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Eugene O'Neill
Playwright

1888 - 1953

I am far from being a pessimist ... On the contrary,
in spite of my scars, I am tickled to death at life!

                                                                  —Eugene O'Neill



Eugene (Gladstone) O'Neill was born in a Broadway hotel room in New York City on October 16, 1888. O'Neill won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1936, and Pulitzer Prizes for four of his plays: Beyond the Horizon (1920); Anna Christie (1922); Strange Interlude (1928); and Long Day's Journey Into Night (1957). O'Neill is credited with raising American dramatic theater from its narrow origins to an art form respected around the world. He is regarded as America's premier playwright.

O'Neill's father, James O'Neill, was one of 19th Century America's most popular actors. Young Eugene spent much of his early years on national tours with his father. In 1906 he entered Princeton University but was soon expelled. In 1909 he married, had a son, and was divorced within three years. By 1912, O'Neill had worked as a gold prospector in Honduras, as a seaman, and had become a regular at New York City's flophouses and cheap saloons. That year he became ill with tuberculosis, and was inspired to become a playwright while reading during his recovery.

O'Neill's career as a playwright consisted of three periods. His early realist plays utilize his own experiences, especially as a seaman. In the 1920s he rejected realism in an effort to capture on the stage the forces behind human life. His expressionistic plays during this period were influenced by the ideas of philosopher Freidrich Nietzsche, psychologists Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, and Swedish playwright August Strindberg. During his final period O'Neill returned to realism. These later works, which most critics consider his best, depend on his life experiences for their story lines and themes.

O'Neill continued to write until 1944 when he was stricken with a debilitating neurodegenerative disease known as "cortical cerebellar atrophy" which prevented further work. Despite his illness, O'Neill lived his life to the fullest. As a young man of 35, he wrote in a letter to a friend, "I am far from being a pessimist ... On the contrary, in spite of my scars, I am tickled to death at life! I wouldn't 'go out' and miss the rest of the play for anything!" A revival of his work in 1956 lead to the first production of "Long Day's Journey Into Night," for which he won his final Pulizer Prize posthumously in 1957.

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  Resources

•  Books By/About Eugene O'Neill
•  Eugene O'Neill Images
•  Videos About Eugene O'Neill
•  Related Websites
•  eText Versions of O'Neill's Work

     


  Books By/About Eugene O'Neill

  • The Cambridge Companion to Eugene O'Neill - Author: Michael Manheim (Editor)

    One of a series of companions to literature from Cambridge University Press.

    Click here to purchase this Hardcover edition of "The Cambridge Companion to Eugene O'Neill"


  • Eugene O'Neill: Beyond Mourning and Tragedy - Author: by Stephen A. Black

    Stricken with guilt and grief when his father, mother, and brother died in quick succession, young playwright Eugene O'Neill mourned deeply for two decades. This enlightening critical biography presents a remarkable new understanding of the O'Neill's life, work, and slow mourning.

    Click here to purchase this Hardcover edition of "Beyond Mourning and Tragedy"


  • Selected Letters of Eugene O'Neill - Author: by Eugene O'Neill, Travis Bogard (Editor), Jackson R. Bryer (Editor)

    Click here to purchase this Hardcover edition of "Selected Letters"


  • Long Days Journey into Night - Author: by Eugene O'Neill

    Completed in 1940, this autobiographical play was not to be released until 25 years after O'Neill's death. Since O'Neill's immediate family had died in the early 1920s, his wife allowed publication of the play in 1956. The play tells of the "Tyrones." Theirs is not a happy tale: The youngest son is sent to a sanitarium to recover from tuberculosis and despises his father for sending him; his mother is wrecked by narcotics; and his older brother by drink. In real-life these factors conspired to turn O'Neill into who he was—a tormented man and a brilliant playwright.

    Click here to purchase this Hardcover edition of "Long Days Journey into Night"


  • Three Plays: Desire Under the Elms, Strange Interlude, Mourning Becomes Electra - Author: by Eugene O'Neill

    These three plays exemplify Eugene O'Neil's ability to explore the limits of the human predicament, even as he sounds the depths of his audiences' hearts.

    Click here to purchase this Paperback edition of "Three Plays"


  • Four Plays: Beyond the Horizon, the Emperor Jones, Anna Christie, the Hairy Ape - Author: by Eugene O'Neill

    The first American dramatist to ever receive the Nobel Prize, Eugene O'Neill is the most renowned American playwright of the 20th century. Included in this edition are four plays from his extraordinary career: "Beyond the Horizon," "Anna Christie," "The Emperor Jones," known for its unusual stage devices and powerful use of symbolism, and "The Hairy Ape," one of O'Neill's experiments in expressionism.

    Click here to purchase this Hardcover edition of "Four Plays"


  Videos About Eugene O'Neill



  eText Versions of O'Neill's Work



  Related Websites

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Copyright © 1995-2014 Robin Chew
Article written by Robin Chew - October 1995