He battled depression much of his life, and eventually became addicted to alcohol, sleeping pills and other drugs.
From an early age, he wrestled with his homosexuality, only finally coming to peace with the issue in his 60s, and emphatically so with the publication of Memoirs in 1975, an autobiography considered provocative at the time.
From his early childhood, Williams experienced the emotional turmoil of living in a dysfunctional family.
His father was a hard-drinking shoe salesman whose travels often kept him away from home, and often violently abusive to his wife and family when he wasn't.
Reportedly, it was here that Williams saw a production of Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts and made up his mind to be a playwright.
For various reasons (including flunking an ROTC course), Williams father ordered him to drop out of school and go to work as a clerk in a shoe store.
But he never forgave his parents for forcing Rose to undergo a prefrontal lobotomy, a now largely discredited treatment that incapacitated her for the rest of her life.
Anguish over his sister's fate, coupled with his own demons, took its toll on Williams' health.
Recovered, in 1937 Williams went back to school, this time at the University of Iowa.
A year later, having written dozens of plays, he finally took a degree.