Arthur Miller is seen by many as the great chronicler of the American experience of the 20th century. He has been referred to variously as ‘America’s conscience’, ‘America’s great moralist’ and ‘the Shakespeare of our time’. Arthur Asher Miller was born on 17 October 1915 in Harlem, New York, to a family of Polish-Jewish immigrants to the US. Whilst never poor, Miller’s childhood was far from wealthy.
Eugene Gladstone O’Neill was born on Broadway, the heart of New York’s theatreland, in 1888, while his actor father was on tour in a show. The young Eugene spent his first seven years with his parents on tour, and this itinerant theatrical lifestyle seemed to imbue his life with a sense of rootlessness, and a desire for somewhere to call home.
Ibsen was born in 1828, into a wealthy family. Ibsen’s elder brother had died several weeks after his own birth. He was born into a house that was suffering a loss; in addition, the affluence that the family enjoyed soon disappeared. By the time Ibsen was six the family was bankrupt.
Michael Morpurgo is the author of many books for children, five of which have been made into films including the recent stage hit War Horse. He also writes his own screenplays and libretti for opera.
Stephen Sondheim was born on 22nd March 1930 and is considered to be part of the pantheon of the great musical theatre composers from Gershwin to Irving Berlin, Bernstein to Stephen Schwartz. His works are prodigiously diverse in subject matter and style.
Thomas Hardy O.M. was born 2 June 1840 in Higher Bockhampton, in Dorset. His father was a stonemason and builder. His mother, Jemima, was a highly educated woman who was very well read, and she educated Thomas until he was eight as he was a frail child. He went on to a local private school. His family could not afford to send Thomas to university and he was apprenticed to an architect, James Hicks.
There’s so much we don’t know about William Shakespeare. We do know that he was born on St George’s Day, 23 April 1564, the same year as Galileo and Marlowe, and died on his birthday in 1616. This is supposed to be an auspicious sign, particularly in the superstitious Elizabethan age. We know that he was born and died in Stratford-upon-Avon and is buried at Holy Trinity church in Stratford-upon-Avon.