The Irish Dramatic Movement

By Una Ellis-Fermor | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
IDEALS IN THE WORKSHOP

'What we wanted was to create for Ireland a theatre with a base of realism, with an apex of beauty.'


I

THE MOVEMENT which created a living drama in Ireland sprang, as I have indicated, from the poetic faith of one man. Through the rough-and-tumble of the early years described in the last chapter, the managers of the theatre, the actors and the dramatists alike carried through unbroken the ideals of imaginative reality and of poetic truth. It is perhaps worth while, before describing the achievement of each dramatist as an individual, to pause and look at the history of the whole movement, not in terms of event but of intention; to see how intention met or created event and how far event tempered intention. For the leaders of the movement began with ideals, carried them heroically into the workshop of the theatre, let them prove themselves there (in the full assurance that they would prove sound), and in their later reflections upon the conflict, set down certain of their ideals again in terms of proven dramatic theory. Looked at this way, the story of the Irish drama seems to offer an unusually lucid exposition of what one feels to be after all the normal sequence: poetic faith, poetic practice and poetic theory. The faith is most clearly to be seen in the early critical writings of Yeats, the tempering of this faith in the historical accounts of Lady Gregory, the practice in the body of drama left by Yeats, Martyn, Lady Gregory, A. E., Synge and their successors, and the theory again in the later critical works of Yeats. We are driven, to find a parallel at all close, to the works of individual men rather than to the records of a whole movement, to Ibsen, or perhaps better still to Hebbel, the body of whose drama is backed by a continuous record of his ideals, his experience and his theories in the form of critical writings,

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The Irish Dramatic Movement
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Preface to the First Edition ix
  • Preface xv
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Chapter I - The Origin and Significance of the Irish Dramatic Movement 1
  • Chapter 2 - The English Theatre in the Nineties 18
  • Chapter 3 - The Early History of the Movement 33
  • Chapter 4 - Ideals in the Workshop 59
  • Chapter 5 - W. B. Yeats 91
  • Chapter 6 - Martyn and Moore 117
  • Chapter 7 - Lady Gregory 136
  • Chapter 8 - John Millington Synge 163
  • Chapter 9 - Conclusion and Prospect 187
  • Appendices 208
  • Index 237
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