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date: 09 April 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The riots that met the first production of J. M. Synge’s Playboy of the Western World in 1907 have become one of the landmarks of Irish theatre history, and have usually been interpreted in terms of competing definitions of a national theatre. This chapter chooses instead to put the 1907 Playboy of the Western World riots in the context of the very similar response that met the première of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring (Le sacre du printemps) in 1913. By understanding Synge’s work in the context of a modernist understanding of primitivism and aesthetic shock, this chapter argues that we can develop a new understanding of what became known as ‘peasant drama’ in the early Abbey theatre, and begin to see it not as a form of realism, but as a critique of previous dramatic forms.

Keywords: J. M. Synge, Padraic Colum, peasant play, realism, modernism, primitivism

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