Famous British Playwrights

If you think penning a drama is as easy as picking a pen and scribbling a sequential story or plot, go ahead. It won’t be too long before you realize that there is more to playwriting that mere play of words. You need inherent creative prowess, engrained ingenuity, vivid imagination and a gripping story to actually write a play. And still it is a job half done for what is a playwright if not for great actors who live up the characters! Coming to playwriting and playwrights, Britain has been the hotspot of theatrical shows since times immemorial. London stage has had the privilege of hosting plays by some of the most creative and original playwrights of the world. Needless to say, British playwrights are masters in this art form of literature – they have an intrinsic understanding of dramatic structure and a deep-embedded insight and knowledge for playwriting. Some of the flourishing British playwrights who have swayed the audience with their play of words and storytelling capabilities include William Shakespeare, Harold Pinter, John Osborne, Lord Byron, D.H. Lawrence, Caryl Churchill, Howard Barker, George Bernard Shaw, Alan Plater, Stephen Lowe and Roy Williams. Keep on reading to get an exhaustive list of some of the famous British playwrights of all times.

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 William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare
19
Famous As: Bard of Avon
Birthdate: April 26, 1564
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Stratford-upon-Avon
Died: April 23, 1616

English playwright, poet, and actor William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language. He is also often called England's national poet. Many of his works have been translated into other languages and his plays continue to be produced till day. Popular during his lifetime, he acquired an iconic status after his death.

 2 Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett
5
Famous As: Actor, Screenwriter, Playwright, Diarist, Writer
Birthdate: May 9, 1934
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Armley

 3 Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe
5
Famous As: Playwright, Poet
Birthdate: February 26, 1564
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Canterbury, Kent, England
Died: May 30, 1593

English playwright, poet, and translator, Christopher Marlowe, was one of the major literary figures of the Elizabethan era. It is believed that he greatly influenced his contemporary William Shakespeare. He led a troubled life and died young under mysterious circumstances. Despite his early death, he is regarded as one of the foremost dramatists of the 16th century London.  

 4 Zoe Kazan

Zoe Kazan
5
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: September 9, 1983
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA

 5 Mark Rylance

Mark Rylance
9
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 18, 1960
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Ashford, United Kingdom

Mark Rylance is an English actor, playwright, and theatre director. He is one of the eight actors to have been honored twice with the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play. He is also one of the eight people to have won the British Triple Crown of Acting, having received the BAFTA Television Award, BAFTA Film Award, and Laurence Olivier Award.

 6 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. 

 7 Harold Pinter

Harold Pinter
5
Famous As: Playwright, Screenwriter
Birthdate: October 10, 1930
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Metropolitan Borough of Hackney
Died: December 24, 2008
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 8 Sophie Hunter

Sophie Hunter
4
Famous As: Theatre Director
Birthdate: March 16, 1978
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Hammersmith, London

Sophie Hunter is an English playwright, opera director, and former performer. She is credited with co-founding and popularizing a theatre company called Boileroom, which was honored with the Samuel Theatre Trust Award in 2007 for its play The Terrific Electric, which marked Sophie Hunter's directorial debut.

 9 Michaela Coel

Michaela Coel
5
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: October 1, 1987
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: London, England

 10 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.

 11 Lashana Lynch

Lashana Lynch
5
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: November 27, 1987
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Hammersmith, London, England, UK
Lashana Lynch is best known for her roles of Rosaline Capulet in the series Still Star-Crossed and Maria Rambeau in the film Captain Marvel. She received the Laurence Olivier bursary in drama school. Lynch will be seen as Nomi in the upcoming James Bond film No Time to Die

 12 Ben Jonson

Ben Jonson
4
Famous As: Dramatist, Poet & Actor
Birthdate: June 11, 1572
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Westminster, London, England
Died: August 6, 1637

 13 Jeffrey Archer

Jeffrey Archer
4
Famous As: Politician, Novelist, Writer, Playwright, Science fiction writer, Children's writer
Birthdate: April 15, 1940
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: London

Jeffrey Archer is an English author and former politician whose books have sold over 320 million copies around the world. Archer has been a controversial figure; he was convicted of perjury in 2001 after which he was sent to Belmarsh Prison from where he was later transferred to Wayland Prison. His conviction ended his political career.

 14 Sir James Matthew Barrie

Sir James Matthew Barrie
4
Famous As: Writer
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.

 15 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

 16 Henry Graham Greene

Henry Graham Greene
5
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: October 2, 1904
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Berkhamsted, England
Died: April 3, 1991

English author Henry Graham Greene, better known as Graham Greene, is remembered for his pathbreaking Catholic novels and thrillers. He was shortlisted for the Nobel Prize in Literature. His works include The Third Man and The Human Factor, and his Academy Award-nominated script of the film The Fallen Idol.

 17 Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier
4
Famous As: Novelist & playwright
Birthdate: May 13, 1907
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, England
Died: April 19, 1989

Daphne du Maurier was an English playwright and author. Many of her works, which have been praised for narrative craft, have been adapted into films, including three of Alfred Hitchcock's movies. Such was her popularity that she was selected along with four other Women of Achievement to be featured on a set of British stamps, which were issued in 1996.

 18 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

 19 Sir Noël Peirce Coward

Sir Noël Peirce Coward
6
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.

 20 William Maugham

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

 21 Anthony Minghella

Anthony Minghella
4
Famous As: Screenwriter, Playwright, Film director, Film producer, Writer
Birthdate: January 6, 1954
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Ryde
Died: March 18, 2008

 22 Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan
4
Famous As: Writer, Screenwriter, Novelist, Playwright, Film producer, Author
Birthdate: June 21, 1948
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Aldershot

 23 John Osborne

John Osborne
4
Famous As: Actor, Playwright, Screenwriter, Writer
Birthdate: December 12, 1929
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: London
Died: December 24, 1994

 24 Steven Berkoff

Steven Berkoff
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 3, 1937
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Stepney, London, England, UK

 25 Robert Greene

Robert Greene
4
Famous As: Writer, Playwright
Birthdate: May 14, 1959
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, U.S.

Robert Greene is best known for his international bestsellers such as The 48 Laws of Power, The 33 Strategies of War, and The Art of Seduction. Some of his books have been banned in American prisons and have been described as manipulative, while some have been mentioned in popular songs.

 26 Aphra Behn

Aphra Behn
4
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: July 10, 1640
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Canterbury, England
Died: April 16, 1689

 27 John Dryden

John Dryden
4
Famous As: poet
Birthdate: August 9, 1631
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Northamptonshire, England
Died: May 12, 1700

 28 Rupert Holmes

Rupert Holmes
4
Famous As: Composer
Birthdate: February 24, 1947
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Cheshire, England, UK

 29 Christopher Isherwood

Christopher Isherwood
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: August 26, 1904
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Cheshire, England, UK
Died: January 4, 1986

 30 David Hare

David Hare
3
Famous As: playwright, screenwriter, film director, theatre director, writer, actor, television director, film producer
Birthdate: June 5, 1947
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: St Leonards-on-Sea

 31 Sarah Kane

Sarah Kane
4
Famous As: Playwright, Writer
Birthdate: February 3, 1971
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Brentwood
Died: February 20, 1999

 32 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

 33 Dorothy L. Sayers

Dorothy L. Sayers
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: June 13, 1893
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Witham, Essex, England
Died: December 17, 1957

 34 Terence Rattigan

Terence Rattigan
3
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: June 10, 1911
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: South Kensington, London, England
Died: November 30, 1977

 35 Mike Leigh

Mike Leigh
4
Famous As: Film director, Actor, Playwright, Theatre director, Screenwriter, Writer
Birthdate: February 20, 1943
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Brocket Hall

 36 John Webster

John Webster
3
Famous As: Playwright, Poet, Writer, Poet lawyer
Birthdate: 1578 AD
Birthplace: London, United Kingdom
Died: 1634 AD

 37 Leigh Lawson

Leigh Lawson
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: July 21, 1945
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Atherstone

 38 Caryl Churchill

Caryl Churchill
3
Famous As: Dramatist, Women's Rights Activist
Birthdate: September 3, 1938
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: London, England

 39 Sarah Solemani

Sarah Solemani
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: September 4, 1986
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Camden, London, England

 40 Ewan MacColl

Ewan MacColl
4
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: January 25, 1915
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Broughton, Salford, England
Died: October 22, 1989

 41 Julia Donaldson

Julia Donaldson
4
Famous As: Writer, Playwright, Author, Children's writer
Birthdate: September 16, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Hampstead, London, England

 42 Ian Ogilvy

Ian Ogilvy
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: September 30, 1943
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Woking, Surrey, England, UK

 43 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

 44 Simon Armitage

Simon Armitage
3
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: May 26, 1963
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Huddersfield, West Riding of Yorkshire, England

 45 Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson
3
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: December 20, 1951
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: York, England

 46 Rory Kinnear

Rory Kinnear
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: February 17, 1978
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England

 47 Joseph Addison

Joseph Addison
3
Famous As: Essayist & Poet
Birthdate: May 1, 1672
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Milston, United Kingdom
Died: June 17, 1719
Best known for his articles in the iconic 18th-century periodicals The Tatler and The Spectator, English essayist Joseph Addison had a lifelong collaboration with Richard Steele. Educated at Oxford, he excelled in Latin and classics. A prominent Whig, he mostly wrote on the social and cultural trends of his time.

 48 Sally Wainwright

Sally Wainwright
4
Famous As: television producer, screenwriter, playwright
Birthdate: 1963 AD
Birthplace: Halifax

 49 Len Deighton

Len Deighton
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: February 18, 1929
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Marylebone, London, England

Len Deighton is an author whose works have inspired several movies and TV shows. Many of his novels, such as Funeral in Berlin, The Ipcress File, Spy Story, and Billion Dollar Brain, have been adapted into films. His works have influenced other popular personalities like Aung San Suu Kyi. Anthony Burgess mentioned Deighton's novel Bomber in his work Ninety-nine Novels.

 50 Joe Orton

Joe Orton
4
Famous As: Playwright, Screenwriter, Writer
Birthdate: January 1, 1933
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Leicester
Died: August 9, 1967