Night Of The Iguana Summary

Tennessee Williams

Night Of The Iguana

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Night Of The Iguana Summary

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Night of the Iguana, which premiered on Broadway in 1961, is a play by American playwright Tennessee Williams, based on his 1948 short story. It centers on a disgraced former minister, Lawrence T. Shannon, who has been barred from his church after defaming God. Now working as a tour guide, he is accused of statutory rape of a sixteen-year-old girl in his tour group. He struggles to keep the group from descending into chaos. Exploring themes of man’s relationship with God, sexual desire, loneliness, jealousy, and confinement, it is considered one of Williams’ best plays, although it has not risen to the same level of awareness in the public eye as some of his most famous. The original Broadway production was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play, and the play was then adapted into a critically acclaimed 1964 film starring Richard Burton and Ava Gardner. It received several Academy Award nominations. This was followed by a Serbian-Croatian remake in 2000, as well as a popular 1976 Broadway revival. It continues to be widely staged around the United States and beyond. It shares its title with a 2007 Joni Mitchell song, which retells the story of the play in song.

The Night of the Iguana opens on the west coast of Mexico, in Costa Verde,a rustic hotel owned by Maxine Faulk, a stout, swanky woman in her forties and a recent widow. Although her husband recently died from an infection, Maxine wastes no time in having trysts with her Latino employee Pedro and flirting with guests. One of those guests is Reverend Larry Shannon, a nervous tour guide and a former minister. Despite his role as a tour guide for the second-rate company Blake Tours, Shannon is more interested in rambling about and seducing young women on the tours—including girls under the age of eighteen. Faulk flirts with Shannon as soon as she meets him, and wastes no time getting him to stay at the hotel with her. Although Shannon wants to get back into the priesthood after his recent nervous breakdown, he is hesitant to leave his tour, which consists of female teachers from a Baptist college in Texas. Faulk, Shannon, and his fellow guide, Hank, are approached and berated by Miss Judith Fellowes, a strict teacher who wants Shannon to follow the instructions on the tour guide. She reveals that he has supposedly had sex with a seventeen-year-old girl on the tour. Shannon convinces Fellowes that they should stay at the hotel for now until this is sorted out. Faulk is soon approached by a middle-aged woman, Hannah Jelkes, and her grandfather, Nonno, who ask if they can stay at the hotel despite being short on money. Finding out that Hannah is a portrait artist and her grandfather is a famous poet, she initially denies them, but Shannon says he will pay their costs. This is because he is attracted to Hannah, and Faulk acquiesces for now.

Act 2 begins as Faulk approaches Hannah. They talk about money and her art, and Hannah admits that she is broke. Faulk admits that she is in debt following her husband’s death, so she cannot afford to have freeloaders. Shannon appears, and Faulk leaves to talk with a group of German tourists who express Nazi sympathies. Shannon is approached by a young girl named Charlotte, and tries to hide in Hannah’s workspace. It is soon revealed that Charlotte is the teenager whom Shannon was accused of sleeping with. Charlotte talks to Shannon through the door, and tells him she wants to marry him—even though he apparently hit her after they had sex. Miss Fellowes finds Charlotte and drags her away; Shannon leaves the room. He talks to Hannah, revealing that he was locked out of his former church for heresy and calling God a senile delinquent. Oh, and sleeping with a Sunday school teacher. Faulk hears a crash, and they find that Nonno has fallen. Although he protests that he is fine, he struggles with his memory. He tries to repeat his old poem but fails, and Shannon gives him five pesos for the effort. Hannah notes that he has had many more accidents like this lately. Faulk lightly taunts the old man, and Shannon defends him. This leads the former minister and the hotel owner to playfully fight, shoving a cart at each other—until the cart falls down the hill near the hotel. As Shannon leaves to get it, Faulk tries to warn Hannah to stay away from Shannon. She tells Hannah she and her grandfather can stay as long as they want if she stays away from Shannon. At the same time, a major storm is about to hit the Costa Verde.

Act 3 beginsthat night. Shannon is writing to the dean of his former divinity school, when Faulk approaches him and tells him she is considering selling the hotel and moving to the United States. She tells him that she heard from her late husband about Shannon’s childhood trauma, being beaten by his mother for masturbating. She speculates that might be the source of his issues with God. Suddenly, Jake Latta, a representative from Blake Tours, arrives at the hotel to take over the tour. Shannon is being fired, and he is told that he will receive no severance pay due to the tour being refunded. He will be stranded at the hotel unless he leaves with Latta immediately. Miss Fellowes arrives and exposes Shannon’s worst actions, and Latta takes the keys with the intention of leaving Shannon behind. Shannon has a mental breakdown, and Faulk has her employees tie him down. She threatens to have him sent to a mental asylum, and makes him a sedative drink. Hannah and Shannon bicker while he is tied down, and he eventually convinces her to untie him. He makes himself a drink, and they talk about their lives. Hannah confesses that she struggled with depression, and she gives him some advice on how to manage his mental issues. She says that when her grandfather passes, she plans to travel the world making art. She says she has never had any romantic encounters, but has been assaulted by two men. That is why she is hesitant to fall for someone. Shannon asks her if they could travel together, but she rejects him, and he realizes he is stuck with Faulk. Hannah warns Shannon that Faulk is a morbidly jealous woman and Shannon needs to get away. They hear a scratching noise under the verandah, and Shannon tells Hannah that it is an iguana that Faulk tied up to eat later. Hannah convinces Shannon to free it. They hear Nonno yelling from the hotel, and they run in to hear him recite a new poem, the first he has written in years. Hannah is overjoyed and promises to help him type it up in the morning. Faulk asks Shannon to go swimming with her, where she asks him to stay and help her run the hotel. He reluctantly agrees. The next morning, Hannah discovers that Nonno has passed away after reciting his poem.

Tennessee Williams was an American playwright, considered one of the foremost playwrights of twentieth century America along with Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller. The author of more than twenty major plays, he is best known today for The Glass Menagerie, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and A Streetcar Named Desire, all of which are still widely staged today and have been adapted into critically acclaimed films. He was also a poet, novelist, short story writer, and screenwriter. Today, the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival is held annually to honor his body of work.