When the play begins, the audience is introduced into the glamorous and ornate hotel room of Alexandra Del Lago, a faded film star, and Chance, her "ravaged but handsome gigolo." The setting, described in rich detail by Williams, down to the Moorish lamp and a wicker tabouret, suggests an expensive but sinful location, a place where secrets will be revealed, a symbol of faded and outmoded Southern glamor.
When Princess comes down to the cocktail lounge at the Royal Palms Hotel, she is profoundly altered, a formerly-glamorous movie star who now cannot even muster the wherewithal to zip up her dress before appearing in public. Williams writes, "Princess looks as if she had thrown on her clothes to escape a building on fire. Her blue-sequined gown is unzipped, or partially zipped, her hair is dishevelled, her eyes have a dazed, drugged brightness; she is holding up the eyeglasses with the broken lens, shakily, hanging on to her mink stole with the other hand; her movements are unsteady."
The Royal Palms
The Royal Palms Hotel is so called because of all the royal palms that grow outside it. At the beginning of the final act, the outside world explodes into the indoor one, as Williams describes Princess's hotel room, now changed: "The shutters in the Moorish Corner are thrown open on the Palm Garden: scattered sounds of disturbance are still heard: something burns in the Palm Garden: an effigy, an emblem? Flickering light from it falls on the Princess. Over the interior scene, the constant serene projection of royal palms, branched among stars."
Two characters, Princess and Boss, both confront the audience directly at various points to make their case. Princess discusses the fact that she no longer has a Hollywood career, her gaze drifting as she speaks to the audience. Boss also tries to level with the audience, explaining his actions and motives as if to a jury. This image, of a broken fourth wall, points to the ways that Tennessee Williams seeks to create a more poetic theatrical landscape, one not bound by conventions of strict realism.
Sweet Bird of Youth Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Sweet Bird of Youth is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.