19th Century Playwrights

Find out more about the greatest 19th Century Playwrights, including Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, T. S. Eliot, Jules Verne and Alexandre Dumas.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde
16
Famous As: Poet, Playwright
Birthdate: October 16, 1854
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Westland Row, Dublin, Ireland
Died: November 30, 1900

Widely regarded as one of the most popular writers of all time, Oscar Wilde is best remembered for his plays and epigrams. He was also one of the best-known personalities during his time as he was popular for his conversational skills, flamboyant dressing sense, and biting wit. Imprisoned in 1895 for consensual homosexual acts, Oscar Wilde was pardoned posthumously in 2017.

 2 Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo
6
Famous As: Novelist & Poet
Birthdate: February 26, 1802
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Besançon, France
Died: May 22, 1885

Victor Hugo was a French poet, dramatist, and novelist of the Romantic movement. Regarded as one of the best-known and greatest French writers of all time, Victor Hugo wrote abundantly during his career that spanned over six decades. Thanks to his works, such as Hernani and Cromwell, Victor Hugo was one of the leading figures of the Romantic literary movement.

 3 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
6
Famous As: Poet, Playwright, Novelist
Birthdate: August 28, 1749
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Goethe House, Frankfurt, Germany
Died: March 22, 1832

Regarded as the greatest literary figure in Germany's modern era, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a statesman and writer. Apart from writing poetry and prose, he also wrote treatises on color, anatomy, and botany. Thanks to his literary genius, Goethe was made part of the Duke's privy council in Weimar and he implemented several reforms at the University of Jena.

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 4 George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw
8
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: July 26, 1856
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Portobello, Dublin, Ireland
Died: November 2, 1950

Nobel Prize-winning playwright and author George Bernard Shaw was best known for his realism and his support for women’s rights and socialism. His ideas gave rise to the word “Shavian.” His drama Pygmalion inspired the musical My Fair Lady. His other notable works include Candida and Man and Superman.

 5 Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov
6
Famous As: Playwright, Short-story writer
Birthdate: January 29, 1860
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Taganrog, Russia
Died: July 15, 1904

Anton Chekhov was a Russian short-story writer and playwright. Widely regarded as one of the greatest writers of short fiction, Chekhov's works have influenced the progression of the modern short story. As a playwright, Anton Chekhov is credited with influencing the rise of modernism in theatre, along with August Strindberg and Henrik Ibsen.

 6 Alexander Pushkin

Alexander Pushkin
6
Famous As: Poet, playwright
Birthdate: June 6, 1799
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Moscow, Russia
Died: February 10, 1837
Legendary Russian playwright, poet, and novelist Alexander Pushkin is considered one of the most prominent figures of the Romantic era and of Russian literature. He is remembered for his poem Ode to Liberty, one of his works that led him to be exiled by Tsar Alexander I. 

 7 Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen
6
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: March 20, 1828
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Skien Municipality, Norway
Died: May 23, 1906

Henrik Ibsen was a Norwegian theatre director and playwright. One of the most influential and popular playwrights of his generation, Ibsen is credited with co-founding modernism in theatre, for which he is often called the father of realism. After William Shakespeare, Henrik Ibsen is the world's most often performed dramatist. His works have influenced other playwrights like George Bernard Shaw.

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 8 Nikolai Gogol

Nikolai Gogol
5
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: April 1, 1809
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Velyki Sorochyntsi, Ukraine
Died: March 4, 1852

Nikolai Gogol was a Ukrainian author who redefined Russian literature with his novels such as Dead Souls and his short stories such as The Overcoat and Diary of a Madman. Most of his works were influenced by Ukrainian folklore. He was typically fond of the grotesque as a literary element.

 9 Emile Zola

Emile Zola
6
Famous As: Novelist, Playwright
Birthdate: April 2, 1840
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 29, 1902

Emile Zola was a French novelist, journalist, and playwright. He played a key role in the development of theatrical naturalism and was a well-known practitioner of the literary school of naturalism. He was also a political journalist and was influential in the political liberalization of France. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature twice.

 10 Maxim Gorky

Maxim Gorky
6
Famous As: Writer, Political Activist
Birthdate: March 28, 1868
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
Died: June 18, 1936

Maxim Gorky was a writer and political activist. He is best remembered for founding the socialist realism literary method. Gorky, who was nominated for the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature on five occasions, published several novels that were later adapted into plays, films, and operas. In 1938, Valery Zhelobinsky adapted Gorky's novel Mother into an opera.

 11 Friedrich Schiller

Friedrich Schiller
4
Famous As: Poet, Playwright
Birthdate: November 10, 1759
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Marbach am Neckar, Germany
Died: May 9, 1805

Friedrich Schiller was a German poet, physician, philosopher, playwright, and historian. Schiller is best remembered for his friendship with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the two discussed issues concerning aesthetics. Schiller's discussions with Goethe paved the way for a period, which came to be known as Weimar Classicism. Friedrich Schiller is also widely regarded as Germany's most prominent classical playwright.

 12 August Strindberg

August Strindberg
4
Famous As: Father of Modern Swedish Literature and Author of 'The Red Room'
Birthdate: January 22, 1849
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Stockholm, Sweden
Died: May 14, 1912

August Strindberg was a Swedish playwright, painter, essayist, novelist, and poet. He wrote over 30 works of fiction and more than 60 plays in an illustrious career that spanned 40 years. Widely regarded as the father of modern Swedish literature, Strindberg is best remembered for his work The Red Room, which is considered the first modern Swedish novel.

 13 Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy
8
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: September 9, 1828
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Yasnaya Polyana, Yasnaya Polyana, Russia
Died: November 20, 1910

Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy, is widely considered as one of the greatest authors ever. After experiencing a profound moral crisis in the 1870s, Tolstoy went through a phase of spiritual awakening, which had a great impact on his subsequent works that incorporated ideas on nonviolent resistance. These works influenced personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, thereby effectively changing the course of history.

 14 Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas
6
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: July 24, 1802
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Villers-Cotterêts, France
Died: December 5, 1870

One of the most widely read French authors of all time, Alexandre Dumas was prolific in several genres. He joined the army as a young man and later became a full-time writer. Starting his writing career as a playwright, he moved on to writing novels. His novels have been adapted into nearly 200 films in the past century.

 15 Jules Verne

Jules Verne
8
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: February 8, 1828
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Nantes, France
Died: March 24, 1905
French author Jules Verne, also known as the “Father of Science Fiction,” is best remembered for his legendary adventure novels Journey to the Center of the Earth, Around the World in Eighty Days, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. He also became the world’s second most-translated writer since 1979.

 16 P B Shelley

P B Shelley
5
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 4, 1792
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Horsham, Sussex, England
Died: July 8, 1822
Legendary English Romantic poetry P.B. Shelley is remembered for his masterpieces such as Ode to the West Wind, To a Skylark, and Prometheus Unbound. He was known for his poetic imagery, and his popularity soared after his premature death due to drowning while boating at age 29. 

 17 Thornton Wilder

Thornton Wilder
3
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: April 17, 1897
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Madison, Wisconsin, United States
Died: December 7, 1975

 18 Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore
7
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: May 7, 1861
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Died: August 7, 1941

Rabindranath Tagore was an Indian polymath who contributed greatly to the fields of literature, art, and philosophy. Referred to as the Bard of Bengal, Tagore is credited with reshaping Bengali literature and music. The first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, Tagore is also credited with composing the national anthems of India and Bangladesh.

 19 W B Yeats

W B Yeats
4
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: June 13, 1865
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Sandymount, Ireland
Died: January 28, 1939
Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet, playwright, and prose writer W. B. Yeats is remembered as one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century. Known for works such as The Tower, he also helped establish the Abbey Theatre. An occult enthusiast, he was also part of The Ghost Club.

 20 Luigi Pirandello

Luigi Pirandello
3
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: June 28, 1867
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Agrigento, Italy
Died: December 10, 1936

Luigi Pirandello was an Italian novelist, short story writer, poet, and dramatist. Best remembered for his plays, Pirandello was honored with the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature in 1934. An Italian nationalist, Pirandello supported Fascism; he asked the Fascist government to melt down his Nobel Prize medal for the Abyssinia Campaign.

 21 Sir James Matthew Barrie

Sir James Matthew Barrie
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: May 9, 1860
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kirriemuir, Angus, Scotland
Died: June 19, 1937

Sir James Matthew Barrie was a Scottish playwright and novelist. He is credited and remembered for creating the famous fictional character, Peter Pan. In the 1922 New Year Honours, Barrie was made a member of the Order of Merit. Before his death, he gifted the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children with the rights of his Peter Pan works.

 22 Walter Scott

Walter Scott
4
Famous As: Novelist and Poet known for his Works Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, and The Lady of the Lake
Birthdate: August 15, 1771
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: September 21, 1832

Walter Scott was a Scottish novelist, poet, historian, and playwright. Scott's ability as a writer and his knowledge of history made him a pioneering figure in the formation of the historical novel genre. An influential writer, many of his works remain classics of Scottish as well as English-language literature. Scott was admired by other prominent writers like Letitia Elizabeth Landon.

 23 P G Wodehouse

P G Wodehouse
4
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: October 15, 1881
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Guildford, England
Died: February 14, 1975

 24 Honoré de Balzac

Honoré de Balzac
4
Famous As: Novelist and Playwright
Birthdate: May 20, 1799
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Tours, France
Died: August 18, 1850

Honoré de Balzac was a French playwright and novelist. Since his works gave a detailed, unfiltered representation of society, Honoré de Balzac is generally considered one of the founders of realism and an important figure in European literature. Renowned for creating multi-faceted characters, Balzac influenced several popular writers like Charles John Huffam Dickens, Émile Zola, Henry James, and Gustave Flaubert.

 25 George S. Kaufman

George S. Kaufman
3
Famous As: Theatre director, Screenwriter, Journalist, Playwright, Bridge player, Writer
Birthdate: November 16, 1889
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Pittsburgh
Died: June 2, 1961

 26 Vinayak Damodar Savarkar

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
6
Famous As: Independence Activist, Reformer
Birthdate: May 28, 1883
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bhagur
Died: February 26, 1966

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was an Indian politician and independence activist. He formulated the Hindu nationalist philosophy of Hindutva and was a leading figure in the Hindu Mahasabha. He was known for his strong oratory skills and was an eloquent writer. He was initially charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi but was later acquitted.

 27 J. B. Priestley

J. B. Priestley
4
Famous As: Novelist and Playwright
Birthdate: September 13, 1894
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
Died: August 14, 1984

 28 Frances Hodgson Burnett

Frances Hodgson Burnett
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: November 24, 1849
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Cheetham, Manchester, England
Died: October 29, 1924

 29 Ivan Turgenev

Ivan Turgenev
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: November 9, 1818
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Oryol, Russia
Died: September 3, 1883

It is believed Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev was highly inspired by his dominant mother in his younger days and thus created strong female characters in his novels later. He is remembered for popularizing Russian literature and realism in the West. One of his most notable works was Father and Sons.

 30 James Thurber

James Thurber
4
Famous As: Cartoonist, Author, Journalist & Playwright
Birthdate: December 8, 1894
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Columbus, Ohio, United States
Died: November 2, 1961

 31 Andre Gide

Andre Gide
4
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: November 22, 1869
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: February 19, 1951

Nobel Prize-winning French author Andre Gide is remembered for exhibiting the conflict between sexuality and the puritanical standards of society through his works. Much of his work was autobiographical and used the confessional format. A homosexual himself, he defended homosexuality through works such as Corydon.

 32 Guillaume Apollinaire

Guillaume Apollinaire
4
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 26, 1880
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: November 9, 1918

French poet Guillaume Apollinaire was a significant figure of the avant-garde movement. It is believed he had coined the terms Cubism, Surrealism, and Orphism. Known for his iconic poem Chanson du mal-aimé, written after being rejected by a lover, he also developed the typography-based concrete poetry in the collection Calligrammes.

 33 Ivor Novello

Ivor Novello
3
Famous As: Actor, Playwright, Composer, Writer, Screenwriter, Songwriter
Birthdate: January 15, 1893
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Cardiff
Died: March 6, 1951

 34 Georg Büchner

Georg Büchner
3
Famous As: Dramatist
Birthdate: October 17, 1813
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Riedstadt, Germany
Died: February 19, 1837

Part of the Young Germany movement, German dramatist and author Georg Büchner was a revolutionary and a master of Expressionist plays. Born to an army doctor, he studied medicine but also simultaneously participated in pamphleteering for social issues. He is remembered for works such as Danton’s Death and Woyzeck.

 35 Gabriele D'Annunzio

Gabriele D'Annunzio
4
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: March 12, 1863
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Pescara, Kingdom of Italy
Died: March 1, 1938

Known for literary works like Il Piacere and La Gioconda, Italian journalist, poet and playwright Gabriele D'Annunzio dominated the second period of Italian Decadentism. He became a national war hero during the First World War. His political endeavours include establishing and leading the short-lived Italian Regency of Carnaro in Fiume. He is often described as the forerunner of Italian fascism.  

 36 Miguel de Unamuno

Miguel de Unamuno
3
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: September 29, 1864
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bilbao
Died: December 31, 1936

Miguel de Unamuno was a Spanish essayist, poet, playwright, novelist, and philosopher. His most famous novel was Abel Sánchez: The History of a Passion, a modern retelling of the Biblical Cain and Abel story. He was a significant figure in the Spanish literary and intellectual circles and served as rector of the University of Salamanca. 

 37 Edgar Wallace

Edgar Wallace
3
Famous As: Multi-genre writer who is most famous for King Kong and the J. G. Reeder detective series
Birthdate: April 1, 1875
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Greenwich, Kent, England, united Kingdom
Died: February 10, 1932

 38 William Maugham

William Maugham
3
Famous As: Novelist & Playwright
Birthdate: January 25, 1874
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: December 15, 1965

 39 Adam Mickiewicz

Adam Mickiewicz
4
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: December 24, 1798
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Zavosse, Belarus
Died: November 26, 1855

Adam Mickiewicz was a Polish poet, dramatist, essayist, and political activist. He was a major figure in Polish Romanticism and considered one of Poland's "Three Bards." He has long been regarded as Poland's national poet and is often compared to Byron and Goethe. The vast majority of his work is available only in Polish and has been reprinted numerous times. 

 40 Dietrich Eckart

Dietrich Eckart
3
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: March 23, 1868
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz, Germany
Died: December 26, 1923

German anti-Semitic völkisch poet, playwright, journalist, publicist, and political activist Dietrich Eckart, one of Adolf Hitler's earliest mentors who Hitler acknowledged as the spiritual co-founder of Nazism, founded German Workers' Party, the precursor of Nazi Party. Eckart was the original publisher of the Nazi Party newspaper Völkischer Beobachter, and lyricist of Sturmlied, the de facto anthem of the Sturmabteilung.

 41 Preston Sturges

Preston Sturges
3
Famous As: Playwright, Director
Birthdate: August 29, 1898
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: August 6, 1959

 42 Sholem Aleichem

Sholem Aleichem
3
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: March 2, 1859
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Pereiaslav, Ukraine
Died: May 13, 1916

 43 Alexandre Dumas, fils

Alexandre Dumas, fils
3
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: July 27, 1824
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: November 27, 1895

 44 Lorenz Hart

Lorenz Hart
3
Famous As: Lyricist, Composer, Playwright, Songwriter, Librettist
Birthdate: May 2, 1895
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York City
Died: November 22, 1943

 45 Arnold Ridley

Arnold Ridley
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 7, 1896
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Bath, Somerset, England, UK [now Bath and North East Somerset, England, UK]
Died: March 12, 1984

 46 Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Edward Bulwer-Lytton
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: May 25, 1803
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: London, England
Died: January 18, 1873

 47 Ben Hecht

Ben Hecht
3
Famous As: Screenwriter
Birthdate: February 28, 1893
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: New York City, U.S.
Died: April 18, 1964

 48 W. S. Gilbert

W. S. Gilbert
3
Famous As: Dramatist
Birthdate: November 18, 1836
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Southampton Street, London, England
Died: May 29, 1911

 49 Oskar Kokoschka

Oskar Kokoschka
3
Famous As: Artist, Poet and Playwright
Birthdate: March 1, 1886
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Pöchlarn, Austria
Died: February 22, 1980

Austrian artist, playwright, poet and teacher Oskar Kokoschka CBE is counted among the prominent exponents of Expressionism whose works influenced the Viennese Expressionist movement. Notable works of Kokoschka include paintings like The Bride of the Wind and Portrait of Lotte Franzos and writings like the short play Murderer, the Hope of Women and the play Orpheus und Eurydike.   

 50 Arthur Schnitzler

Arthur Schnitzler
3
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: May 15, 1862
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: October 21, 1931

Born to a doctor, Arthur Schnitzler had initially followed in his father’s footsteps and practiced medicine, gaining expertise in psychiatry. He later made a mark as an author and playwright with works such as Anatol and None but the Brave, which became hallmarks of modernism and the decadent movement.