A timeline of Eugene O'Neill


1888 O’Neill is born in New York. His father, James O’Neill, plays the titular character in The Count of Monte Cristo, a role he played for over 6,000 performance over three decades.

1895 O’Neill enters the strict Catholic boarding school St. Aloysius Academy for Boys.

1907 O’Neill is kicked out of Princeton University “for poor scholastic standing” and moves back to New York.

1912 O’Neill contracts tuberculosis and is inspired to become a playwright while in recovery.

1916 O’Neill joins a group of young writers and painters who launch an experimental theatre in Provincetown, Massachusetts. They produce his first one-act play, Bound East for Cardiff, one of many plays he will write about sailors or life at sea. The play debuts in New York on November 3.

1920 O’Neill’s first full-length play, Beyond the Horizon, is produced on Broadway at the Morosco Theater. The play goes on to win a Pulitzer Prize, the first of four in O’Neill’s career.

Production image of the The Hairy Ape, 1922

1922 The Hairy Ape is produced by Provincetown Players and transfers to Broadway later that year.

1922 Desire Under the Elms, about a woman who cements her bond to her stepson-lover by murdering their baby, premieres at the Greenwich Village Theater. The play is celebrated as “the first important tragedy to be written in America.”

1929 After two previous marriages, O’Neill marries Carlotta Monterey. They remained married for the rest of his life.

1931 O’Neill completes one of his most ambitious works, Mourning Becomes Electra, for which he adapts the Greek tragic myth Oresteia to 19th-century New England.

Carlotta Monterey and O’Neill, 1933

1933 Ah, Wilderness!, the only comedy by O’Neill, opens at the Guild Theatre on Broadway.

1936 O’Neill is awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, becoming the first (and currently the only) American dramatist to win the honour.

1941 O’Neill completes Long Day’s Journey Into Night, arguably his best-known play, which dramatises the embattled relationship of his parents. Due to the autobiographical content of the play, O’Neill requests that it isn’t performed until after his death.

1943 O’Neill’s daughter Oona, at 18, marries film star Charlie Chaplin, who is about the same age as her father. O’Neill rejects the marriage and never sees his daughter again.

1946 The Iceman Cometh opens on Broadway. It is the last Broadway production of an O’Neill play during his lifetime.

1953 Suffering from a neuromuscular disorder that has robbed him of the ability to write, O’Neill dies in the Shelton Hotel in Boston. He has written 50 plays and seen 35 of them produced.

1956 Long Day’s Journey Into Night opens at the Helen Hayes Theatre in New York. O’Neill receives a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for the play.

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