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.
14
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.
5
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.

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 3 T. S. Eliot

T. S. Eliot.
5
Famous As: Poet, Essayist, Playwright
Birthdate: September 26, 1888
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died: January 4, 1965
American-born British poet T. S. Eliot is best remembered for his poems The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Waste Land, and Ash Wednesday, and his plays such as Murder in the Cathedral. He won the Nobel Prize for literature and became a prominent figure of Modernist poetry.  

 4 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
5
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.

 5 George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw.
5
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.

 6 Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov.
5
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.

 7 Bertolt Brecht

Bertolt Brecht.
5
Famous As: Poet, Playwright
Birthdate: February 10, 1898
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Augsburg, German Empire
Died: August 14, 1956

German playwright, poet, and theater director, Bertolt Brecht, is best known for co-writing the play, The Threepenny Opera, with Kurt Weill. Growing up in war-torn Germany in the early 20th century, he had a difficult life. A hardcore Marxist, he lived in exile during the Nazi period. He returned to Germany after the war and established a theater company.

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 8 Eugene O'Neill

Eugene O'Neill.
5
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: October 16, 1888
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City, New York, U.S.
Died: November 27, 1953

Eugene O'Neill was an American playwright whose works earned him several prestigious awards, including four Pulitzer Prizes for Drama and the 1936 Nobel Prize in Literature. His play Long Day's Journey into Night is frequently named among the 20th century's finest American plays. In the 1981 film Reds, Eugene O'Neill is played by actor Jack Nicholson.

 9 Alexander Pushkin

Alexander Pushkin.
5
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. 

 10 Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen.
5
Famous As: Playwright, Poet.
Birthdate: March 20, 1828
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Skien
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.

 11 Federico García Lorca

Federico García Lorca.
5
Famous As: Poet, playwright
Birthdate: June 5, 1898
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Fuente Vaqueros, Spain
Died: August 19, 1936

Federico García Lorca was a Spanish poet, playwright, and theater director. He was a prominent member of the Generation of '27, a group of poets who essentially worked with avant-garde forms of art and poetry. He was homosexual and had a love affair with sculptor Emilio Aladrén. He mysteriously disappeared at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.

 12 Emile Zola

Emile Zola.
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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.

 13 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.

 14 Sir Noël Peirce Coward

Sir Noël Peirce Coward.
5
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: December 16, 1899
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Teddington, England
Died: March 26, 1973

Sir Noël Peirce Coward was an English composer, playwright, singer, director, and actor. Renowned for his flamboyance and wit, Coward's style and work continue to influence popular culture. A recipient of several prestigious awards, including an Academy Honorary Award, Coward did not acknowledge his homosexuality publicly, although it was later discussed by biographers like Graham Payn.

 15 Jean Cocteau

Jean Cocteau.
4
Famous As: Novelist, Poet, Artist & Filmmaker
Birthdate: July 5, 1889
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Maisons-Laffitte, France
Died: October 11, 1963
While Jean Cocteau preferred calling himself a poet, his multidimensional works consisted of novels such as Les Enfants Terribles and films directed by him such as La Belle et la Bête. Cocteau relied on motifs such as eyes, blood, and mirrors, and mingled mythology and modernism.

 16 Maxim Gorky

Maxim Gorky.
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Famous As: Writer & Dramatist
Birthdate: March 28, 1868
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Nizhny Novgorod, Russian Empire
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.

 17 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.

 18 August Strindberg

August Strindberg.
4
Famous As: Novelist
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.

 19 Jules Verne

Jules Verne.
8
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: February 8, 1828
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Nantes
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.

 20 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.

 21 D. H. Lawrence

D. H. Lawrence.
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: September 11, 1885
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Eastwood, England
Died: March 2, 1930

English writer, D. H. Lawrence, was known for exploring sensitive issues, such as sexuality, emotional health,  and instinct. In his works, he often reflected upon the dehumanizing effects of modernity and industrialization. The sexual nature of his writings earned him many enemies. Even though he died at the relatively young age of 44, he left behind a rich literary legacy.

 22 Henry James

Henry James.
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: April 15, 1843
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York City
Died: February 28, 1916

Henry James was an author, regarded as one of the greatest novelists ever to write in the English language. One of his novellas titled The Turn of the Screw has been the most analyzed ghost story in the history of English language literature. While his works have been adapted into films, he has been the subject of several other stories.

 23 Luigi Pirandello

Luigi Pirandello.
3
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: June 28, 1867
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Agrigento
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.

 24 P G Wodehouse

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

 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 Gustave Flaubert

Gustave Flaubert.
4
Famous As: Novelist, Writer
Birthdate: December 12, 1821
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Rouen
Died: May 8, 1880

Gustave Flaubert was a French novelist best remembered for his first novel Madame Bovary, which was later adapted into an opera. One of the most influential French novelists of all time, Flaubert is widely regarded as the main exponent of literary realism in France. His work inspired his protégé and short story writer Guy de Maupassant, who later achieved much acclaim.

 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 Antonin Artaud

Antonin Artaud.
4
Famous As: Dramatist, Poet, Essayist, Actor, & Theatre Director
Birthdate: September 4, 1896
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Marseille, France
Died: March 4, 1948

Antonin Artaud was a French writer, poet, dramatist, and theater director. Known for his raw, surreal, and transgressive themes, he was a major figure in 20th-century theater. He outlined his theories in the Theatre of Cruelty movement, expressed in the form of essays and plays. He died of cancer at the age of 51.  

 29 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

 30 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.

 31 John Galsworthy

John Galsworthy.
3
Famous As: Nobel Laureate in Literature
Birthdate: August 14, 1867
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Kingston upon Thames
Died: January 31, 1933

 32 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. 

 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 Jaishankar Prasad

Jaishankar Prasad
3
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: January 30, 1889
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Varanasi
Died: January 14, 1937

Jaishankar Prasad was an Indian poet and an important figure in modern Hindi theatre and Hindi literature. Along with Mahadevi Verma, Sumitranandan Pant, and Suryakant Tripathi, Prasad is counted among the Four Pillars of Romanticism in Hindi literature.

 35 William Maugham

William Maugham.
3
Famous As: Novelist & Playwright
Birthdate: January 25, 1874
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: December 16, 1965

 36 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

 37 Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Edward Bulwer-Lytton
3
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: May 25, 1803
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: London, England
Died: January 18, 1873

 38 Nelly Sachs

Nelly Sachs
3
Famous As: Poet, Playwright, Writer
Birthdate: December 10, 1891
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Schöneberg
Died: May 12, 1970

Nelly Leonie Sachs, internationally noted German-Swedish poet and dramatist, wrote conventional romantic poems until the rise of Nazism brought about a drastic change in her life. Forced to flee to Sweden, she began writing about the grief and yearnings of her fellow Jews, concurrently translating German works into Swedish and vice-versa. She won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1966.

 39 Oskar Kokoschka

Oskar Kokoschka
3
Famous As: Painter, Playwright, Writer, Poet, University teacher
Birthdate: March 1, 1886
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Pöchlarn
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.   

 40 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

 41 Adam Mickiewicz

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

 42 Tristan Tzara

Tristan Tzara
3
Famous As: Art collector, Poet, Writer, Diplomat, Film director, Translator, Playwright, Essayist, Composer, Musician, Performance artist, Literary critic
Birthdate: April 16, 1896
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Moineşti
Died: December 25, 1963

 43 Romain Rolland

Romain Rolland
3
Famous As: Writer, Playwright, Essayist, Historian, Novelist, Musicologist
Birthdate: January 29, 1866
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Clamecy, Nièvre
Died: December 30, 1944

Romain Rolland was a French novelist, essayist, dramatist, mystic, and art historian. In 1915, Rolland was honored with the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature. One of the most important supporters of Josef Stalin, Rolland is also remembered for his significant influence on Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud.

 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 Alphonse Daudet

Alphonse Daudet.
3
Famous As: Novelist, Short story writer, playwright, poet
Birthdate: May 13, 1840
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nîmes, France
Died: December 16, 1897

Alphonse Daudet was a French novelist whose books are still widely read in France. He often collaborated with his wife Julia Daudet, a famous writer, poet, and journalist. Today, several schools and colleges in France are named in his honor.

 46 Alexander Ostrovsky

Alexander Ostrovsky
2
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: April 12, 1823
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Moscow, Russia
Died: June 14, 1886

One of the greatest Russian playwrights to have ever lived, Alexander Ostrovsky represented the realistic period. A law school graduate, he initially worked as a law clerk. His play Bankrot was banned because of its controversial topic. He was also associated with the Maly Theatre of Moscow.

 47 Alexandre Dumas, fils

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

 48 Bharatendu Harishchandra

Bharatendu Harishchandra
3
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: September 9, 1850
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Varanasi, India
Died: January 6, 1885

Bharatendu Harishchandra was a 19th-century Hindi writer and poet who is regarded as the father of Hindi literature as well as Hindi theater. He authored numerous dramas, travel accounts, and life sketches. He mainly wrote about the issues faced by Indians, such as poverty, exploitation, and class struggles. A nationalist, he urged Indians to prioritize Indian-made products. 

 49 Antonio Machado

Antonio Machado
3
Famous As: Poet, Writer, Playwright
Birthdate: July 26, 1875
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Seville
Died: February 22, 1939

A leading member of the Spanish literary movement known as the Generation of '98, Antonio Machado was a legendary poet and playwright. He was educated at the Sorbonne and had also taught French. A proponent of eternal poetry, he penned masterpieces such as Soledades and Campos de Castilla.

 50 Booth Tarkington

Booth Tarkington
3
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: July 29, 1869
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Died: May 19, 1946