- NAME: Eugene O'Neill
- OCCUPATION: Playwright
- BIRTH DATE: October 16, 1888
- DEATH DATE: November 27, 1953
- Did You Know?: In 1936, Eugene O'Neill became the first U.S. playwright to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.
- EDUCATION: Betts Academy, Princeton University, St. Aloysius Academy for Boys, De La Salle Institute, Harvard University
- PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
- PLACE OF DEATH: Boston, Massachusetts
- Full Name: Eugene Gladstone O'Neill
- AKA: Eugene O'Neill
Best Known For
Eugene O'Neill was the first American dramatist to regard the stage as a literary medium and the first U.S. playwright to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.
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Famed playwright Eugene O'Neill was born on October 16, 1888, in New York City. His masterpiece, Long Day's Journey into Night (produced posthumously 1957), is at the apex of a long string of great plays, including Beyond the Horizon (1920), Anna Christie (1922), Strange Interlude (1928), Ah! Wilderness (1933) and The Iceman Cometh (1946). O'Neill died on November 27, 1953, in Boston, Massachusetts.
"I want to be an artist or nothing."
"Strange interlude! Yes, our lives are merely strange dark interludes in the electrical display of God the Father!"
Born on October 16, 1888, in a New York City hotel room, writer Eugene Gladstone O'Neill was one of the most admired playwrights of all time. His talent for poignant and piercing dramas sprang from a life marked by challenges. He was the son of Mary Ellen "Ella" and James O'Neill, a stage actor.
After Eugene was born, his mother developed an addiction to morphine. She had been given the drug to help her through her particularly difficult childbirth. Ella was also still grieving for Eugene's older brother, Edmund, who had died of the measles three years earlier. (The couple also had another son, James Jr.) His father continued on with his role in a touring production of The Count of Monte Cristo shortly after Eugene's birth.
Eugene O'Neill spent much of his early life on the road with his father. Shortly before his 7th birthday, however, he was sent away to boarding school; O'Neill spent years at the St. Aloysius Academy for Boys, where he received a strict Catholic upbringing. In 1900, he returned to New York City, where he attended the De La Salle Institute for two years. He then went to Betts Academy, a prep school in Stamford, Connecticut. In 1906, O'Neill enrolled at Princeton University, but his heart wasn't in his studies, and he was either dismissed for missing too many classes or left after only 10 months at the school.
After leaving Princeton, Eugene O'Neill floundered for a time. He took several sea voyages, ran around town with brother James and indulged heavily in alcohol. He had a brief marriage to Kathleen Jenkins, which resulted in one son, Eugene O'Neill Jr.
In 1912, O'Neill battled tuberculosis. While recuperating from his illness, he found his calling as a playwright, finding inspiration from such European dramatists as August Strindberg and later enrolling in a writing class at Harvard University. O'Neill had his first play produced in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in 1916: Bound East for Cardiff, a one-act play that was staged in New York later that year.
Also in 1916, O'Neill made a second attempt at domestic bliss. He married fellow writer Agnes Boulton, and the couple eventually had two children together, son Shane and daughter Oona. O'Neill took the theatrical world by storm in 1920 with Beyond the Horizon, which won a Pulitzer Prize. Later that year, another O'Neill masterpiece, The Emperor Jones, made its Broadway debut.
In 1922, O'Neill brought his drama Anna Christie to the Broadway stage; this tale of a prostitute's return home netted the playwright his second Pulitzer Prize.
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