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Tennessee Williams

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Thomas Lanier Williams was born in Columbus, Mississippi on March 26, 1911. Years later while in college, his Alpha Tau Omega fraternity brothers gave him the name "Tennessee", both because of his southern accent and his father's background in Tennessee. He is considered one of the foremost American playwrights of the twentieth century and is best known for The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. At the age of seven, Tennessee was diagnosed with diphtheria which limited his ability to do a lot of activity. His mother would not allow him to waste his time, so she encouraged him to use his imagination. At the age of thirteen, his mother gave him his first typewriter. Tennessee's family was a troubles one that provided inspiration for much of his writings. His mother was an overprotective, somewhat smothering woman of a genteel southern upbringing. His father was a shoe salesman whom Tennessee did not like, for he became increasingly abusive to his children as they got older. Tennessee wrote about loneliness, frustration, and the desperate need for communication by people who are society's misfits. At least part of this reflected his own life, as he was at times, a misfit himself. He recalled being teased by gangs of boys when he was in school. Nevertheless, he graduated from high school in January 1929, and went on to the University of Missouri-Columbia that fall.

Tennessee had hid first brush with the publishing world when he was sixteen. He won third prize and $5 for an essay, "Can a Good Wife Be a Good Sport". A year later, he published "The Vengeance of Nitocris". It was nine years later when his first publicly performed play, Cairo, Shanghai, Bombay, was produced in Memphis; in many respects this would be the beginning of his literary and stage career. The next year he became associated with the Mummers, a lively St. Louis theatre group. By 1939, he had dropped Thomas Lanier completely which allowed him to become more than just a local playwright. During this year, he lied about his age in order to submit a series of plays to the Group Theatre. From this he got himself an agent, Audrey Wood. She procured him a Rockefeller Fellowship, which allowed him to work comfortably without the worries of money. His first published plays appeared in The Best Plays in 1940,41,42,44, and 45.

Tennessee achieved his greatest acclaim during the 1940s and '50s. The



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