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date: 26 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Several of the leaders of the Rising—Patrick Pearse, Thomas McDonagh, and James Connolly—wrote plays, and many were closely engaged in theatrical enterprises (often conceived as alternatives to the Abbey Theatre) in the years leading up to the Easter Rising in 1916. Indeed, there is an argument that Easter 1916 itself was conceived as a public performance, albeit a performance with life-and-death consequences. This chapter considers the theatrical imagination of the Rising and the ways in which the plays of those most directly involved not only engage with issues such as sacrifice, performativity, and utopianism but also reveal a surprising capacity for doubt. This lays the groundwork for a consideration of the best-known theatrical response to the 1916 Rising, Seán O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars, which in turn lays down a challenge to later playwrights in staging one of the pivotal events in modern Irish history.

Keywords: Patrick Pearse, Thomas McDonagh, James Connolly, Seán O’Casey, Easter Rising, sacrifice, revolution

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