The Legacy of Eugene O’Neill

The only American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, Eugene O’Neill remains one of the greatest American dramatists of all time.

His legacy rests upon a series of plays that successfully turned the stage into a literary medium.

By the highpoint of O’Neill’s career during the 1920’s the American stage successfully competed with American fiction, painting and music.

Imbuing his craft with his intensely personal sense of self derived from his fraught and tragic familial relationships, O’Neill produced works filled with a tragic sense of life framed as contemporary drama with roots in ancient Greek tragedy.

For approximately twenty years, O’Neill produced noteworthy masterpieces ranging from Mourning Becomes Electra and Long Day’s Journey into Night, helping to give Broadway a more serious and distinctively American luster.

Powered by his own fraught familial background and relationships, O’Neill was able to use his own troubled past as one of two sons of a successful Shakespearean actor turned entrepreneur to produce literary masterpieces framed for the stage.

Growing up literally backstage in the turbulent world of the theater, O’Neill was exposed early on to all that all the world had to offer.

Offered the privilege of attending the finest boarding schools and eventually the opportunity of matriculating into Princeton University, O’Neill was however disillusioned with the high tower of academia embarking on his real education in “life experience” after only one year of schooling at Princeton.

Having explored the world at sea — and suffered a great deal — O’Neill found rebirth as a writer of plays.