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Eugene O'Neill

It is a given among the Irish that "If the true history of the world were ever told - and it never will be - it would be told through myths and legends." Eugene Gladstone O'Neill, born in 1888 and dying sixty-five years later in 1953 - considered the "pre-eminent" American dramatist - was, in his heart and always, a product of his Celtic ancestry. From his first published-but-unproduced volume of one-acts, "Thirst" and Other Plays (1914), to his deliberately posthumous-produced masterworks Long Day's Journey Into Night and "Hughie," O'Neill exhibited an attitude toward storytelling that always gave first priority to the balance of mythic "truth" and realistic reproduction.

He came by his Celtic preoccupations honestly: Eugene O'Neill was born into an almost-classic example of the Irish-American first-generation immigrant household - complete with internal divisions of Art versus Domesticity and Upper v. Lower Class conflicts to dominate his development of a worldview. His father, James O'Neill, had been a poor "Shanty Irish" immigrant who, though risen to prominence by virtue of his acting talent in the turn-of-the-century American theater, always maintained a miserly attitude toward his possessions. His mother, Ellen Quinlan O'Neill, was of "Lace Curtain" Irish stock, a woman who once considered a vocation as a nun, instead marrying beneath her station the attractive theater artist in a moment of romantic whimsy. Eugene, their third child, was almost literally "born in a trunk" in a New York City actor's hotel while his father was dragging around the family on a tour of his most popular piece, playing the lead in a melodramatic stage version of Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. During the difficult pregnancy, O'Neill's mother, ever-ready to let her dissatisfaction with the current status quo be known, developed a morphine addiction resulting from over-medication prescribed by a quack doctor that fit father James' pinchpenny ...

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