain and elsewhere for many years. When it was eventually revived, Williams worked with the director Elia Kazan, who had also directed the original Broadway performance with Burl Ives as Big Daddy. Kazan suggested making some changes to the last act in order to show the essentially sympathetic character of Maggie and it is this version which is usually played, although some critics prefer the original, starker version.

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