Eugene O'Neill: Wikis


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Eugene O'Neill

Portrait of O'Neill by Alice Boughton
Born Eugene Gladstone O'Neill
October 16, 1888(1888-10-16)
New York City, New York, USA
Died November 27, 1953 (aged 65)
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Occupation Playwright
Nationality United States
Notable award(s) Nobel Prize in Literature (1936)
Spouse(s) Kathleen Jenkins (1909-1912)
Agnes Boulton (1918-1929)
Carlotta Monterey (1929-1953)

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

Statue of a young Eugene O'Neill on the waterfront in New London, Connecticut.

O'Neill was born in a Broadway hotel room in Times Square. 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 Ella 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.

O'Neill's first play, Bound East for Cardiff, premiered at this theatre on a wharf in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

It wasn't until his experience in 1912–13 at a sanatorium where he was recovering from tuberculosis that he decided to devote himself full time to writing plays. O'Neill had previously been employed by the New London Telegraph, writing poetry as well as reporting.

During the 1910s O'Neill was a regular on the Greenwich Village literary scene, where he also befriended many radicals, most notably Communist Labor Party founder John Reed. O'Neill also had a brief romantic relationship with Reed's wife, writer Louise Bryant. O'Neill was portrayed by Jack Nicholson in the 1981 film Reds about the life of John Reed.


His involvement with the Provincetown Players began in mid-1916. O'Neill is said to have arrived for the summer in Provincetown with "a trunk full of plays." Susan Glaspell describes what was probably the first ever reading of Bound East for Cardiff which took place in the living room of Glaspell and her husband George Cram Cook's home on Commercial Street, adjacent to the wharf (pictured) that was used by the Players for their theatre. Glaspell writes in The Road to the Temple, "So Gene took Bound East for Cardiff out of his trunk, and Freddie Burt read it to us, Gene staying out in the dining-room while reading went on. He was not left alone in the dining-room when the reading had finished." [4] The Provincetown Players performed many of O'Neill's early works in their theaters both in Provincetown and on MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village. Some of these early plays began downtown and then moved to Broadway.

Family life

O'Neill was married to Kathleen Jenkins from October 2, 1909 to 1912, during which time they had one son, Eugene Jr. (1910-1950). In 1917, O'Neill met Agnes Boulton, a successful writer of commercial fiction, and they married on April 12, 1918. The years of their marriage—during which the couple had two children, Shane and Oona—are described vividly in her 1958 memoir Part of a Long Story. They divorced in 1929, after O'Neill abandoned Boulton and the children for the actress Carlotta Monterey (born San Francisco, California, December 28, 1888— died Westwood, New Jersey, November 18, 1970). O'Neill and Carlotta married less than a month after he officially divorced his previous wife.[5]

In 1929, O'Neill and Monterey moved to the Loire Valley in central France, where they lived in the Château du Plessis in Saint-Antoine-du-Rocher, Indre-et-Loire. During the early 1930s they returned to the United States and lived in Sea Island, Georgia, at a house called Casa Genotta. He moved to Danville, California in 1937 and lived there until 1944. His house there, Tao House, is today the Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site.

O'Neill in the mid-1930s. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1936

O'Neill's first published play, Beyond the Horizon, opened on Broadway in 1920 to great acclaim, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. His best-known plays include Anna Christie (Pulitzer Prize 1922), Desire Under the Elms (1924), Strange Interlude (Pulitzer Prize 1928), Mourning Becomes Electra (1931), and his only well-known comedy, Ah, Wilderness!,[2][6] a wistful re-imagining of his youth as he wished it had been. In 1936 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. After a ten-year pause, O'Neill's now-renowned play The Iceman Cometh was produced in 1946. The following year's A Moon for the Misbegotten failed, and did not gain recognition as being among his best works until decades later.

He was also part of the modern movement to revive the classical heroic mask from ancient Greek theatre and Japanese Noh theatre in some of his plays, such as The Great God Brown and Lazarus Laughed.[7]

O'Neill was very interested in the Faust theme, especially in the 1920s.[8] He is also known for the very poetic names of many of his plays.

In their first years together, Monterey organized O'Neill's life, enabling him to devote himself to writing. However, she later became addicted to potassium bromide, and the marriage deteriorated, resulting in a number of separations. She was dramatic and shallow, but O'Neill needed her, and she needed him. Although they separated several times, they never divorced.

In 1943, O'Neill disowned his daughter Oona for marrying the English actor, director and producer Charlie Chaplin when she was 18 and Chaplin was 54. He never saw Oona again.

He also had distant relationships with his sons, Eugene, Jr., a Yale classicist who suffered from alcoholism, and committed suicide in 1950 at the age of 40, and Shane O'Neill, a heroin addict who also committed suicide.

Child Date of Birth Date of Death Notes
Eugene O'Neill, Jr 1910 1950
Shane O'Neil
Oona O'Neill 14/05/1925 27/09/1991

Illness and death

Grave of Eugene O'Neill

After suffering from multiple health problems (including depression and alcoholism) over many years, O'Neill ultimately faced a severe Parkinsons-like tremor in his hands which made it impossible for him to write during the last 10 years of his life; he had tried using dictation but found himself unable to compose in that way. While at Tao House, O’Neill had intended to write a cycle of 11 plays chronicling an American family since the 1800s. Only two of these, A Touch of the Poet and More Stately Mansions were ever completed. As his health worsened, O’Neill lost inspiration for the project and wrote three largely autobiographical plays, The Iceman Cometh, Long Day's Journey Into Night, and A Moon for the Misbegotten. He managed to complete Moon for the Misbegotten in 1943, just before leaving Tao House and losing his ability to write. Drafts of many other uncompleted plays were destroyed by Carlotta at Eugene’s request.

O'Neill died in Room 401 of the Sheraton Hotel on Bay State Road in Boston, on November 27, 1953, at the age of 65. As he was dying, he, in a barely audible whisper, spoke his last words: "I knew it. I knew it. Born in a hotel room, and God damn it, died in a hotel room."[9] The building would later become the Shelton Hall dormitory at Boston University. There is an urban legend perpetuated by students that O'Neill's spirit haunts the room and dormitory. A revised analysis of his autopsy report shows that, contrary to the previous diagnosis, he did not have Parkinson's disease, but a late-onset cerebellar cortical atrophy. [10]

He is interred in the Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.

Although his written instructions had stipulated that it not be made public until 25 years after his death, in 1956 Carlotta arranged for his autobiographical masterpiece Long Day's Journey Into Night to be published, and produced on stage to tremendous critical acclaim and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957. This last play is widely considered to be his finest. Other posthumously-published works include A Touch of the Poet (1958) and More Stately Mansions (1967).

Museums and collections

O'Neill's home in New London, Monte Cristo Cottage, was made a National Historic Landmark in 1971. His home in Danville, California, near San Francisco, was preserved as the Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site in 1976.

Connecticut College maintains the Louis Sheaffer Collection, consisting of material collected by the O'Neill biographer. The principal collection of O'Neill papers is at Yale University. The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut fosters the development of new plays under his name.


Beyond the Horizon, following a successful revival at Northampton's Royal & Derngate, opens at the National Theatre in London in April 2010


Full-length plays

One-act plays

The Glencairn Plays, all of which feature characters on the fictional ship Glencairn -- filmed together as The Long Voyage Home:

  • Bound East for Cardiff, 1914
  • In The Zone, 1917
  • The Long Voyage Home, 1917
  • Moon of the Caribbees, 1918

Other one-act plays include:

  • A Wife for a Life, 1913
  • The Web, 1913
  • Thirst, 1913
  • Recklessness, 1913
  • Warnings, 1913
  • Fog, 1914
  • Abortion, 1914
  • The Movie Man: A Comedy, 1914 [2][11]
  • The Sniper, 1915
  • Before Breakfast, 1916
  • Ile, 1917
  • The Rope, 1918
  • Shell Shock, 1918
  • The Dreamy Kid, 1918
  • Where the Cross Is Made, 1918

Other works

  • The Last Will and Testament of An Extremely Distinguished Dog, 1940. Written to comfort Carlotta as their "child" Blemie was approaching his death in December 1940.[12]

See also


  1. ^ The New York Times, August 25, 2003: 'Next year Playwrights Theater will present an unproduced O'Neill comedy, Now I Ask You, a comic spin on Ibsen's Hedda Gabler."
  2. ^ a b c The Eugene O'Neill Foundation newsletter: "Now I Ask You, along with The Movie Man, ... is the only surviving comedy from O’Neill’s early years."
  3. ^ Arthur Gelb (1957-10-17). "O'Neill's Birthplace Is Marked By Plaque at Times Square Site". The New York Times: pp. 35. Retrieved 2008-11-13. 
  4. ^ Susan Glaspell, (1927), The Road to the Temple, Frederick A. Stokes, New York, 2nd ed. 1941, p. 255
  5. ^ "Eugene O'Neill Wed to Miss Monterey". The New York Times: pp. 9. 1929-07-24. Retrieved 2008-11-13. 
  6. ^ The New York Times, Aug. 25, 2003: 'Next year Playwrights Theater will present an unproduced O'Neill comedy, Now I Ask You, a comic spin on Ibsen's Hedda Gabler."
  7. ^ Smith, Susan Harris (1984). Masks in Modern Drama. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 66–70, 106–08, 131–36, index S124. ISBN 0520050959. 
  8. ^ Floyd, Virginia (1985). "Chapter 2". Eugene O'Neill: A New Assessment. New York: F. Ungar Publishing. p. 180. ISBN 0804422060. 
  9. ^ Sheaffer, Louis. O'Neill: Son and Artist. Little, Brown & Co., 1973 ISBN 0316783374
  10. ^ "Eugene O'Neill - What Went Wrong?". Neuroscience for Kids. April 22, 2000. Retrieved 2009-02-12. 
  11. ^ Title as in original typescript and title page of Modern Library edition
  12. ^ O'Neill, Eugene; Adrienne Yorinks (1999). The Last Will and Testament of an Extremely Distinguished Dog (First ed.). New York: Henry Holt and Co. ISBN 0805061703. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 

Further reading

  • O'Neill, Eugene; Bogard, Travis (1988). Complete Plays 1913-1920. The Library of America. 40. New York: Literary Classics. ISBN 9780940450486. 
  • O'Neill, Eugene; Bogard, Travis (1988). Complete Plays 1920-1931. The Library of America. 41. New York: Literary Classics. ISBN 9780940450493. 
  • O'Neill, Eugene; Bogard, Travis (1988). Complete Plays 1932-1943. The Library of America. 42. New York: Literary Classics. ISBN 9780940450509. 
  • Black, Stephen A. (2002). Eugene O'Neill: Beyond Mourning and Tragedy. Yale University press. ISBN 0300093993. 
  • Clark, Barrett H. (November 1932). "Aeschylus and O'Neill". The English Journal XXI (9): 699–710. doi:10.2307/804473. 
  • Floyd, Virginia (editor) (1979). Eugene O'Neill: A World View. Frederick Unger. ISBN 0804422044. 
  • Floyd, Virginia (1985). The Plays of Eugene O'Neill: A New Assessment. Frederick Unger. ISBN 0804422060. 
  • Gelb, Arthur & Barbara (2000). O'Neill: Life with Monte Christo. Applause/Penguin Putnam. ISBN 0-399-14912-0. 
  • Sheaffer, Louis (2002 [1968]). O'Neill Volume I: Son and Playwright. Cooper Square Press. ISBN 0815412436. 
  • Sheaffer, Louis (1999 [1973]). O'Neill Volume II: Son and Artist. Cooper Square Press. ISBN 0815412444. 
  • Wainscott, Ronald H. (1988). Staging O'Neill: The Experimental Years. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-04152-7. 
  • Winther, Sophus Keith (1934). Eugene O'Neill: A Critical Study. New York: Random House. OCLC 900356. 
  • Clark, Barrett H. (1926). Eugene O'Neill: The Man and His Plays. Dover Publications, Inc. New York. 

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Warren S. Stone
Cover of Time Magazine
17 March 1924
Succeeded by
Raymond Poincaré


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Eugene O'Neill (16 October 188827 November 1953) American playwright.



The Straw (1919)

  • It's queer they'd be allowin' the sick ones to read books when I'll bet it's the same lazy readin' in the house bought the half of them down with the consumption itself.
    • Carmody: Act 1, Scene 2
  • Irish as a Paddy's pig.
    • Carmody: Act 1, Scene 2

Beyond the Horizon (1919)

  • Supposing I was to tell you that it's just Beauty that's calling me, the beauty of the far off and unknown, the mystery and spell of the East which lures me in the books I've read, the need of the freedom of great wide spaces, the joy of wandering on and on — in quest of the secret which is hidden over there, beyond the horizon?
    • Robert: Act 1, Scene 1
  • You mustn't feel sorry for me. Don't you see I'm happy at last — free — free! — freed from the farm — free to wander on and on — eternally! Look! Isn't it beautiful beyond the hills? I can hear the old voices calling me to come — And this time I'm going! It isn't the end. It's a free beginning — the start of my voyage! I've won to my trip — the right of release — beyond the horizon! Oh, you ought to be glad — glad — for my sake!
    • Robert: Act 3, Scene 2
One may not give one's soul to a devil of hate — and remain forever scatheless.

The Hairy Ape (1922)

  • We'd be making sail in the dawn, with a fair breeze, singing a chanty song wid no care to it. And astern the land would be sinking low and dying out, but we'd give it no heed but a laugh, and never look behind. For the day that was, was enough, for we was free men — and I'm thinking 'tis only slaves do be giving heed to the day that's gone or the day to come — until they're old like me.
    • Paddy: Scene 1
  • Is it one wid this you'd be, Yank — black smoke from the funnels smudging the sea, smudging the decks — the bloody engines pounding and throbbing and shaking — wid divil a sight of sun or a breath of clean air — choking our lungs wid coal dust — breaking our backs and hearts in the hell of the stokehole — feeding the bloody furnace — feeding our lives along wid the coal, I'm thinking — caged in by steel from a sight of the sky like bloody apes in the Zoo!
    • Paddy: Scene 1
  • Or rather, I inherited the acquired trait of the by-product, wealth, but none of the energy, none of the strength of the steel that made it. I am sired by gold and damned by it, as they say at the race track — damned in more ways than one.
    • Mildred: Scene 2
  • You seem to be going in for sincerity today. It isn't becoming to you, really — except as an obvious pose. Be as artificial as you are, I advise. There's a sort of sincerity in that, you know. And, after all, you must confess you like that better.
    • Aunt: Scene 2

Dynamo (1929)

  • We have electrocuted your God. Don't be a fool.
    • Act 2, Scene 1

Mourning Becomes Electra (1931)

  • Don't cry. The damned don't cry.
    • Page 253.

Days Without End (1933)

  • A credulous, religious-minded fool, as I've pointed out! And he carried his credulity into the next period of his life, where he believed in one social or philosophical Ism after another, always on the trial of Truth! He was never courageous enough to face what he really knew was true, that there is no truth for men, that human life in unimportant and meaningless. No. He was always grasping at some absurd new faith to find and excuse for going on!
    • Loving: Act 3, Scene 1.
  • One may not give one's soul to a devil of hate — and remain forever scatheless.
    • Father Baird: Act 3, Scene 1.
  • I listen to people talking about this universal breakdown we are in and I marvel at their stupid cowardice. It is so obvious that they deliberately cheat themselves because their fear of change won't let them face the truth. They don't want to understand what has happened to them. All they want is to start the merry-go-round of blind greed all over again. They no longer know what they want this country to be, what they want it to become, where they want it to go. It has lost all meaning for them except as pig-wallow. And so their lives as citizens have no beginnings, no ends. They have lost the ideal of the Land of the Free. Freedom demands initiative, courage, the need to decide what life must mean to oneself. To them, that is terror. They explain away their spiritual cowardice by whining that the time for individualism is past, when it is their courage to possess their own souls which is dead — and stinking! No, they don't want to be free. Slavery means security — of a kind, the only kind they have courage for. It means they need not to think. They have only to obey orders from owners who are, in turn, their slaves!
    • John: Act 3, Scene 2.

Long Day's Journey into Night (1955)

  • But I suppose life has made him like that, and he can't help it. None of us can help the things life has done to us. They're done before you realize it, and once they're done they make you do other things until at last everything comes between you and what you'd like to be, and you've lost your true self forever.
    • Page 63 (Act 2, Scene 1)
  • I hate doctors! They'll do anything — anything to keep you coming to them. They'll sell their souls! What's worse, they'll sell yours, and you never know it till one day you find yourself in hell!
    • Page 76 (Act 2, Scene 1)
  • It wasn't the fog I minded, Cathleen. I really love fog. It hides you from the world and the world from you. You feel that everything has changed, and nothing is what it seemed to be. No one can find or touch you any more. Its the foghorn I hate. It won't let you alone. It keeps reminding you, and warning you, and calling you back.
    • Page 100-101 (Act 3)
  • How thick the fog is. I can't see the road. All the people in the world could pass by and I would never know. I wish it was always that way. It's getting dark already. It will soon be night, thank goodness.
    • Page 104 (Act 3)
  • I haven't touched a piano in so many years. I couldn't play with such crippled fingers, even if I wanted to. For a time after my marriage I tried to keep up my music. But it was hopeless. One-night stands, cheap hotels, dirty trains, leaving children, never having a home — [She stares at her hands with fascinated disgust.] See, Cathleen, how ugly they are! So maimed and crippled! You would think they'd been through some horrible accident! [She gives a strange little laugh.] So they have, come to think of it. [She suddenly thrusts her hands behind her back.] I won't look at them. They're worse than the foghorn for reminding me — [Then with defiant self-assurance.] But even they can't touch me now. [She brings her hands from behind her back and deliberately stares at them — calmly.] They're far away. I see them, but the pain has gone.
    • Page 106 (Act 3)
  • It kills the pain. You go back until at last you are beyond its reach. Only the past when you were happy is real.
    • Page 107 (Act 3)
  • I'm as drunk as a fiddler's bitch
    • Page 158
  • Yes, I remember. I fell in love with James Tyrone and was so happy for a time
    • Page 179

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