books The Greatest Playwrights in History  

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List Rules Top writers of theatre and stage plays, including musicals

List of the best playwrights ever that span all time periods and issues in the plays that they wrote. Well known playwrights such as William Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller are included on this list along with more modern playwrights that have yet to have the same kind of recognition as these big names and their classic plays.

A playwright writes dramatic literature or a drama and can be used as performance pieces or as closet dramas that are not performed and only read as literary works. Recognizable titles are listed with the author’s name, like “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare or “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller.

This list of the best playwrights asks the question, "Who is the best playwright ever?" and can be voted on by readers to change the order of who is on top. Each playwright is listed with a picture of themselves and have some of their most famous works listed next to their name to be identified easier. If you do not see a popular or your favorite playwright on the list, be sure to add them to have others be able to vote on them, as well.
list ordered by

1
+ - 1,219 242
William Shakespeare is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
William Shakespeare Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth

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2
+ - 507 267
Anton Chekhov is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Anton Chekhov Three Sisters, The Seagull, A Marriage Proposal

3
+ - 491 188
Henrik Ibsen is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Henrik Ibsen A Doll's House, Ghosts, Hedda Gabler

4
+ - 336 186
Samuel Beckett is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Samuel Beckett Waiting for Godot, Endgame, Happy Days

5
+ - 233 82
Euripides is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Euripides Medea, The Trojan Women, Alcestis

6
+ - 391 138
Sophocles is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Sophocles Oedipus the King, Ajax, Electra

7
+ - 268 123
Molière is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Molière The Miser, The Misanthrope, Dom Juan

8
+ - 436 180
Oscar Wilde is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Oscar Wilde The Importance of Being Earnest, An Ideal Husband

9
+ - 352 152
Arthur Miller is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Arthur Miller The Crucible, Death of a Salesman

10
+ - 170 68
Aeschylus is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Aeschylus Oresteia, The Persians, Seven Against Thebes

11
+ - 381 142
Tennessee Williams is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

12
+ - 156 79
Aristophanes is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Aristophanes Thesmophoriazusae, The Knights of Aristophanes, The Clouds

13
+ - 191 76
Eugene O'Neill is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Eugene O'Neill Long Day's Journey into Night, The Iceman Cometh

14
+ - 88 41
Eugène Ionesco is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Eugène Ionesco Rhinoceros, The Seven Deadly Sins, Exit the King

15
+ - 168 91
Christopher Marlowe is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Christopher Marlowe The Jew of Malta, Doctor Faustus

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16
+ - 74 49
Nikolai Gogol is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Nikolai Gogol Dead Souls, Nevsky Prospekt, The gamblers

17
+ - 80 41
Luigi Pirandello is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Luigi Pirandello Six Characters in Search of an Author, The Rules of the Game, Herbstreise

18
+ - 208 84
George Bernard Shaw is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
George Bernard Shaw Arms and the Man, Pygmalion

19
+ - 169 99
Bertolt Brecht is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Bertolt Brecht The Threepenny Opera, Life of Galileo

20
+ - 142 78
Harold Pinter is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Harold Pinter Betrayal, The Birthday Party, The Dumb Waiter

21
+ - 100 82
August Strindberg is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
August Strindberg Miss Julie, The Gather, A Dream Play

22
+ - 120 40
Victor Hugo is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Victor Hugo Les Misérables, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Odes et Ballades

23
+ - 73 62
Pedro Calderón de la Barca is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Pedro Calderón de la Barca Andrómeda y Perseo, Fieras Afemina Amor, La nave del mercader - La vida es sueño,El alcalde de Zalamea,El médico de su honra

24
+ - 145 77
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Faust: The First Part of the Tragedy, The Sorrows of Young Werther, Elective Affinities

25
+ - 96 80
Jean Racine is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Jean Racine Phedre, Berenice

26
+ - 126 60
Edward Albee is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Edward Albee Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Zoo Story, A Delicate Balance

27
+ - 87 61
Neil Simon is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Neil Simon The Odd Couple, Murder by Death, The Goodbye Girl

28
+ - 69 35
Miguel de Cervantes is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Miguel de Cervantes Don Quijote de la Mancha, Ḍāna Kvigjoṭa, El gallardo español

29
+ - 74 60
Voltaire is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Voltaire Candide, Zaïre, The age of Louis XIV

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30
+ - 80 52
Lope de Vega is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Lope de Vega Fuenteovejuna, Viuda, Casada Y Doncella - La dama boba, E perro del hortelano, Fuenteovejuna, Perbáñez y el comendador de Ocaña, El mejor alcalde, el rey.  

31
+ - 59 33
Thornton Wilder is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Thornton Wilder Shadow of a Doubt, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, We Live Again

32
+ - 148 96
T. S. Eliot is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
T. S. Eliot The Waste Land, The Hollow Men, Four Quartets

33
+ - 35 22
Tony Kushner is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Tony Kushner Lincoln, Munich, Caroline - Angels in America Part 1 and 2

34
+ - 50 51
Aleksandr Pushkin is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Aleksandr Pushkin Eugene Onegin, The Captain's Daughter, The Tale of the Priest and of His Workman Balda

35
+ - 53 42
Friedrich Schiller is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Friedrich Schiller Intrigue and Love, Ode to Joy, On Naive and Sentimental Poetry

36
+ - 108 83
Tom Stoppard is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Tom Stoppard Arcasia, The Real Thing, Jumpers

37
+ - 46 49
Pierre Corneille is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Pierre Corneille Corneille – Brecht, Le Cid, The Liar

38
+ - 46 35
Plautus is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Plautus Epidicus, The birds, by Aristophanes

39
+ - 30 18
Jean Anouilh is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Jean Anouilh Monsieur Vincent, Circle of Love, Anna Karenina

40
+ - 53 30
Albert Camus is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Albert Camus The Stranger, The Plague, The Fall

41
+ - 46 39
James Joyce is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
James Joyce Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

42
+ - 92 74
Jean-Paul Sartre is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Jean-Paul Sartre No Exit, Les Mains Sales, Les jeux sont faits

43
+ - 26 20
Peter Handke is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Peter Handke Wings of Desire, The afternoon of a writer, The left-handed woman

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44
+ - 81 55
August Wilson is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
August Wilson Fences, The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars

45
+ - 21 17
Niccolò Machiavelli is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Niccolò Machiavelli The Prince, Discourses on Livy, Florentine Histories - La Mandragola (The Mandrake)

46
+ - 59 34
Jean Cocteau is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Jean Cocteau Beauty and the Beast, Orpheus, The Testament of Orpheus

47
+ - 26 25
Alfred Jarry is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Alfred Jarry Ubu Roi, Supermale

48
+ - 34 34
Alexander Ostrovsky is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Alexander Ostrovsky The Storm, Enough Stupidity in Every Wise Man, The Forest

49
+ - 51 40
Martin McDonagh is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Martin McDonagh Seven Psychopaths, In Bruges, The Pillowman

50
+ - 103 82
Stephen Sondheim is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Stephen Sondheim Into the Woods, Company