Eugene O’Neill plays, many of which explored everyday Americans living through desperate conditions, Eugene O’Neill won 4 Pulitzer Prizes (a still unmatched record for a playwright) and he, himself, received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1936.
Considered the father of American theater, Eugene O’Neill is recognized by many as the greatest American playwright paving the way for other renowned writers like Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller.
Nearly all of O’Neills plays involve some degree of tragedy and personal pessimism. Perhaps his greatest work “Long days Journey Into Night” is widely considered to be his magnum opus and one of the finest American plays of the 20th century. This autobiographical play follows the Tyrone family, consisting of parents James and Mary and their sons Edmund and Jamie. The “Long Day” refers to the setting of the play, which takes place during one day.
During the span of his career O’Neill penned more than fifty plays. We have compiled a list of the greatest Eugene O’neill plays for. you to enjoy reading and working on in class.
Greatest Eugene O’Neill Plays
Long Days Journey Into Night
This autobiographical play depicts one long, summer day in the life of the fictional Tyrone family, a dysfunctional household based on O’Neill’s actual family during his early life. This four act play was written between 1939-41 and considered to be the greatest American play of the twentieth century.
The Iceman Cometh
First published in 1946, about a group of drunks in a New York City bar in 1912. O’Neill tells the story of a number of alcoholic dead-enders who live together above a bar and what happens to them when the most successful of them embraces sobriety and reveals that he has been on the run after murdering his wife.
A Moon for the Misbegotten
The sequel to “Long Days Journey Into Night” that follows the life of an older Jamie Tyrone. O’Neill began writing this play in 1941 and finally completed it in 1943. This play was his final work and his failing health made it impossible for him to write.
Winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1922, Anna Christie tells the story of the title character separated from her father, reuniting with him in adulthood. Not knowing her daughter is now a prostitute her father becomes enraged when she tells him of her troubled past. Anna falls in love with a sailor who her father does not want her to marry.
Mourning Becomes Electra
Mourning Becomes Electra is divided into three plays with themes that correspond to the Oresteia trilogy. Published in 1931 the trilogy consists of Homecoming, The Hunted, and The Haunted. The plays are set during the American Civil War and the characters are modeled after the trilogy of Aeschylus.
The Hairy Ape
Produced in 1922, this expressionist play follows the unruly protagonist “Yank” as he searches for a sense of belonging in a world controlled by the rich. Angered that a rich mans daughter finds him beast like and repulsive, he starts to deteriorate mentally. As he searches for belonging we see the impact that wealth and social classes has on Yank.
Eugene O’Neills work will always be a a dominant force in American theater. His plays are still considered amongst the most difficult works for actors to tackle. It takes many actors years of dedication to the craft before attempting to tackle a Eugene O’neill play. Nevertheless, you should start working on the now! We hope you found this list of the greatest Eugene O’Neill plays helpful and resourceful!