Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 July 2019
This introduction begins with a survey of eighteenth-century Irish theatre practitioners and argues that their contribution was considerable and sustained by ethnic support networks. Theatre has often been elided from discussions of Enlightenment, but the Irish example shows how the theatre can be a powerful agent of Enlightenment. Theatre was a forum within which the Irish had tremendous success and which they used to represent Irish civility during a period when British audiences were more receptive to such ideas. The 1740s in particular, fuelled by patriot resentment after the Declaratory Act, revisionist historiography and Irish patriot activity in Ireland and England, saw the emergence of a robust and assertive theatrical Enlightenment, embodied in and symbolized by the life and career of Charles Macklin.