Famous Irish Playwrights

Plays today may have taken a backseat with the advent of technology, but one cannot deny the exuberance of watching theatrical shows that obviously surpasses all. Play was one of the earliest forms of entertainment that emerged in the 16th and 17th century in various parts of the world. While initially intended to serve the political purpose of the administration, playwriting evolved with time to meet the needs of audience. The popularity of the medium led to a wider range of entertainment to be staged. More and more litterateurs ventured into playwriting. In Ireland, theatre and play began with the rise of the English administration. Though initially writers moved to Great Britain and United States to establish themselves in the field of playwriting, with the onset of the 20th century Irish playwrights established their reputation in Ireland only. Interestingly, the influence of Irish playwrights crossed oceans and was virtually over the entire globe. Names like Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, Seamus Justin Heaney, Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Oliver Goldsmith have been apogees in the genre of playwriting. Their skill at picking every day events and bringing to life characters has been an indomitable force in playwriting. With this segment, read in details about the life and works of some of the most talented and outstandingly brilliant Irish playwrights.

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
(One of the Greatest Playwrights of the 'Victorian Era')

Oscar Wilde
18
Birthdate: October 16, 1854
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: 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 
George Bernard Shaw
(Irish playwright Who Won the 1925 Nobel Prize in Literature)

George Bernard Shaw
9
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.

 3 
Samuel Beckett
(Irish Novelist Who Won the 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature)

Samuel Beckett
7
Birthdate: April 13, 1906
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Foxrock, Ireland
Died: December 22, 1989

Samuel Beckett was a legendary Nobel Prize-winning Irish postmodernist and minimalist playwright and author, regarded as a prominent figure of the "Theatre of the Absurd.” He is best known for the play Waiting for Godot and for his tragi-comic themes and black comedy. He was also the Saoi of Aosdána.

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 4 
Martin McDonagh
(Playwright, Screenwriter, Filmmaker)

Martin McDonagh
7
Birthdate: March 26, 1970
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Camberwell

The director and writer of the Academy Award-winning short film, Six Shooter, Martin McDonagh is also well known as a playwright and stage director. The Beauty Queen of Leenane is one of the his noted works. The crime drama film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was another successful venture of McDonagh. He says he prefers films to plays.

 5 
W B Yeats
(Poet)

W B Yeats
4
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.

 6 
Seamus Heaney
(Poet, Playwright & Translator Who Received the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature)

Seamus Heaney
4
Birthdate: April 13, 1939
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Castledawson, Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Died: August 30, 2013

Seamus Heaney was an Irish poet, translator, and playwright. One of the most respected poets of his generation, Heaney was honored with the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. He also won other prestigious awards, such as the Eric Gregory Award. Several years after his death, Seamus Heaney is still considered one of the main contributors to poetry in Ireland.

 7 
Emma Donoghue
(Novelist)

Emma Donoghue
3
Birthdate: October 24, 1969
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland

Alex Awards winning Irish-Canadian playwright, literary historian, short story writer, novelist, and screenwriter Emma Donoghue is best known for authoring award winning novels like Room and Hood. Room, an international best-seller, was adapted into a film bearing same title that not only emerged as a critical and commercial success but also garnered four Oscar nominations at the 88th Academy Awards.

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 8 
Colm Tóibín
(Author Famous for His Works 'The Blackwater Lightship', 'The Master' and 'Brooklyn')

Colm Tóibín
3
Birthdate: May 30, 1955
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland

Irish author Colm Toibin is known for his award-winning novels such as Brooklyn and The Master. Born to a schoolteacher, he initially taught English in Barcelona, before working as a journalist in Ireland. He now teaches at Columbia University and the University of Manchester, and was awarded the Irish PEN Award in 2011.

 9 
Brendan Behan
(One of the Greatest Irish Writers of All Time)

Brendan Behan
3
Birthdate: February 9, 1923
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Died: March 20, 1964
Irish author and poet Brendan Behan is remembered for his trademark satire and for his works such as The Quare Fellow and Borstal Boy. In a life plagued with arrests, he had served 14 years behind bars for the attempted murder of a policeman. He was also a lifelong alcoholic.

 10 
Edna O'Brien
(Novelist, Playwright, Poet and Short-Story Writer)

Edna O'Brien
3
Birthdate: December 15, 1930
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Tuamgraney, County Clare, Ireland

Irish novelist Edna O'Brien is known for dealing with themes related to women’s issues, such as sexual repression of women in a male-dominated society. While she initially studied pharmacy, she later soared to fame with novels such as The Country Girls trilogy, some of which were banned in Ireland for their sexual openness.

 11 
Maeve Binchy
(Novelist)

Maeve Binchy
3
Birthdate: May 28, 1939
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Dalkey, Dublin, Republic of Ireland Ireland
Died: July 30, 2012

 12 
Richard Brinsley Sheridan
(Politician, Writer)

Richard Brinsley Sheridan
3
Birthdate: October 30, 1751
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Died: July 7, 1816

Irish-born playwright and satirist Richard Brinsley Sheridan is remembered for his plays such as The School for Scandal and A Trip to Scarborough. He owned Drury Lane Theatre in London and was known for reviving the Restoration comedy of manners, replete with stock characters and satire.

 13 
John Millington Synge
(Playwright, Poet)

John Millington Synge
9
Birthdate: April 16, 1871
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Rathfarnham, Dublin, Ireland
Died: March 24, 1909

A major figure of the Irish Literary Revival, John Millington Synge is best remembered for his play The Playboy of the Western World, which caused riots in Dublin due to its satiric depiction of the Irish nature of boasting. His life ended abruptly at 37, due to blood cancer.

Edward Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany
3
Birthdate: July 24, 1878
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: London, England
Died: October 25, 1957

Edward Plunkett was a talented Irish author, known for his fantasy novels such as The King of Elfland's Daughter. Initially educated at Eton and then at Sandhurst, he had also been part of the British Army in World War I. He also designed chess puzzles and was a keen hunter.

 15 

Thomas MacDonagh
3
Birthdate: February 1, 1878
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Cloughjordan, Ireland
Died: May 3, 1916

Born to schoolteacher parents, Thomas MacDonagh initially aspired to be a missionary. However, he later taught English and French, and then focused on writing. The author of plays such as When the Dawn Is Come, MacDonagh later joined the Irish Volunteers and led the Easter Rising before being executed by shooting.

 16 
Sebastian Barry
(Novelist)

Sebastian Barry
3
Birthdate: July 5, 1955
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland

 17 
William Trevor
(Novelist)

William Trevor
3
Birthdate: May 24, 1928
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Mitchelstown, Ireland
Died: November 20, 2016

 18 

Richard Steele
3
Birthdate: March 12, 1672
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Died: September 1, 1729

 19 

Flann O'Brien
3
Birthdate: October 5, 1911
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Strabane, Ireland
Died: April 1, 1966

 20 

John Connors
3
Birthdate: 1990 AD
Birthplace: London, England

 21 

Terence MacSwiney
3
Birthdate: March 28, 1879
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Cork, Ireland
Died: October 25, 1920

 22 
John Waters
(Columnist, Writer)

John Waters
5
Birthdate: May 28, 1955
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Castlerea, County Roscommon, Ireland

 23 
Brian Friel
(Writer, Playwright, Theatre director, Politician)

Brian Friel
3
Birthdate: January 9, 1929
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Omagh
Died: October 2, 2015

 24 
Conor McPherson
(Playwright)

Conor McPherson
3
Birthdate: August 6, 1971
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland

 25 
Enda Walsh
(Playwright)

Enda Walsh
3
Birthdate: 1967 AD
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland

 26 
John B. Keane
(Playwright)

John B. Keane
3
Birthdate: July 21, 1928
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Listowel, Ireland
Died: May 30, 2002

 27 

Patricia Collinge
3
Birthdate: September 20, 1892
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Died: April 10, 1974

Though trained in dance and the piano, Patricia Collinge later found her calling in acting. The Irish-American actor is best remembered for her iconic roles such as Lavinia Penniman in The Heiress. Her performance as Aunt Birdie in the film The Little Foxes later got her nominated for an Academy Award.

 28 

Joseph O Conor
2
Birthdate: February 14, 1910
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland
Died: January 21, 2001

 29 

Michael Harding
2
Birthdate: 1953 AD
Birthplace: Cavan, Ireland

 30 

Dion Boucicault
2
Birthdate: December 26, 1820
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Died: September 18, 1890

 31 
Nell McCafferty
(Journalist)

Nell McCafferty
2
Birthdate: March 28, 1944
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Derry, Ireland

Known for her fierce activism, Irish journalist Nell McCafferty devoted her life to women’s rights and also co-founded the Irish Women's Liberation Movement. Associated with publications such as The Irish Times, she created controversial reports. Openly lesbian, she was in a relationship with fellow Irish journalist Nuala O'Faolain.

 32 

Charles Maturin
2
Birthdate: September 25, 1780
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Died: October 30, 1824

 33 
Emmet Kirwan
(Film actor)

Emmet Kirwan
2
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Ireland

 34 
Bill Naughton
(Playwright)

Bill Naughton
2
Birthdate: June 12, 1910
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Ballyhaunis, Ireland
Died: January 9, 1992

 35 

Padraic Colum
2
Birthdate: December 8, 1881
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Longford, Ireland
Died: January 11, 1972

 36 
Sean Lawlor
(Film actor)

Sean Lawlor
2
Birthdate: January 25, 1954
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Dublin, Republic of Ireland Ireland
Died: October 10, 2009

 37 
George Farquhar
(Dramatist)

George Farquhar
2
Birthdate: 1677 AD
Birthplace: Derry, Ireland
Died: April 29, 1707

 38 

Edward Harrigan
2
Birthdate: October 26, 1844
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: June 6, 1911

 39 

Tyrone Power
2
Birthdate: November 20, 1797
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Kilmacthomas, Ireland
Died: March 17, 1841

Tyrone Power was a patriarch of one of the most well-known Irish acting families and the great-grandfather of romantic matinee idol Tyrone Power III. He ran away to take up acting at age 14 and later popularized the stage Irishman stock character with his performance as Looney Mactwolter in The Wag of Windsor.

 40 
Molly Keane
(Novelist)

Molly Keane
2
Birthdate: July 20, 1904
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kildare, Ireland
Died: April 22, 1996

 41 

Jennifer Johnston
2
Birthdate: January 12, 1930
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland

 42 

Walter Macken
2
Birthdate: May 3, 1915
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Galway, Ireland
Died: April 22, 1967

 43 
Hugh Leonard
(Dramatist)

Hugh Leonard
2
Birthdate: November 9, 1926
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Died: February 12, 2009

 44 
Edward Martyn
(Playwright)

Edward Martyn
1
Birthdate: January 30, 1859
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Galway, Ireland
Died: December 5, 1923

Irish dramatist and political activist Edward Martyn is best known for co-establishing the Irish Literary Theatre with W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory. Part of the Irish literary renaissance, he later broke away and formed the Irish Theatre in Dublin. The Heather Field remains one of his best-known works.

 45 

Charles Macklin
1
Birthdate: September 26, 1690
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Culdaff, Ireland
Died: July 11, 1797

 46 

Donagh MacDonagh
1
Birthdate: November 22, 1912
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Died: January 1, 1968

 47 

Christopher Casson
1
Birthdate: March 20, 1912
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Manchester, England
Died: July 9, 1996

 48 

John Denham
1
Birthdate: 1615 AD
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Died: March 19, 1669

 49 

Niall Williams
2
Birthdate: June 8, 1958
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland

 50 

Eamon Kelly
1
Birthdate: March 30, 1914
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Sliabh Luachra, Ireland
Died: October 24, 2001