Irish Theatre from the Eighteenth Century to Today

Course Two: Irish Theatre from the Eighteenth Century to Today

This course examines nine great plays by Irish playwrights written between the years 1777 and 2012. Taken together, the plays illustrate the changing concerns and themes of Irish drama as Irish society and culture has changed and evolved. But even though each play is a product of its own time and author, as we study the texts, we will find that they have certain things in common – marking them as part of the distinct and distinctive tradition of Irish theatre.

The plays address important issues such as the imperfections of society, questions of being and the diversity of gender. Set in the drawing rooms of London or rural and urban Ireland, these themes are explored by means of memory, myth and lyrical language. Irish playwrights frequently approach their subjects through humour, making particular use of wit and satire – devices that belong within an ancient Irish literary heritage.

We will also find that the playwrights often reflect on the figure of the artist and the process of creativity – aware of and exploring their own place in the brilliant pantheon of great Irish playwrights.

Course Schedule

(1) 16th: Introduction to Irish Theatre
(2) 23rd: Gossips and scallywags in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The School for Scandal

(3)30th: Oscar Wilde: Wit, dandy and social iconoclast

(4) 6th: The Irish National Theatre and The Playboy of the Western World by J.M.  Synge
(5) 13th: Family tragicomedy in the tenements of Dublin:Seán O’Casey
(6) 20th: “Nothing to be done”: Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
(7) 27th: Brian Friel and Irish identity


(8) 6th: Gender perspectives in Frank McGuinness’s drama
(9) 13th: Memory and myth in Portia Coughlan by Marina Carr
(10) 20th: Age and desire: Deirdre Kinahan’s Halcyon Days

Students are invited to read the texts, but can also choose to participate in the discussion without first reading the plays.

Course Books