John Patrick Shanley

John Patrick Shanley

“Doubt requires more courage than conviction does, and more energy; because conviction is a resting place and doubt is infinite – it is a passionate exercise. You may come out of my play uncertain. You may want to be sure. Look down on that feeling. We’ve got to learn to live with a full measure of uncertainty. There is no last word. That’s the silence under the chatter of our time. ” 
― John Patrick Shanley, Doubt, a Parable

Welcome to the page of playwright John Patrick Shanley. Here you will find all plays, articles, monologues and media Shanley related.

John Patrick Shanley is an American playwright, screenwriter, and director. He won the 1988 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film Moonstruck. In 2005 he was awarded the prestiges Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his film Doubt Starring Meryl Streep and Philipp Seymour Hoffman. He is one of the more prominent modern playwrights with well known works such as “dreamer examines his pillow”, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, Women of Manhattan and Italian American reconciliation.

Shanley’s work is characterized by its exploration of the human condition, highlighting the complexities and nuances of relationships, personal struggles, and the search for meaning in life. His unique writing style and innate understanding of character development have garnered him a devoted following and cemented his place among the most influential creative minds of his generation. This introduction serves as a brief overview of Shanley’s remarkable journey, delving deeper into his background, achievements, and contributions to the world of theater and film.

Early Life and Education


John Patrick Shanley was born on October 3, 1950, in The Bronx, New York City, to a tight-knit Irish-American family. His upbringing in a working-class neighborhood provided him with a strong foundation for understanding the struggles and aspirations of everyday people, which would later become a central theme in many of his works. Shanley’s childhood experiences, coupled with the rich cultural heritage of his family, played a crucial role in shaping his artistic voice and creative sensibilities.


Shanley’s educational journey began at St. Helena’s Elementary School and continued at Cardinal Spellman High School, both Catholic institutions. These formative years exposed him to various aspects of Catholic doctrine and teachings, which would later influence some of his stories, most notably “Doubt: A Parable.” His passion for theater and storytelling led him to New York University, where he pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree in educational theater. This academic experience equipped Shanley with the necessary skills and knowledge to refine his craft and embark on a successful career in the world of theater, film, and television.

Early Works

Shanley’s journey in playwriting began in the early 1980s, with his first play, “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea,” which premiered in 1984. This powerful drama showcased Shanley’s talent for creating deeply flawed, yet sympathetic characters.

John Patrick Shanley Plays

Throughout his career, Shanley has written numerous critically acclaimed plays, including “Savage in Limbo,” “Italian American Reconciliation,” and “Doubt: A Parable.” The latter play, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play, explores themes of faith, suspicion, and morality.

doubt a parable

Doubt: A parable

Doubt, A Parable is a 2004 play by John Patrick Shanley. Originally staged off-Broadway on November 23, 2004. The play is set in the fictional St. Nicholas Church School, in the Bronx, during the fall of 1964 where a strong-minded woman wrestles with conscience and uncertainty as she is faced with concerns about one of her male colleagues. The play won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play.

Danny and the deep blue sea

Danny And The Deep Blue Sea

A heartbreaking love story about Danny and Roberta who discover each other in a Bronx dive bar while each seeking refuge from society. Damaged and broken, they spark up a conversation over a beer which ultimately results in them spending a night together.

Italian American reconciliation

Italian American Reconciliation

Italian American Reconciliation premiered Off-Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club in 1988. Set in Little Italy in lower Manhattan we enter the lives of Aldo’s lovesick friend, Huey, his current girlfriend, Teresa, and his ex-wife, Janice. Huey Maximilian Bonfigliano has a problem: While he is safely divorced from his shrewish first wife, Janice, who shot his dog and even took a bead on him, he feels he cannot regain his “manhood” until he woos and wins her one more time—if only to put his broken marriage behind him once and for all. He enlists the aid of his lifelong buddy, Aldo Scalicki, a confirmed bachelor who tries, without apparent success, to convince Huey that he would be better off sticking with his new lady friend, Teresa, a usually placid young waitress whose indignation flares when she learns what Huey is up to. 

the dreamer examines his pillow

The Dreamer Examines His Pillow

Tommy and Donna recently broke up but still want to be with each other. Donna is enraged because Tommy, a would-be artist, is now having an affair with her younger sister. Donna then enlists her father to go to Tommy and force him to marry her which leads to a truce through a wild discussion about art and women.

John Patrick Shanley plays

Prodigal Son

A 17-year-old boy from the Bronx suddenly finds himself in a private school in New Hampshire. He’s violent, gifted, alienated, and on fire with a ferocious loneliness. Two faculty members wrestle with the dilemma: Is the kid a star or a disaster? A passionate, explosive portrait of a young man on the verge of salvation or destruction.

outside Mullingar

Outside Mullingar

Outside Mullingar ran on broadway in 2014 and is a compassionate, delightful work about how it’s never too late to take a chance on love. Set in the Midlands of Ireland, and involves two farmers, Anthony and Rosemary, who live next to each other. Rosemary has been romantically interested in Anthony her entire life. Anthony, who is shy and unaware of Rosemary’s feelings, dislikes farming, so his father intends to leave the farm to a nephew.

savage in limbo

Savage In Limbo

Savage Limbo is a 198 play that follows the tragic lives of a group of losers who frequent a seedy Bronx bar. They have empty lives but they talk about changing for the better. Tony and Linda (who have two children although unwed) question their relationship. “All of them are 32 years old and they can hear the clock ticking with little to show for their dead end lives of not-so-quiet desperation.

John Patrick Shanley plays

Women Of Manhattan

Women of Manhattan premiered Off-Broadway  at the City Center Theater on May 26, 1986. The play revolves around the lives of three women who are living in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Rhonda has recently split with her boyfriend, Billie is married, and Judy often unknowingly dates men who turn out to be gay.

Screenwriting Career

Successful Movies

John Patrick Shanley’s foray into the world of cinema has been as remarkable as his work in theater. His screenwriting career boasts an impressive list of critically acclaimed movies that have touched the hearts of audiences worldwide. One of his most notable works is the cult classic “Moonstruck,” a romantic comedy that showcases Shanley’s flair for witty dialogue and unforgettable characters. This film, starring Cher and Nicolas Cage, not only captivated audiences but also earned Shanley an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Another significant accomplishment in his screenwriting career is the film adaptation of his own play, “Doubt.” The movie, featuring powerhouse performances by Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis, received critical acclaim for its thought-provoking narrative and strong character development.

Awards and Recognition

Throughout his career, John Patrick Shanley’s exceptional screenwriting has garnered him numerous accolades and recognition from both audiences and critics alike. In addition to the Academy Award he received for “Moonstruck,” Shanley has also been nominated with a Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay and a BAFTA nomination for the same film. These prestigious awards not only highlight his skill as a screenwriter but also underscore his versatility as a storyteller, adept at weaving narratives that resonate across different mediums. Shanley’s ability to create captivating stories and memorable characters has solidified his status as one of the most talented and respected screenwriters in the industry.

Directing Endeavors

John Patrick Shanley’s creative pursuits have not been limited to writing; he has also explored the realm of directing, further showcasing his versatility as an artist. His directorial debut came in the form of the quirky romantic comedy “Joe Versus the Volcano,” starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. The film, with its unique blend of humor and fantasy, demonstrated Shanley’s ability to translate his distinct storytelling style to the big screen, captivating audiences with its imaginative narrative.

Shanley’s most notable directorial effort is undoubtedly the film adaptation of his critically acclaimed play “Doubt.” By taking the helm as both writer and director, Shanley was able to maintain the integrity of the original story while skillfully adapting it for a cinematic audience. The film received widespread praise for its powerful performances, thought-provoking themes, and compelling storytelling. It went on to earn several award nominations, including Academy Award nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director.

These directing endeavors have further cemented John Patrick Shanley’s reputation as a multifaceted artist capable of seamlessly transitioning between different creative roles. His keen eye for detail, strong visual storytelling, and ability to elicit powerful performances from his actors make him a formidable force in both the world of theater and film.

Writing Style and Themes

John Patrick Shanley’s writing is celebrated for its emotional depth, sharp wit, and poetic language, setting him apart as a truly gifted storyteller. His works delve into the complexities of human relationships and experiences, often exploring themes such as love, identity, and the search for meaning in an increasingly complex world. By creating narratives that strike a balance between universal truths and deeply personal experiences, Shanley has managed to captivate and resonate with audiences worldwide.

Emotional Depth and Poetic Language

One of the defining features of Shanley’s writing is the emotional depth he brings to his stories. His characters are often relatable and authentic, allowing the audience to connect with their struggles and aspirations on a profound level. Shanley’s use of poetic language adds a layer of beauty and nuance to his narratives, creating a rich tapestry of emotions that engages the reader or viewer from start to finish.

Exploration of Universal Themes

Shanley’s work delves into themes that are both timeless and relevant, providing insight into the human condition and our collective experiences. His exploration of love, identity, and the quest for meaning transcends cultural and social boundaries, making his stories universally appealing. Shanley’s ability to craft narratives that resonate with audiences from all walks of life demonstrates his keen understanding of the human experience and his exceptional talent as a writer.

Personal Touch and Authenticity

A hallmark of Shanley’s writing is the deeply personal touch he brings to his stories. Drawing from his own experiences, he infuses his work with a sense of authenticity that is both engaging and relatable. His characters often grapple with challenges and emotions that are rooted in reality, providing a window into the lives of everyday people and their pursuit of happiness, understanding, and self-discovery.

In conclusion, John Patrick Shanley’s unique writing style, characterized by emotional depth, poetic language, and an exploration of universal themes, has made him a beloved figure in the world of theater and cinema. His ability to create narratives that are both deeply personal and universally appealing has earned him a well-deserved place among the great American playwrights and screenwriters.

Personal Life

Shanley has always maintained a low profile regarding his personal life. He has two siblings, Brian and Eileen Shanley, and is the father of a son named Nicholas. Despite his private nature, Shanley has been open about the influence of his upbringing and experiences on his work.

Legacy and Impact

John Patrick Shanley’s multifaceted career has left an indelible mark on the world of theater and film. His thought-provoking stories and memorable characters continue to inspire new generations of artists and audiences alike. His ability to blend humor and drama, along with his unique storytelling style, has solidified Shanley’s place among the great American playwrights and screenwriters.

Interesting Facts about John Patrick Shanley

Shanley served in the U.S. Marine Corps before pursuing his career in writing.

Shanley’s plays have been translated into over 20 languages.

Shanley was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by New York University in 2009.

John Patrick Shanley’s powerful storytelling, combined with his versatility as a playwright, screenwriter, and director, has earned him a well-deserved place in the pantheon of great American artists. With his captivating stories and unforgettable characters, Shanley’s work will continue to inspire and entertain audiences for years to come.

Below you will find links to monologues from John Patrick Shanley plays.

John Patrick Shanley Monologues

John Patrick Shanley Monologues

One of the more prominent modern playwrights who’s work is worked on by actors in drama schools all over the world. For that reason we have compiled a list of Shanley Monologues to help you with some material to work on in class.

We had the honor of interviewing Mr. Shanley for our We Are Actors Podcast. Below is the full interview and clips from our interview. We Hope you enjoy!

YouTube video
YouTube video
YouTube video
YouTube video
John Patrick Shanley Talks Italian American Reconciliation

John Patrick Shanley FAQs

What is John Patrick Shanley’s most famous work?

“Doubt: A Parable” is arguably Shanley’s most famous work, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play.

What awards has Shanley won for his screenwriting?

Shanley has won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for “Moonstruck,” as well as a Golden Globe and a BAFTA nomination.

What are some of Shanley’s major themes in his work?

Shanley’s work often explores themes of love, identity, and the search for meaning in a complex world.

Did John Patrick Shanley direct any of his own plays or screenplays?

Yes, Shanley directed the film adaptation of his play “Doubt” and the feature film “Joe Versus the Volcano.”

Has Shanley worked on any musical adaptations of his plays?

Yes, Shanley collaborated with composer Douglas J. Cuomo to create an opera of Shanley’s Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Doubt.

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