The Politics of Irish Drama analyzes some twenty-five of the best-known Irish plays from those of Dion Boucicault to Sebastian Barry, including works by Shaw, Yeats, Lady Gregory and Beckett. The book looks at political contexts for these plays and, in arguing for the outward-directed nature of dramatic representation of Ireland, shows Irish drama to be an international as much as national phenomenon.Download Description
In this book Nicholas Grene explores political contexts for some of the outstanding Irish plays from the nineteenth century to the contemporary period. The politics of Irish drama have previously been considered primarily the politics of national self-expression. Here it is argued that Irish plays, in their self-conscious representation of the otherness of Ireland, are outwardly directed towards audiences both at home and abroad. The political dynamics of such relations between plays and audiences is the book's multiple subject: the stage interpretation of Ireland from The Shaughraunto Translations; the contentious stage images of Yeats, Gregory and Synge; reactions to revolution from O'Casey to Behan; the post-colonial worlds of Purgatoryand All that Fall; the imagined Irelands of Friel and Murphy, McGuinness and Barry. With its fundamental reconception of the politics of Irish drama, this book represents a new view of the phenomenon of Irish drama itself. ... Read more
Customer Reviews (1)
Welcome study of the context for recent Irish plays
Professor Grene of Trinity College, Dublin has written widely on drama; this text gives twenty-odd close readings of plays chosen to symbolize how Ireland, in his terms, undergoes "theatrical revisionism" as it's portrayed on stage. That is, playwrights strive to show an Ireland truer to reality than that previously shown by stereotypical "stage Irish" caricatures or plots. Thus, Grene argues, his selection of plays attempt to realistically capture Irish life for audiences expected to be familiar with both its distorted enactments and the more accurately dramatized Ireland that replaces it, generation after generation, in the corrective plays that supersede the earlier inaccuracies.
This daunting thesis Grene illustrates by a variety of plays, familiar as Synge's Playboy and unfamiliar (at least to me) as Tom Murphy's A Crucial Week. Most exciting for me are his discoveries within the historical distortions placed into Translations by Brian Friel, the autobiographical elisions applied by Sean O'Casey, the Tuam, Co Galway work of Murphy, the making of Behan's The Hostage vs. its Irish-language precedent, and the possibilities for a change from the usual Irish themes in Yeats' Purgatory and Beckett's All That Fall.
Grene avoids pedantry, trendy critical jargon, and keeps the reader in mind as he studies such works honestly. He credits other scholars thoughtfully, brings in the historical and political contexts but never allows them to overshadow the actual plays, and summarizes earlier debates about them well.
One shortcoming: as if sensing that students might be using his book as a crib to avoid reading the plays, he does shy away more than once from examining their endings. While he exerts much effort in establishing the background and conflicts emerging from many play's earlier plots, he tends to duck out before bringing some of his close readings to a dramatic close.
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