Biography of Eugene O'Neill

Topics: Eugene O'Neill, The Iceman Cometh, 2007 Pages: 5 (1622 words) Published: April 28, 2009

Eugene Gladstone O’Neill was born in a New York City hotel room on 16th October, 1888,he son of famous actor James O’Neill and Ella O’Neill, spent the first seven years of his life touring with his father’s theater company. These years introduced O’Neill to the world of theater and the difficulties of maintaining artistic integrity. His father, once a well-known Shakespearean, had taken a role in a lesser play for its sizable salary. Family life was unstable. O'Neill's mother frequently accompanied her husband on tour and, although they had a long-standing summer home, Monte Cristo Cottage in New London, Connecticut, the family was constantly on the move. O’Neill spent the next seven years of his life receiving a strict Catholic education before attending a private secular school in Connecticut. . The greater instability came from James O'Neill's heavy drinking and Ella's addiction to morphine. This was discovered to O’Neill only at the age of 13. His brother Jamie, ten years his senior, was brilliant but erratic. Sexually perverted, drinking heavily, employed only spasmodically as an actor and constantly dependent on his father, he was a glamorous and influential figure for O’Neill’s. Though a bright student life, he was already caught up in a world of alcohol and prostitutes by the time he entered college. He eventually dropped out before finishing his first year at Princeton University. Though he would later enroll in a short class in playwriting at Harvard, this was the end of his formal education. After leaving Princeton University, between1909-12 he worked in an odd assortment of jobs and traveled extensively as a sailor. Exposure to working class people made a deep impression on O'Neill’s mind, and in later years his experiences helped him in creating his characters. In 1910 he fell in love with and married the first of three wives, Kathleen Jenkins., A secret marriage to Kathleen Jenkins resulted in a child, Eugene Junior, and the marriage ended unhappily, formally by divorce three years later. Eugene went on an unsuccessful gold prospecting expedition to Hondurasin and, over the next few years, largely supported by his father, lived in a variety of places, including, when in a state of destitution, Buenos Aires. In Buenos Aires he tried a succession of jobs..In 1912, living in a New York flophouse, he attempted suicide with veronal. In December, tuberculosis having been diagnosed, he entered Gaylord Sanatorium, where he stayed for five month. O’Neill returned to his parents’ home. It was there among the turmoil of a despondent father and a morphine-addicted mother, he became an emotionally turbulent person characterized by drunken sprees that was one reason that he decided to become a playwright. During his recuperation, O'Neill read voraciously. His reading ranged across the whole Western dramatic canon, but he devoted special attention to Ibsen, Wedekind, and above all, Strindberg He began to write in earnest, working on one-acts, full-length plays, and poetry. In 1916, Eugene O'Neill became involved with the people who would found the Provincetown Players. The Provincetown Players became vital to the start of O'Neill's career. The relationship was perfect: O'Neill got a venue for his plays, and gained valuable experience watching his plays acted out onstage. The company got a brilliant young playwright. O’Neill spent the next couple of years working primarily on one-act plays. In 1918 he married Agnes Boulton, and with her had two children, Shane and Oona. He continued to publish and produce his one-acts, but it was not until his play "Beyond the Horizon" (1920), that American audiences responded to his genius. The play won the first of three Pulitzer Prizes for O'Neill. Many saw in this early work a first step toward a more serious American theater. O’Neill’s poetic dialogue and insightful views into the lives of the characters held his work apart from the less sober...

Bibliography: • COMPLETE WORKS, 1924 (2 volumes)
• THE FOUNTAIN, 1922 (written, published in
• HAIRY APE, 1921 (written, published 1923)
• NINE PLAYS, 1932
• LONG DAY 'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, 1941 (written, published. 1955)
• PLAYS, 1941 (3 vols., revived
• ABORTION, 1913-1914 (written, published. 1958)
• 'LLE, 1916 (written, published
• THE ROPE, 1918 (written, published. 1919)
• THE ICEMAN COMETH, 1939 (written, published
• SELECTED LETTERS, 1988 (edited by Travis Bogard and Jackson R. Bryer)
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