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After the Irish Renaissance

After the Irish Renaissance: A Critical History of the Irish Drama since The Plough and The Stars

Robert Hogan
Copyright Date: 1967
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    After the Irish Renaissance
    Book Description:

    After the Irish Renaissance was first published in 1967. This account of contemporary Irish drama provides critical introductions to some thirty or forty playwrights who have worked in Ireland since 1926, the year Sean O’Casey left Ireland following a riotous protest against his play The Plough and the Stars. The date is regarded by many as marking the end of the Irish Renaissance, the brilliant literary flowering which began with the founding of the Irish Literary Theatre in 1898 by W. B. Yeats, George Moore, and Edward Martyn. Although much has been written about the writers of the Irish Renaissance and their work, most of the plays and playwrights of the modern Irish theatre are relatively obscure outside Ireland. This book introduces their work to a broader audience. Among the writers discussed, in addition to O’Casey and Yeats, are Lennox Robinson, T. C. Murray, Brinsley MacNamara, George Shiels, Louis D’Alton, Paul Vincent Carroll, Denis Johnston, Mary Manning, Micheál Mae Liammóir, Michael Molloy, Walter Macken, Seamus Byrne, John O’Donovan, Bryan MacMahon, Lady Longford, Brendan Behan, Hugh Leonard, James Douglas, John B. Keane, Brian Friel, Tom Coffey, Seamus de Burca, Conor Farrington, G. P. Gallivan, Austin Clarke, Padraie Fallon, Donagh MacDonagh, Joseph Tomelty, and Sam Thompson. The author also discusses the Abbey Theatre’s recent history, the Gate Theatre, Longford Productions, the theatre in Ulster, and the Dublin International Theatre Festival, and provides a full bibliography of plays and criticism. The book is generously illustrated with photographs.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6297-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)

    • 1 The Abbey: Shadow or Substance of a Theatre?
      (pp. 3-20)

      The old, fire-gutted building in Abbey Street has been at last razed. A handsome, splendidly equipped new theatre has been constructed on the site, and the Abbey, after its fifteen year exile at the Queen’s Theatre in Pearse Street, has finally returned home. Although some Abbey apologists have compared this activity to the phoenix rising from its ashes, it has seemed to many Dublin playgoers more like the ashes rising from a rather burnt-out phoenix. As Paul Vincent Carroll remarked, “I am not surprised the Abbey, Dublin, disappointed — it has degenerated, more or less, into an undistinguished repertory of sorts.”¹...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • 2 The Abbey Dramatists: 1926–1945
      (pp. 21-51)

      The first twenty years after O’Casey’s departure are usually considered barren ones for the Abbey; a favorite amusement of the Dublin literati has been to revile the poverty of the company’s repertoire. The witty savagery of this continuing onslaught may have risen partly from the Irish climate which seems conducive to spleen, partly from the theatre’s occasional improbable standards of excellence, and partly from a bored irritation with plays which, despite their frequent merit, often resembled each other.

      Actually, that resemblance was sometimes more apparent than real. It seemed real because of the actors’ unvaryingly broad manner of playing. A...

    • 3 Paul Vincent Carroll: The Rebel as Prodigal Son
      (pp. 52-63)

      I’m as Irish as a terrier and with as sharp a bite,” Paul Vincent Carroll once wrote, and that is a fair description of the best known and most personally dynamic Irish playwright to appear between O’Casey and Behan. Still, it is not the whole description; it needs to be paired with a statement like “I am not trying to teach anybody anything. I have finished with such presumptions. I have learned humility — the greatest asset in the equipment of any creative writer.”¹ Only with these extremes in mind can the contradictory career of Carroll be explained.

      Carroll is a...

    • 4 The Abbey Dramatists: 1946–1965
      (pp. 64-85)

      Judging writers still in their prime or just reaching it is an uncertain task at best. It seems safe to say, however, that in its last twenty years the Abbey has encouraged four exceptional talents — Walter Macken, Bryan MacMahon, Seamus Byrne, and John O’Donovan. The theatre also produced the early work of some of the most promising younger men — Maurice Meldon, Hugh Leonard, John Murphy, and Tom Coffey. It even produced writers who originally made their reputations outside of the Abbey — notably Brendan Behan and John B. Keane.

      This worthy record could have been worthier, and it must be balanced...

    • 5 Michael Molloy’s Dying Ireland
      (pp. 86-98)

      When Michael J. Molloy’sThe King of Friday’s Menwas staged at the Abbey Theatre in October, 1948, many Irish critics hailed him as a second Synge. Their enthusiasm has since cooled, for Molloy is a slow writer, and the memories of journalistic critics are short. Still, the comparison was not inaccurate, for Molloy is the most Syngean of all Irish dramatists — Synge included.

      Or, perhaps more accurately, Molloy might be called a more authentic Synge. Synge’s strength came from three sources — his use of the character of the Irish countryman, his version of country speech, and his penchant for...

    • APPENDIX I. Tomelty, Thompson, and the Theatre in Ulster
      (pp. 99-108)

    • 6 At the Gate Theatre
      (pp. 111-132)

      Although the modern Irish drama originated partly in a nationalist impulse, there were other allied impulses even from the beginning. Yeats, of course, was the champion of a poetic drama which in a few early plays was allied with nationalism, but which grew ever farther away from such a public statement until in the later Noh plays it seemed to have retreated almost into an art-for-art’s sake privacy. There was also a third impulse behind the early blossoming of dramatic activity, an impulse centering on that interesting and curious man Edward Martyn.

      Of the founders of the Irish Literary Theatre,...

    • 7 The Adult Theatre of Denis Johnston
      (pp. 133-146)

      It is necessary to correct a widespread impression, put about by unscrupulous enemies, that I died of some unspecified disease in the summer of 1933, and have never written anything since.” So writes, with engaging wryness, Denis Johnston in a preface toThe Old Lady Says “No!” and Other Plays,a collection of most of his dramatic work. Johnston’s joke about his reputation is unhappily accurate.The Moon in the Yellow River“is still performed not only on the stage and on TV, but also in Danish, German, French, Spanish and Polish.”¹ But his other plays are seldom performed by...

    • 8 The Experimental Theatre of the Poets
      (pp. 147-163)

      There is a vast mass of criticism that analyzes and appreciates the plays of W. B. Yeats, and I do not propose to add appreciably to it. It would seem an impertinent casualness to sum up in a few pages the dozen plays which Yeats wrote in our period, when so many astute critics have subjected them to minute and searching analysis in so many lengthy articles and books. The bulk of that comment, however, is so uniformly eulogistic that I can perhaps perform a service by playing the devil’s advocate.

      Much of the critical discussion about the Yeats plays...

    • APPENDIX II. The Genius of George Fitzmaurice
      (pp. 164-176)

    • 9 The Theatre Festival
      (pp. 179-197)

      The Dublin Theatre Festival has received considerable criticism, but when we consider how the Abbey is still reorganizing itself, how the Gate is almost defunct, and how the Globe and the Pike have disappeared, then it seems clear that the Festival is now the most important theatrical force in the country. It generates more interest and discussion than any other theatrical event, it brings in the largest audience, it draws international attention, and, most important, it discovers new writers and encourages old ones. The Festival seems to have taken over the function, once the Abbey’s and then the Gate’s, of...

    • 10 The Short Happy World of Brendan Behan
      (pp. 198-207)

      Brendan Behan will not lack biographers. From his drunken appearance on B.B.C. television in 1956 until his death in 1964, he lived his life in the public eye. He made better newspaper copy than any poet since Dylan Thomas whom, in some ways, he resembled. Like Thomas, he fostered legends — some true, some false, some wildly exaggerated. He was capable of great kindness and outrageous cruelty, of great generosity and self-centered boorishness. He was often delightfully witty and often a sore trial to anyone who knew him. He was a man of rare talent, even though he squandered much of...

    • 11 The Hidden Ireland of John B. Keane
      (pp. 208-220)

      I am going to visit John B. Keane next week.”

      “Ah,” said my companion, “you mean the man who is larger than life.”

      Even though the comment was meant to be satirical, probably Keane appears that way to Dubliners. He is a Kerryman and easily the most popular Irish dramatist of the last five years. His popularity with audiences, though, does not impress the Irish critics, who praise him with faint damns. He is sometimes accused of being a latterday Boucicault whose plays are faultily constructed and harmed by large injections of melodrama. However, Dublin critics are little more aware...

  6. APPENDIX III. The Outsiders
    (pp. 221-232)

    • 12 In Sean O’Casey’s Golden Days
      (pp. 235-252)

      It is a quaint irony that the commanding figure in the Irish drama of the last forty years has been Sean O’Casey, for the man hardly set foot in the country during all that time. He did, from his nest in Devon, send a steady stream of crusty advice and caustic criticism flowing across the Irish Sea, but such criticism — no matter how apt — from a vigorously anti-clerical Communist was hardly what his countrymen would relish.

      However, there were the early plays —The Shadow of a Gunman, Juno and the Paycock,andThe Plough and the Stars.They were an...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 255-258)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 259-271)
  10. Index
    (pp. 272-282)