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The Personal Equation

1915

O'Neill wrote The Personal Equation while studying playwrighting with George Pierce Baker in the so-called "47 Work-shop" at Harvard University. His musical requirements were routine and minimal. In act 3, scene 1, a stoker, Hogan, sings fragments of two chanties and an Irish revolutionary song: "Whisky Johnny," "Beer, Beer, Glorious Beer," and "We Are the Boys of Wexford." The chanties were to reappear in O'Neill's next play set in a stokehole, The Hairy Ape.

At the play's end, Whitely, the fervent anarchist, turns super-patriot as World War I begins. A marching tune is heard in the distance, to which Whitely responds by humming the tune and beating time with his foot, evidence that he has deserted his radical cause. Any British march tune of the period will serve.

 

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