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Timeline: Eugene O'Neill chronology

1877 - 1922 | 1923 - 1979  


Mary Ellen "Ella" Quinlan as a school girl June: James O'Neill, an established stage actor, marries Mary Ellen "Ella" Quinlan in New York. Later in the year a woman named Nettie Walsh files suit against James for divorce, contending they had been married in August 1871 and had a son together.


James O'Neill in The Count of Monte Cristo February 12: James O'Neill debuts as the lead actor in The Count of Monte Cristo. Lured by the play's commercial success, he will give more than 6,000 performances over three decades in the role that defines his career.


March 4: Edmund O'Neill, the 1-1/2-year-old child of James and Ella O'Neill, dies of the measles. Ella blames her older son, Jamie, for the death, believing that he intentionally exposed his brother to the disease.


Eugene O'Neill as a baby sitting in white dress October 16: Eugene Gladstone O'Neill is born in a Broadway hotel room in what will later be known as New York's Times Square. Ella O'Neill takes morphine to ease the pain of delivery, beginning a longtime addiction to the drug.

October 18: Two days after his son's birth, James O'Neill resumes his tour in The Count of Monte Cristo. As an infant, Eugene will join his father on tour, where he spends much of his early years.


September: Eugene O'Neill enters the strict Catholic boarding school St. Aloysius Academy for Boys. He will leave the Catholic Church as a teenager and never return.


September 20: O'Neill enrolls at Princeton University.


June: After a brief college career marked by drinking and womanizing, O'Neill is kicked out of school "for poor scholastic standing." He moves to New York, where he continues drinking and carousing with his brother Jamie.


Kathleen Jenkins O'Neill and Eugene O'Neill, Jr. as a baby October 2: O'Neill marries Kathleen Jenkins in a secret ceremony in Hoboken Trinity Church. Soon after, he sets sail for Honduras, on one of several long sea voyages he will take in the coming years. Kathleen will give birth to a son, Eugene O'Neill Jr., before the couple divorce in 1912.


Drinking heavily and living at Jimmy-the-Priest's boarding house and saloon in New York, O'Neill attempts suicide. In 1919 he will write Exorcism, a one-act play based on the suicide attempt.

O'Neill contracts tuberculosis and is inspired to become a playwright while reading during his recovery.


O'Neill joins a group of young writers and painters who launch an experimental theater 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.


Eugene holding Shane standing next to Agnes on beach at Provincetown April 12: O'Neill marries the writer Agnes Boulton. They will have two children, Shane and Oona, before O'Neill leaves Agnes for Carlotta Monterey, who will become his third wife.


Charles Gilpin in Eugene O'Neill's "The Emperor Jones" February 3: O'Neill's first full-length play, Beyond the Horizon, is produced on Broadway at the Morosco Theater. The play will win a Pulitzer Prize, the first of three in O'Neill's lifetime.

August 10: James O'Neill dies in New London, Connecticut, after confiding to Eugene that The Count of Monte Cristo cursed his career as an actor.

December 27: O'Neill's The Emperor Jones, which follows the destruction of an ex-Pullman porter who has seized control of a West Indian island, opens on Broadway. It features Charles Gilpin, the first African American to play a major role in a white American company.


February 28: Ella O'Neill dies in California of a brain tumor. His parents now deceased, O'Neill will soon begin to write about them through the characters in his plays.

May 21: Anna Christie, a play about a prostitute returning to her seafaring father and falling in love with a sailor, is awarded a Pulitzer Prize, O'Neill's second.

1877-1922 | 1923-1979  

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