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Chapter 16 - Dion Boucicault and the Globalised Irish Stage

from Part IV - The Languages of Literature

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 February 2020

Matthew Campbell
Affiliation:
University of York
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Summary

This chapter focuses on the ‘Irish’ plays of Dion Boucicault who dominated the world of nineteenth-century anglophone theatre with commercial and critical successes in London, New York and Dublin. His crowd-pleasing melodramas rejected the crude stereotype of the Stage Irishman and provided positive protagonists for his global Irish audiences, while always remaining alert to the commercial imperative. However, in the period of the Literary Revival Boucicault’s plays were seen as perpetuating an image of Ireland as ‘the home of buffoonery and easy sentiment’. Brian Friel’s later equation of Boucicault’s plays with pantomime continued this dismissal of the playwright and none of his work was performed at the Abbey until 1967. Since the publication of David Krause’s Dolmen Press Boucicault in 1964, he has been regarded in more positive, if complex terms and, as Fintan O’Toole argues, if you exclude Boucicault ‘you begin to seriously distort the nature of what the theatrical canon might be’.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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