The Radicalization of Irish Drama, 1600-1900

The Rise and Fall of Ascendancy Theatre

By Desmond Slowey

Placed within a rich social, historical, and cultural context, this study illuminates the Irish theatre over three hundred years, and uses it as a lens that focuses the dialectic of Irish society as the theatre mutated from aristocratic control to radical dissent and subversion. English colonists created the Irish theatre, reflecting the preoccupations and prejudices of the aristocrats and courtiers clustered around Dublin Castle. This was a political theatre, involved in outlining and defining its own society. The playwrights were engaged in leading opinion, presenting alternative realities, and forging the national conscience. Early Irish theatre was the Anglo-Irish talking to themselves, as the playwrights engaged the ruling class in a dialogue as to how the country should be ordered. As the Ascendancy lost or relinquished control over the theatre, the image presented by the playwrights became more unflattering and dismissive. This work studies how this portrait of Irish society and its rulers was encoded and evolved in the plays of the three centuries from 1600 to the foundation of the Abbey Theatre. It shows how the plays traced the continually mutating Ascendancy, the growing self-consciousness and national self-awareness, and a developing class-consciousness among Irish playwrights.

268 pages

Publication Date: 6/1/2008
Format: Cloth
ISBN: 9780716529576