Tennessee Williams, one of the leading American playwrights of the 20th century, has often been called the ‘national poet of the perverse’. Being a highly sexually active man all his life, he enjoyed writing sex into his plays and considered it beautiful. It is therefore perhaps surprising that the role sexuality plays in his dramatic work has never been researched in detail.
This thesis is the first profound study of how sexuality – either overt or covert – affects and dominates Tennessee Williams’ dramatic work. Analyzing eight major plays in detail, this study explores how the characters’ lived or suppressed (deviating) sexual inclinations and preferences affect their psychological state, their behavior and their relationships with the other characters in the plays. It further demonstrates how sexuality motivates each play in the first place, dominates its plot and finally how the characters’ ability to deal with their sexuality leads to either a conciliatory or a fatal, sometimes even a lethal ending. The book points out parallels and differences between the plays as well as Williams’ development of sexuality in his drama.