Eugene O'Neill


Eugene Gladstone O'Neill

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

Eugene Gladstone O'Neill
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1936

Born: 16 October 1888, New York, NY, USA

Died: 27 November 1953, Boston, MA, USA

Residence at the time of the award: USA

Prize motivation: “for the power, honesty and deep-felt emotions of his dramatic works, which embody an original concept of tragedy”

Language: English

Eugene O'Neill received his Nobel Prize one year later, in 1937.

Prize share: 1/1


Eugene O’Neill was born in New York, the son of Irish immigrants. During his first seven years, the family accompanied the father, who was an actor, on tour. Then O’Neill was sent to a Catholic boarding school. The father was an alcoholic and his mother abused morphine, which she received as a painkiller when her son was born. Addiction is a recurring theme in O’Neill’s works. Before his breakthrough as a playwright, O’Neill lived an itinerant life. He mined gold in Honduras, worked at sea and had short-term jobs in Buenos Aires.


O’Neill was awarded the Pulitzer Prize three times, first for Beyond the Horizon (1920), his debut play. After his death O’Neill also received the award for his best known and most often produced work, Long Day’s Journey into Night. It was published five years after his death and had its world premiere at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm. The autobiographical play describes the dysfunctional Tyrone family grappling with addiction problems. In a writing career that revolves around human tragedies, Ah, Wilderness is O’Neill’s only well-known comedy.

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