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Tennessee WILLIAMS

American Tennessee WILLIAMS

born Thomas Lanier WILLIAMS

American playwright

Born: on March 26, 1911 in Columbus, Mississippi, USA
Died: on February 25, 1983 in New York City, New York, USA


Biography

Williams was born Thomas Lanier Williams III, of Welsh descent, in Columbus, Mississippi to Edwina and Cornelius Williams. His grandfather was Walter Dakin, the local Episcopal priest, and his maternal grandmother was a music teacher. His father was a hard-drinking traveling salesman who spent most of his time away, while his mother, Edwina, was considered a "Southern belle," with beauty and social inclinations, often performing as a singer.

He had one brother, Dakin, and a sister, Rose. He became closest to his sister, their ages only sixteen months apart. Theater scholar Allean Hale notes that they were "as inseparable as twins, sometimes referred to as 'The Couple.'" She adds that they were so close that "when one was ill, the other developed symptoms;" she would become his "only companion" as a child. Hale speculates that his growing up in a female-dominated environment gave Williams the "empathy" for his woman characters as a playwright. Rose would become a prominent feature in much of his fiction.

As a small child Williams showed a gift for drama by his entertaining the family grown-ups with exciting stories, sometimes even acting out the newspaper's cartoons. When he was nine he wrote a story for his sister, writing on its title page, "you'll be so happy after your read "Rainbows Comic Paper" that you will shine like a rainbow." Williams remembers his childhood as "idyllic," although he spent two years in bed after contracting diphtheria. He also once had a fit of strangulation which left him with a fear of choking to death throughout his life.

Tennessee was less robust as a child and his father thought him effeminate. His mother Edwina was aborderline hysteric. Tennessee Williams would find inspiration in his problematic family for much of his writing.

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