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.

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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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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
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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
+ - 290 159
Samuel Beckett is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Samuel Beckett Waiting for Godot, Endgame Happy Days

5
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Molière is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Molière The Miser, The Misanthrope Dom Juan

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

7
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Euripides is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Euripides Medea, The Trojan Women Alcestis

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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
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Aeschylus is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Aeschylus Oresteia, The Persians Seven Against Thebes

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Arthur Miller is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Arthur Miller The Crucible, Death of a Salesman

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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

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

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Eugène Ionesco is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Eugène Ionesco Rhinoceros, The Seven Deadly Sins Exit the King

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Eugene O'Neill is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Eugene O'Neill Long Day's Journey into Night, The Iceman Cometh

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Luigi Pirandello is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Luigi Pirandello Six Characters in Search of an Author, The Rules of the Game Herbstreise

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Christopher Marlowe is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Christopher Marlowe The Jew of Malta, Doctor Faustus

17
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Nikolai Gogol is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Nikolai Gogol Dead Souls, Nevsky Prospekt The gamblers

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Harold Pinter is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Harold Pinter Betrayal, The Birthday Party The Dumb Waiter

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George Bernard Shaw is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
George Bernard Shaw Arms and the Man, Pygmalion

20
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Bertolt Brecht is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Bertolt Brecht The Threepenny Opera, Life of Galileo

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

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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is listed (or ranked) 22 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

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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

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Victor Hugo is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Victor Hugo Les Misérables, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame Odes et Ballades

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

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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

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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

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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

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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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T. S. Eliot is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
T. S. Eliot The Waste Land, The Hollow Men Four Quartets

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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

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Pierre Corneille is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Pierre Corneille Corneille – Brecht, Le Cid The Liar

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Aleksandr Pushkin is listed (or ranked) 33 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

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Jean Anouilh is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Jean Anouilh Monsieur Vincent, Circle of Love Anna Karenina

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Lope de Vega is listed (or ranked) 35 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. 

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Tony Kushner is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Tony Kushner Lincoln, Munich Caroline - Angels in America Part 1 and 2

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Friedrich Schiller is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Friedrich Schiller Intrigue and Love, Ode to Joy On Naive and Sentimental Poetry

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Albert Camus is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Albert Camus The Stranger, The Plague The Fall

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Plautus is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Plautus Epidicus, The birds by Aristophanes

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Tom Stoppard is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Tom Stoppard Arcasia, The Real Thing Jumpers

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Jean-Paul Sartre is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Jean-Paul Sartre No Exit, Les Mains Sales Les jeux sont faits

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Peter Handke is listed (or ranked) 42 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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James Joyce is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
James Joyce Ulysses, Finnegans Wake A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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Jean Cocteau is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Jean Cocteau Beauty and the Beast, Orpheus The Testament of Orpheus

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Jon Fosse is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Jon Fosse The Girl on the Sofa, Visites - variations sur la mort Jenta i sofaen

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Alexander Ostrovsky is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Alexander Ostrovsky The Storm, Enough Stupidity in Every Wise Man The Forest

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Roland Schimmelpfennig is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Roland Schimmelpfennig Woman Before, Push up The Golden Dragon

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Cyrano de Bergerac is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Cyrano de Bergerac Voyages to the Moon and the Sun, Selenarchia: The Government of the World in the Moon The Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon and Sun

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+ - 16 13
Niccolò Machiavelli is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Niccolò Machiavelli The Prince, Discourses on Livy Florentine Histories - La Mandragola (The Mandrake)

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Stefan Zweig is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Stefan Zweig Letter from an Unknown Woman, Marie Antoinette The Post-Office Girl