Irish Politics is Reflected in Modern Drama

Abbey Theatre is the most famous of Irish theatres, one of the most famous in the British Isles, if not in Europe. It is repertory-theater Company and the auditorium in which the company performs, in Dublin, Ireland.  It was the centre of the Irish Dramatic movement founded in 1899 by W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory. Originally established to present Irish plays about Irish subjects, the company later expanded its repertory to include classical drama, including that of British playwright William Shakespeare, and contemporary works by dramatists of continental Europe.

The aim of the Irish Dramatic movement was to present Irish plays on Irish subjects preformed by Irish actors. It is a product of the Irish cultural revival that began late in the 19th century. The revival was initiated largely by the Irish poet and dramatist William Butler Yeats, who urged Irish writers to draw their inspiration directly from Irish life and traditions rather than from English and European sources.

The building itself was the result of a conversion of the old theatre of the Mechanics institute in Abbey Street and the old city morgue next to it. Its creation was made possible through the munificence (and tea) of Annie Horniman (1860-1937), who was later the pioneer of the Manchester School. English theater manager Annie Elizabeth Fredericka Horniman paid for construction of the original Abbey Theatre building. With her financial assistance, the Irish National Theatre Society established in 1904 the repertory company that also became known as the Abbey Theatre. The next eighty-five years was to bring forward plays by almost all Irish dramatists of any note.

Abbey Theatre
Apart from Annie Horniman, Lady Gregory and William Butler Yeats, the main moving spirits of the Abbey were J.M. Synge and the Fay brothers. The first plays presented were On Baile’s Strand and Cathleen Houlihan by Yeats and Spreading the News by Lady Gregory. Later came Synge’s The Play boy of the Western World (1907) which caused riots because Irish morality was offended by a reference in the text to a woman’s shift (i.e. a chemise). The fortunes of the theatre declined somewhat with the removal of Annie Horniman’s financial support. Singe died in 1909 and Yeats resigned as a result of a dispute with Lady Gregory, who was to continue until she retired in 1928. Among distinguished Irish playwrights to have their plays produced at the Abby in its earlier years were Padraic Column(1881-1972), St John Greer Ervine(1883-1971) and Lennox Robinson(1886-1958), who was manager of the Abby from 1910 to 1923(apart from a short break), in which year he became director. After the First World War there were more financial troubles, which were partly relived by there famous plays by Sean O’Casey (1880-1964). These plays treat the Irish war of independence and the Irish economy. The plays referred to deal with the theme of Irish struggle for independence.

Ref: 1. William Butler Yeats: Man and Poet- A.  N. Jeffares      
     2. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature
      3. Microsoft Students’ Encarta Article- Eric Bentley