Eugene O’Neill Biography

Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

ph_0111200567-Oneill.jpg Eugene O’Neill Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Eugene Gladstone O’Neill was born in the Barrett Hotel in New York City in 1888, son of James O’Neill, an actor celebrated for his portrayal of the count of Monte Cristo, and Ella Quinlan O’Neill, a sensitive woman who became a narcotics addict shortly after Eugene’s birth. His older brother Jamie was Eugene’s early idol; another brother, Edmund, had died in infancy, evoking a great guilt in his mother. As a child, Eugene toured much of the year with his parents and spent the summers in New London, Connecticut. At the age of seven, partly to protect him from knowledge of his mother’s drug addiction, he was sent to a boarding school outside New York City. Lonely and frightened, he retreated to his imagination and into the world of books. The discovery of his mother’s addiction, when he was almost fifteen, was traumatic; it resulted in his rejection of the Catholic faith and infused his life thereafter with grief for her suffering and guilt for his part in it.

After a year at Princeton University, O’Neill prospected for gold in Honduras, leaving behind a pregnant wife, Kathleen Jenkins, who named their son Eugene, Jr. Shortly after O’Neill’s return, he shipped out to Buenos Aires on the Charles Racine, one of the last sailing ships. The two-month voyage was a high point in his life, and the sea figures prominently in many of his plays, from Bound East for Cardiff (1916) to Long Day’s Journey into Night (1956). Back in New York, he drifted aimlessly, drinking and loafing in saloons such as Jimmy-the-Priest’s, which became the setting for Anna Christie (1921) and The Iceman Cometh (1946). Eventually, after cooperatively providing Kathleen with grounds for a divorce, he fell into a deep depression, culminating in a suicide attempt.

When he recovered, his father found him a job as a reporter on the New London Telegraph, but after a few months O’Neill contracted tuberculosis and spent the first half of 1913 at Gaylord Farm Sanatorium in Wallingford, Connecticut. Perhaps it was this confrontation with mortality that encouraged him to focus his literary talents. He wrote several one-act plays and in the fall of 1914 enrolled in...

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Eugene O’Neill Biography (Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Eugene Gladstone O’Neill’s parents were James O’Neill, an actor imprisoned by the material success of his role as the Count of Monte Cristo, and Ellen Quinlan O’Neill, a romantic and idealistic woman similarly trapped for much of her life by an addiction to morphine. The complex psychologies of O’Neill’s parents and his brother, and the relationships among all the family members, figure significantly as subjects of many of O’Neill’s best plays, particularly Long Day’s Journey into Night. Educated in Catholic schools, O’Neill entered Princeton University in 1906 but left before a year was over. His travels in 1910 and 1911 to South America and England provided background for his early plays of the sea, several of which he wrote during a six-month hospitalization for tuberculosis in 1912. The following year, he participated in George Pierce Baker’s Workshop 47 at Harvard University, where he formally studied playwriting. O’Neill was married three times: to Kathleen Jenkins in 1909, to Agnes Boulton in 1918, and to Carlotta Monterey in 1929. He had three children: Eugene, Jr., who was born to the first marriage and who committed suicide in 1950; and Shane and Oona, who were born to the second marriage. O’Neill won four Pulitzer Prizes for his plays: in 1920 for Beyond the Horizon, in 1922 for Anna Christie, in 1928 for Strange Interlude, and in 1957 for Long Day’s Journey into Night. In 1936, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Although ill for the last seventeen years of his life, O’Neill wrote several of his finest plays during that period.

Eugene O’Neill Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The American playwright Eugene Gladstone O’Neill is often regarded as the most important twentieth century writer for the theater. He was the son of the popular melodramatic actor James O’Neill and his wife, Ellen (Ella) Quinlan O’Neill. In O’Neill’s posthumous and frankly autobiographical play Long Day’s Journey into Night (completed by 1941 but neither published nor produced until 1956) the father appears as an improvident bohemian, lavish in speculation and with boon companions but parsimonious and unsatisfactory as the head of a family. The mother appears as a loving, somewhat conventional woman wrecked by a morphine addiction contracted during an illness and encouraged by the disorderliness of the domestic establishment.

As a young man, O’Neill was unhappy and rebellious. He sometimes accompanied his father on tour. He was educated at Mount Saint Vincent Catholic Boarding School, 1895-1900, and at Bett’s Academy in Stamford, Connecticut, 1900-1906. He enrolled in Princeton University in 1906 but was dismissed at the end of his first year and spent five years as a drifter. As a common sailor he went on voyages to Honduras, South America, and Europe, and in 1912 he worked briefly in New London, Connecticut, as a reporter on the Telegraph. O’Neill married Kathleen Jenkins in 1909, and they had a son, Eugene, in 1910, before divorcing in 1912.

The six months O’Neill spent at Gaylord Farm tuberculosis sanatorium, beginning on December 24, 1912, marked the turning point in his life. In the hospital he read widely in the modern drama; profoundly impressed by Henrik Ibsen and, even more, August Strindberg, he determined to become a playwright. Beginning in 1914 he spent some time as a student in George Pierce Baker’s dramatic workshop at Harvard University. That same year he published his first book, Thirst, and Other One-Act Plays. In 1916 he moved to Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he saw one of his plays produced for the first time. An amateur group calling itself the Provincetown Players acted his short romantic melodrama, Bound East for Cardiff, first at Provincetown, then at its tiny theater in New York’s Greenwich Village.

While living in Greenwich Village in the fall of 1917, O’Neill met Agnes Boulton, whom he married the following spring. He and his wife had two children, Shane, born in 1919, and Oona, born in 1926, who later married Charlie Chaplin. It was during his marriage to Boulton that O’Neill wrote his greatest plays.

His first play was followed by other one-act melodramas, based, like the first, on his experience as a sailor, and in 1920 his first full-length, professionally produced play, Beyond the Horizon, won the Pulitzer Prize. He would receive this award again in 1921 for Anna Christie. Passionately committed to his task and extremely prolific, he was soon turning out a rapid succession of plays,...

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Eugene O’Neill Biography (Drama for Students)

Eugene O'Neill Published by Gale Cengage

In 1888, Eugene O'Neill was born in New York City to a theatrical family. His father was the noted actor James O'Neill, who became famous for...

(The entire section is 401 words.)

Eugene O’Neill Biography (Drama for Students)

Eugene O'Neill Published by Gale Cengage

Eugene O’Neill was born on October 16, 1888, in New York City, to James and Mary Ellen O’Neill. The O’Neills led a transient life as...

(The entire section is 309 words.)

Eugene O’Neill Biography (Drama for Students)

O'Neill was born on October 16, 1888, in New York City, the son of a successful touring actor. His early life was spent on the road, a...

(The entire section is 589 words.)

Eugene O’Neill Biography (Drama for Students)

It was because Long Day's Journey into Night was so transparently autobiographical that Eugene O'Neill forbade the play's production...

(The entire section is 692 words.)

Eugene O’Neill Biography (Drama for Students)

On October 16, 1888 Eugene O'Neill was born in a hotel on Broadway in New York City. His father was a professional actor, and O'Neill lived...

(The entire section is 558 words.)

Eugene O’Neill Biography (Drama for Students)

Apparently destined for a life in the theatre, Eugene O’Neill was not only born the son of an extremely popular American stage actor, James...

(The entire section is 479 words.)

Eugene O’Neill Biography (Drama for Students)

Eugene O’Neill was born on October 16, 1888, in New York City, the youngest son of James (an actor) and Ella Quinlan O’Neill. O’Neill...

(The entire section is 490 words.)

Eugene O’Neill Biography (Drama for Students)

Eugene O’Neill was born on October 16, 1888, in New York City to James and Mary Ellen O’Neill. The O’Neill’s led a transient life as...

(The entire section is 319 words.)

Eugene O’Neill Biography (Drama for Students)

Eugene O’Neill Published by Gale Cengage

Eugene O’Neill was born on October 16, 1888, in New York City, into a dysfunctional family. O’Neill’s mother, Mary, became addicted to...

(The entire section is 458 words.)