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Irish Theatre


Irish Theatre

Considering its size, the small country of Ireland has made a disproportionate contribution to the world of Theatre. Thanks to famous and prolific playwrights like George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde, people in every corner of the globe have felt the influence of Irish theatre.

With initial leanings toward political commentary, early Irish dramas tended to serve government purposes. But it wasn’t long before Irish writers branched out and began to meet the needs of the people. Attending plays was soon a popular pastime in Ireland, and as new theatres appeared, audiences grew. Unfortunately, due to Ireland’s economic struggles during the 19th century, many writers were forced to relocate to London or America to establish their careers.

The 18th century

Two of the most successful playwrights on the London stage at this time were Ireland’s Oliver Goldsmith, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

  • Oliver Goldsmith (1728 – 1774) graduated from Trinity College. He wrote She Stoops to Conquer, in 1773.
  • Richard Sheridan (1751 - 1816) was a Dublin native. He became one of the most significant playwrights of his era, with offerings like The School for Scandal, and The Critic.

19th century

  • Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was born in Dublin to a literary family. He studied at Trinity College, before moving to London, where he carved out a brilliant career writing short stories, social commentary and plays. Known for Lady Windmeres’s Fan, a biting satire on Victorian morals, Wilde’s most famous plays were An Ideal Husband, which he wrote in 1895 and, The Importance of Being Ernest written that same year.
  • George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950). Born in Dublin, he moved to London in 1876. Shaw was extremely prolific, and his collected writings fill 36 volumes. He will always be remembered for his play Pygmalion, which was the foundation for the stage classic My Fair Lady. Shaw won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925

At the beginning of the twentieth century Ireland’s economy began improve. Consequently the government was able to subsidize the development of indigenous writers, directors and performers. This encouraged many theatres and theatre companies to produce the work of Irish writers which in turn allowed Irish dramatists to ply their trade at home rather than abroad.

Abby Theatre

The Abby Theater came into being during this reformation. Built in 1904, the theatre produces Irish works to this day. Having gone through several metamorphisms due to fire and relocation, the face has changed, but the theme is the same - the Abby Theatre sponsors and promotes excellent Irish artists, who go on to create world class Irish Theatre.

- by Geanie Roake for


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