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
+ - 314 174
Samuel Beckett is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Samuel Beckett Waiting for Godot, Endgame, Happy Days

5
+ - 373 131
Sophocles is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Sophocles Oedipus the King, Ajax, Electra

6
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Molière is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Molière The Miser, The Misanthrope, Dom Juan

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

8
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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

10
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Aristophanes is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Aristophanes Thesmophoriazusae, The Knights of Aristophanes, The Clouds

11
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Arthur Miller is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Arthur Miller The Crucible, Death of a Salesman

12
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Tennessee Williams is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

13
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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
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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
+ - 77 36
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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16
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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

18
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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
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Bertolt Brecht is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Bertolt Brecht The Threepenny Opera, Life of Galileo

20
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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
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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

22
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Pedro Calderón de la Barca is listed (or ranked) 22 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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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is listed (or ranked) 23 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

24
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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

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

26
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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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+ - 54 27
Thornton Wilder is listed (or ranked) 29 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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+ - 76 48
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. 

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Jean Anouilh is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Jean Anouilh Monsieur Vincent, Circle of Love, Anna Karenina

32
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Voltaire is listed (or ranked) 32 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) 33 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
T. S. Eliot The Waste Land, The Hollow Men, Four Quartets

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Friedrich Schiller is listed (or ranked) 34 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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Pierre Corneille is listed (or ranked) 35 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) 36 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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Tony Kushner is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Tony Kushner Lincoln, Munich, Caroline - Angels in America Part 1 and 2

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

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Tom Stoppard is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Tom Stoppard Arcasia, The Real Thing, Jumpers

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

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Peter Handke is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Peter Handke Wings of Desire, The afternoon of a writer, The left-handed woman

42
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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

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

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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)

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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

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Sławomir Mrożek is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Sławomir Mrożek DOS Cartas, Das dramatische Werk in sieben Bänden, Vatzlav

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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

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+ - 73 51
Noël Coward is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Noël Coward Private Lives, Hay Fever, Tonight at 8:30

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Martin McDonagh is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Martin McDonagh Seven Psychopaths, In Bruges, The Pillowman