Tennessee Williams's 'Vengeance of Nitocris': The Keynote to Future Works

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Editors: Thomas J. Schoenberg and Lawrence J. Trudeau
Date: 2005
From: Short Story Criticism(Vol. 81)
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 5,351 words

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[(essay date fall 1995) In the following essay, Hitchcock demonstrates the significance of "The Vengeance of Nitocris" to Williams's later work.]

Throughout his literary career, when asked about "love," Tennessee Williams almost always answered with an explanation about his relationship with his sister, Rose. He called their love "the deepest of their lives," a love that precluded the need for "extrafamilial attachments."1 Various friends of Williams saw the connection between Tom and Rose as so close that they appeared as "two halves" of a whole person.2 Harry Rasky, author of Tennessee Williams: A Portrait in Laughter and Lamentation, writes that "Just as Siamese twins may be joined at the breast bone, Tennessee was joined to his sister, Rose, by the heart. The blending of two souls was so complete that they could have occupied a single body."3 Tom and Rose, called "the couple" by their maid Ozzie, had such a "psychological affinity ... that when Rose had a cold or tonsillitis, or mumps, Tommy was convinced he, too, was ill."4 According to Williams, his and Rose's relationship was an exclusive one: "My sister and I grew so used to being company for each other that we tended to rely on each other's companionship rather than seeking friends" (Rasky, p. 67). To Williams, Rose was lively, witty, and possessed of an intelligence much quicker than his, as he explains in the third section of his poem "Recuerdo":

My sister was quicker at everything than I. At five she could say the multiplication tables,                               with barely a pause for breath,                               while I was employed with frames of colored beads in Kindy Garden. At eight she could play                               Idillio and The Scarf Dance while I was chopping at scales and exercises.5

But when Williams was almost twelve years old, "the small and almost wholly egoistic world [he and Rose] had created," ended with a "bewildering cessation of ... intimacy" that "came as an unnerving shock to the boy."6 Rose began menstruation, venturing into the world of "Woman," where no man can ever follow. In the voice of the narrator of "The Resemblance between a Violin Case and a Coffin," Williams explains that "although [they] naturally continued to live in the same house, [his sister] seemed to have gone on a journey while she remained in sight. The difference came about more abruptly than you would think possible, and it was vast."7 As Rose journeyed away from him, Williams began an adventure of his own: he started to write.

By the time he was sixteen, Williams had turned this adventure--the writing that he had initially used as a substitute for his close relationship with Rose--into what would now become his life's work. In 1928, the science fiction and fantasy magazine Weird Tales, which published such authors as H. P. Lovecraft, paid the young Thomas Lanier Williams $35 for "The Vengeance of Nitocris," a short story he had based upon a tale from Herodotus's Persian Wars. In...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420065280