Contemporary life as revealed in recent Irish drama
Connell, Elizabeth Catherine
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Contemporary Life as Revealed in Recent Irish Drama is a compilation and discussion of the various aspects of contemporary Irish life as expressed in plays by Irish dramatists, John M. Synge, Paul V. Carroll, Lennox Robinson, Sean O'Casey, and Seumas O'Brien. The work begins with a statement of the purpose of the thesis and the methods used. Chapter I covers the history of the development of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, Ireland, with the following features discussed: The purpose of the organization shows that the Abbey Theatre was first and foremost a theatrical, not a literary movement. Many dramatists of ability, and at least one, John M. Synge, of genius, was discovered. Most of the founders were bound together by their enthusiasm. The next feature of this theatrical movement was the foreign influence, in which is revealed Antoine's revolt against the Parisian Theatre in 1887 and the London Independent Theatre in 1891. Then the national influence on this theatrical organization is presented with the following aspects: A new interest in Gaelic sprung up with the formation of a Gaelic League in 1893, followed by the formation of an Irish Literary Theatre in Dublin, in which Lady Gregory, William B. Yeats, Edward Martyn, and George Moore were particularly active. The Countess Cathleen was presented in 1894, and soon afterwards the formation of the first company of Irish actors came. This group chose Deirdre as the first play to be presented in St. Teresa's Temperance Society Hall. Next came the formation of the Irish National Theatre in 1902, of which William B. Yeats was president. The Hour-Glass and Twenty-Five were presented with success, and the Dublin Press became more friendly. This chapter ends with a presentation of the best year of this theatre group, in which John M. Synge was discovered as a playwright, Sara Allgood, as an outstanding actress, and Miss Horniman of England, as a fine patron, who offered to invest in an Irish theatre. The play Deirdre was revived in 1903, and this producti on was followed by Riders to the Sea. In this year, theater fire regulations were so tightened that many Dublin buildings were closed. Then Mechanics Institute was taken over as a theater by the group under Miss Horniman's sponsorship. This place was called the Abbey Theatre, the first repertory theater in the world. On February, 1905, J. E. Synge's The Well of the Saints was produced. As John M. Synge links chapter one, which covers the history of The Abbey Theatre, with the more modern Irish dramatists, it seemed fitting to have chapter two present his view of peasant life in Wicklow, in which the following features are given: The fair and the tinkers. The next chapter discusses the country life in Western Ireland as presented by Lennox Robinson. The first play, The Whiteheaded Boy produced in 1921, reveals the middle class life, in which the follov1ing features were stressed: The matches, through which many marriages in Ireland have been arranged by the parents or older brothers of the families. In line with this problem of marriage arrangement is the place that the favorite son in the Irish family holds. Then come the pretensions and love of imitation that are found in this group of society which is especially affected by repertory players from the city. A picture of hotel life and country humor terminates this discusion of middle class life. The next phase of life in Western Ireland is that of the gentry, that Robinson reveals in his play, Killycreggs in Twilight, in which are found these various characteristics: The gentry pride, their pretensions, their tragedies. The following chapter presents the rectory life in Ireland as revealed in Paul V. Carroll's plays, Shadow and Substance and The White Steed, produced respectively in 1937 and 1939, which introduce us to the following features: The modern Canon, his country curates, the rectory housekeeper, the village school which the Canon dominates; the village school master, the old-fashioned Canon, who disapproves of the vigilant committees, the native's love of country, the home of an Irish peasant, and a countryman's view of Dublin. The final chapter, which depicts Sean O'Casey's view of the tenement life of Dublin, where he was reared, is divided into three parts. The first section concerns tenement life in Dublin from 1915 to 1916, and The Plough and The Stars gives us a pictures of that class of society. The following phases are presented: The tenement dweller's reaction to his surroundings and his desire to improve his conditions. Then comes a description of a typical tenement with the resulting ravages of disease on the people of this area, caused by the lack of sunshine, proper food and care. Amid the tribulations is found the strong faith of these dwellers. A wake and funeral are sadly described amid the street-fighting in the district. Then comes a description of landmarks in Dublin where much of this fighting occurred. A revelation of the means of transportation, the humor of the people amid strife, and the tenement landlord and his problems complete part one of this phase of Irish life. The second part of this chapter presents tenement life in Dublin from 1917 to 1923. Sean O'Casey's observations of tenement life in 1922 is first presented, followed by Padraic Colum's comments on Dublin of that era. Then appears a description of the various types of characters found in this district of Dublin: the militarists, the street vendors, and a typical tenement neighbor. Then the third part of this final chapter gives a view of modern tenement life in Dublin with the following aspects: The poetic workman of modern Dublin's tenement life, who desires to improve his mind even though he has had no benefit of formal education. Next are found O'Casey's criticism of the housing conditions in Dublin with their dubious activities. Then follows a description of the street vendors and their threat, because of their poor working conditions, to the safety of the city. The final picture presented is that of an Irish mother, whom O'Casey has described with love and pity, for she has sacrificed so much during her life for her children. This mother in reality represents his own mother, to whom he owes so much, in his autobiography, I Knock at the Door.
Thesis (M.A.)--Boston University
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