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date: 18 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Although many in the Irish national theatre movement rejected melodrama—‘we will show that Ireland is not the home of buffoonery and easy sentiment’, as Yeats put it—the form continued to be both popular and influential into the twentieth century. This chapter deals with the hugely successful genre of Irish plays associated with figures such as Dion Boucicault, Hubert O’Grady, and J. W. Whitbread, and the impact of the form on later playwrights including O’Casey. It will show that by staging what might be called ‘dramas of exteriority’, melodrama provided a form of theatre capable of social critique, and its persistence well into the twentieth century was something more than the survival of a residual theatrical form. Indeed, it could be argued that Irish melodrama as a theatrical form can be understood as a response to the shocks of modernity.

Keywords: melodrama, Dion Boucicault Hubert O’Grady, J. W. Whitbread, Queen’s Royal Theatre, Sean O’Casey, modernity

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