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The role and image of the ascendancy in the Irish theatre, 1600-1900

Slowey, Desmond (2006) The role and image of the ascendancy in the Irish theatre, 1600-1900. PhD thesis, Dublin City University.

The Irish theatre from 1601 to c. 1900 was bound intimately to the society that produced it. Started by the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy, it grew and changed with it, reflecting its preoccupations and prejudices, while seeking at the same time to forge its conscience and urge it towards personal and communal transformation. The theatre mirrors the development of the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy; the overall image it presents shifts as the Ascendancy mutates, its power deteriorates, and the view of the playwrights becomes more questioning, indifferent or hostile. From exalting Ascendancy virtues (Shirley and Orrery), it moves to express the views of the 'bourgeois Ascendancy' (Shadwell and Philips), then to a more questioning and radical view, (Knowles and O'Keeffe). Nationalist dramatists take a more critical stance, and the portrayal of the Ascendancy becomes more equivocal and marginal in Boucicault and Whitbread, until eliminated almost completely in the theatre of P.J. Bourke. This was a political theatre, involved continuously in self-definition, personal and societal. The plays and their authors were modelling moral and social formation for a divided country. The 'generous lovers' of Philips, the 'mercenary' bourgeoises of Shadwell, the rowdy mongrel gentlemen of Macklin and Sheridan, O'Keeffe's subtle jacobinism, Boucicault's imagined aristocracy, and the aspirational exemplars of the Nationalist Melodrama, all display the urge to transformation that is endemic in the early Irish theatre. Within this larger pattern, certain themes recur: the appropriation of the English language by the Irish and the colonization of Irish culture by the English, the importance of women as the agents of change, the displacement of a dominant class by an aggressive lower class, and the change by the Anglo-Irish in their perception of ancient Ireland, from a savage wilderness infested with barbarians, to a cultured civilization set in a Romantic landscape.
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Date of Award:November 2006
Supervisor(s):Burke, Patrick
Uncontrolled Keywords:theatre studies
Subjects:Humanities > Drama
Humanities > History
Humanities > Culture
DCU Faculties and Centres:DCU Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Science > School of English
Use License:This item is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. View License
ID Code:22607
Deposited On:30 Aug 2018 11:35 by Thomas Murtagh . Last Modified 30 Aug 2018 11:35

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