Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Keith Slocum

Committee Member

Rita Jacobs

Committee Member

Thomas Benediktsson


This thesis examines how the stage directions, props, and setting are patterned to create themes in character development in selected Tennessee Williams plays. This analysis focuses on four plays from a successful period in Williams’ life from 1955-1961 in which the playwright had established a pattern in developing sexually desirable male characters using symbolism and space: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), Suddenly Last Summer (1958), Sweet Bird of Youth (1959), and The Night of the Iguana (1961). All four illustrate how Williams shapes the structure of the scenes by directing the space the characters reside in. Characters are conveyed most intensely through very specific staging notes, which give insight into what troubles the plays tormented protagonists. Although the symbolism behind each prop is richly varied, there is a specific pattern in Williams’ use of props, which enhance the protagonist’s major flaws, and add to the revelation of character slowly throughout the course of the play. There is a recurring structural theme of the space where the play takes place affecting the outcome and unifying mode of the play. This is seen most intensely when the setting of the play is varied versus a stationary setting. For example, Brick and Shannon have a much more positive ending versus Chance and Sebastian who are either killed or castrated at the end of the play. This thesis contends that the understanding of Williams’ main male protagonists is enriched through analyzing the stage directions, props, and setting in selected plays.

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