William Alfred (August 16, 1922 - May 20, 1999) was an American playwright, poet, and professor of English literature at Harvard University.
Alfred was born into an Irish family in Brooklyn, New York. His father was a bricklayer and his mother was a telephone operator. He graduated from St. Francis Preparatory School in 1940.
Alfred was drafted in 1943, two years into his undergraduate studies at Brooklyn College. He served in the Army tank corps and quartermaster's corps in World War II for four years. While in the army, he was taught Bulgarian at a language school and then stationed in the South Pacific, where he wrote poems for American Poet. Alfred completed his B.A. from Brooklyn College in 1948 with the help of the G.I. Bill.
Alfred is a double graduate of Harvard University, where he specialized in the literature of Medieval England, receiving his A.M. and Ph.D. in English in 1949 and 1954 respectively. While at Harvard, Alfred took a creative writing course under Archibald MacLeish, where he wrote his play, Agamemnon.
He began teaching at Harvard the same year he received his doctorate and was appointed full professor in 1963. In 1980, he was named Abbott Lawrence Lowell Professor of the Humanities.
He retired in 1991.
Alfred was a lifelong Catholic and attended mass at nearby Saint Paul's Church.
His great grandmother, Anna Maria Egan, immigrated to the United States.
Alfred's play Hogan's Goat helped launch Faye Dunaway's career in the 60's. They maintained a close relationship and remained lifelong friends.
Alfred was close friends with fellow poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell.
- The Annunciation Rosary (poetry)
- Author of a translation of Beowulf
Awards and recognition
- 1993 Harvard Medal
- 1988 Signet Society Medal for Lifetime Achievement
- 1957 Phi Beta Kappa Poet of Harvard University
- 1954 Amy Lowell Traveling Poetry Scholar