Eugene O'Neill

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Eugene Gladstone O'Neill (16 October 1888 – 27 November 1953) was an American playwright, and Nobel laureate in Literature. His plays are among the first to introduce into American drama the techniques of realism, associated with Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, and Swedish playwright August Strindberg. His plays were among the first to include speeches in American vernacular and involve characters on the fringes of society, engaging in depraved behavior, where they struggle to maintain their hopes and aspirations, but ultimately slide into disillusionment and despair. O'Neill wrote only one well-known comedy (Ah, Wilderness!).[1][2] Nearly all of his other plays involve some degree of tragedy and personal pessimism.


Early years

O'Neill was born in a Broadway hotel room in Times Square, specifically the Barrett Hotel. The site is now a Starbucks (1500 Broadway, Northeast corner of 43rd & Broadway); a commemorative plaque is posted on the outside wall with the inscription: "Eugene O'Neill, October 16, 1888 ~ November 27, 1953 America's greatest playwright was born on this site then called Barrett Hotel, Presented by Circle in the Square."[3]

He was the son of Irish actor James O'Neill and Mary Ellen Quinlan. Because of his father's profession, O'Neill was sent to a Catholic boarding school where he found his only solace in books. O'Neill spent his summers in New London, Connecticut. After being suspended from Princeton University, he spent several years at sea, during which he suffered from depression and alcoholism. O'Neill's parents and elder brother Jamie (who drank himself to death at the age of 45) died within three years of one another, and O'Neill turned to writing as a form of escape. Despite his depression he had a deep love for the sea, and it became a prominent theme in most of his plays, several of which are set onboard ships like the ones that he worked on.

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