Staging the Easter Rising: Plays by W.B. Yeats, Sean O’Casey and Colm Tóibín

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Kao, Wei H.
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Despite the fact that the 1916 Easter Rising has given rise to many critical inquiries and occasioned heated debate among nationalist and revisionist historians, this historical event has been revered almost as a creation story for the Republic of Ireland. This paper will examine three plays that revisit the Rising and feature the generally neglected participation of women in the events. By illustrating women’s quandaries and antagonisms, the plays either reflect on the causes and effects of remote English rule in Ireland or delineate the immediate impact of the Easter Rising on different social strata. Their alternative perspectives often feature the conflicting consequences of the Rising and illuminate ignored yet credible facets that may serve to rebut the received interpretations. Although there is a relatively long time span during which these works were produced, the social contexts in which the playwrights lived and worked give rise to diverse portrayals of the same political turmoil. More significantly, these plays initiate a debate on the Easter Rising yet produce healing effects by restaging historical traumas. The three plays are Yeats’s less discussed play The Dreaming of the Bones (1919), Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars (1926), and Colm Tóibín’s Beauty in a Broken Place (2004). Author keywords: Ireland--History--Easter Rising 1916; Abbey Theatre; Yeats, W. B. (William Butler), 1865-1939; O’Casey, Sean, 1880-1964; Tóibín, Colm