Eugene O’Neill (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: O’Neill is commonly considered a great American playwright, honored as a writer who experimented ambitiously in a variety of dramatic modes.
Eugene Gladstone O’Neill was born in a Broadway hotel at a corner of Times Square on October 16, 1888. His father, James O’Neill (1846-1920), came to the United States from Ireland when he was ten and established himself as a talented Shakespearean actor, expected to inherit the mantle of Edwin Booth. In 1883, the elder O’Neill opened as the protagonist Edmond Dantès in a dramatization of The Count of Monte-Cristo (1844-1845), by Alexandre Dumas, père. The play proved a spectacular success, and James O’Neill toured with it for the next fifteen years, earning up to forty thousand dollars annually to assuage his incessant fear of poverty. Later, the father came to believe that he had sacrificed his opportunity for greatness upon the altar of materialism. His son took this regret as a cautionary lesson and resolved never to compromise his artistic integrity for money.
Eugene’s mother, Ellen Quinlan O’Neill (1857-1922), was a devout Catholic, educated in a convent in South Bend, Indiana, where she won a medal for her piano-playing but seriously considered becoming a nun. She fell in love with the dashing James O’Neill when his company toured South Bend. She accompanied her husband on his road trips for many years, all...
(The entire section is 3121 words.)
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