The Irish Dramatic Movement

By Una Ellis-Fermor | Go to book overview
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Our dramatists, and I am not speaking of your work or Synge's but of those to whom you and Synge and I gave opportunity, have been excellent just in so far as they have become all eye and ear, their minds not smoking lamps, as at times they would have wished, but clear mirrors. . . . We have been the first to create a true 'People's Theatre', and we have succeeded because it is not an exploitation of local colour, or of a limited form of drama possessing a temporary novelty, but the first doing of something for which the world is ripe, something that will be done all over the world and done more and more perfectly: the making articulate of all the dumb classes each with its own knowledge of the world, its own dignity, but all objective with the objectivity of the office and the workshop, of the newspaper and the street, of mechanism and of politics. Yet we did not set out to create this sort of theatre.1

IN THESE WORDS, Yeats, looking back in 1919 upon the achievement of the movement in the first twenty years of its life summed up the change which had come over it since those early years with which our study is mainly concerned. It had been a change from poetic to realistic drama, from the imaginative interpretation of theories which were often remote in time or mood to the objective study of what was immediately at hand. The shift of interest and attitude is, though not sudden, so clear that the early phase separates from the later ones as naturally as does the drama of the late from that of the early Jacobean period, forming another demanding its own separate treatment. It is at once the conclusion of the early phase and a fresh beginning.

But the beginnings of the later Irish drama were already there in the early years of the movement, and the naturalism that we associate with the names of Colum, Robinson, Murray and a long line of writers down to our own day was already a part of Synge's own mastery, while the main work of Colum and

W. B. Yeats to Lady Gregory. ( P.C.204-6.)


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The Irish Dramatic Movement


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