Essay: Irish Writings Identify, Then Compare and Contrast

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¶ … Irish Writings

Identify, then compare and contrast, the Irish nationalist ideal as manifested in the Irish Yankee and the Shaughraun. Be sure to be specific regarding each play's action, characters and themes (as well as the other elements of drama). Also take into account the author as well as the time period when the play was written. How are these relevant to each play's particular nationalistic stance? (Remember the rise and triumph of Romantic thought.)

John Brougham's 1840 play "The Irish Yankee, or, the birth-day of freedom" and Dion Boucicault's 1874 play "The Shaughraun" are both recognized for putting across a series of Irish-related nationalist concepts, as they are apparently meant to present Irishmen from a more general pro-Irish perspective. Brougham and Boucicault are representative members of Ireland's dramaturgy community in the second part of the twentieth century, with their works being particularly renowned in America at the time. The protagonists in each play, Ebenezer O'Donahoo and, respectively, Robert Ffoliott, are most probably intended to represent a hallmark regarding Irishmen, given that they both go through several life-threatening episodes from which they eventually emerge victorious and demonstrating that Irish individuals are experienced and able in dealing with distressing moments.

John Brougham's profession as an actor had apparently assisted him to a great extent in getting actively involved in producing approximately one hundred and twenty-six dramatic works, making him one of the most acclaimed playwrights of the period, second only to Dion Boucicault. In spite of the fact that the majority of his plays were produced for American spectators, he did not hesitate to involve a great deal of Irish nationalist concepts into some of his works.

There is much controversy regarding Ireland's position in regard to the British Empire during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, considering that Irishmen grew increasingly irritated because of the fact that they were oppressed by the authorities. To a certain degree, Ireland's condition during its time as a British colony was very similar to other colonies belonging to the Empire at the time. People in Ireland were thus determined to achieve independence through any means possible; even if that meant that they would have to rise against the powerful British Empire.

Individuals in Ireland felt that they had no other option than to rebel. Considering that a revolution would certainly have little chances of success, many Irishmen chose to leave their country with the purpose of going to the U.S., where they could find freedom and where they were appreciated for their true value. Roman Catholics in Ireland were particularly concerned with the fact that they were oppressed by peoples who were Protestant and who were primarily interested in exploiting Irishmen, regardless of the aftermath that their actions had in Ireland. With the Great Irish Famine sweeping across the country, a series of writers chose to express their support toward their country and toward the simple Irish individual by writing several texts with the intention of putting across Irish nationalist ideas and their perspective regarding the true image of an Irishman (Flynn). This serves as confirmation that playwrights like Brougham and Boucicault were at the time inclined to create plays that reflected the way that they felt concerning the fact that their people were oppressed by the British Empire. Especially considering that both writers chose to emigrate to the U.S. At the time, it is obvious that they could no longer support a tyrannical regime threatening to deprive them of their most prized possession -- freedom.

"The Irish Yankee, or, the birth-day of freedom" shows the play's protagonist, Ebeneezer o'Donahoo, an Irish immigrant in the U.S., as he goes through a series of events during which he demonstrates his abilities to perform under extreme stress. "The Irish Yankee, or the Birth Day of Freedom," was first per formed at the St. Charles Theatre, New Orleans, in 1840, with Mr. Brougham as Ebenezer O'Donahoo, Mr. Ayling as General Washington, Mrs. Farren as Emma Rutland, and Miss Randolph as Lyddy Jenks" (Vernon 162).

O'Donahoo is a comic type, as Brougham had obviously been unwilling to abandon his devotement in regard to writing comedies in this situation, even with the fact that he intended the play to be an example of patriotism and dedication to Ireland.

Brougham's play is focused on an event that occurred during the first years of independence in the American states, with action revolving around O'Donahoo's character. Partly because of his position as an immigrant in America and because of the fact that he is fueled by his desire to fight oppressive forces (especially when they are represented by the British), the play's main character joins the army and is involved in a significant fight at Bunker Hill. Consequent to a series of happenings during which the Irish demonstrates his devotion toward the revolutionaries and their cause, O'Donahoo comes to be appreciated because of his dedication and is rapidly upgraded in rank, eventually becoming a personal confidant of none other than George Washington himself.

With the war ending O'Donahoo feels that his mission is over and returns home where he comes across his girlfriend, Lyddy, who he eventually marries. The couple sings a song duet in reference to the love that they hold for each-other. During the play's final scenes the audience is presented with Washington's character reading from the Declaration of Independence. O'Donahoo holds out three cheers: "Liberty all over the world, and where it is not given with a good will may it be taken by a strong hand" (Brougham).

Brougham used subtle comedy in combination to a distinguished patriotism in writing "The Irish Yankee, or, the birth-day of freedom." Most probably because of the playwright's intention to have the play appeal an American audience, the general atmosphere of the play has a somewhat western touch. Even with that, the lead character's very name points toward the fact that Brougham was particularly interested in having viewers relate to a typical Irishmen when coming across O'Donahoo.

In spite of the fact that contemporary theatres have a general tendency to avoid playing works from Dion Boucicault, his writings were especially influential for later works involving nationalist dramaturgy-related concepts. Boucicault takes on a much more aggressive position in comparison to Brougham, making his play a daring statement regarding Ireland's right to independence, both culturally and politically.

"The Shaughraun" seemed to be more than a simple play, as it appeared to serve as a tool used by Boucicault with the purpose of putting across his feelings and in order to encourage the rest of the world to support him in an endeavor to free his country. Whereas Brougham was obviously against the British colonial regime in Ireland, his criticism did not go very far, given that he was also interested in his position and in the commercial potential of his play.

In contrast to Brougham, Boucicault went to great efforts in order to become an active part of the anti-British Irish community that formed in the nineteenth century. Using his position as the writer of "The Shaughraun," the playwright urged Benjamin Disraeli to release the Irish individuals in British prisons who were accused of political crimes against the British Empire.

"The Shaughraun" presents Robert Ffolliott (the protagonist -- an Irish individual deceived into posing into a Fenian fugitive), Arte O'Neil (his fiancee), Corry Kinchela (a local leader responsible for plotting the deceit), Harvey Duff (a police informer and Kinchela's assistant), Conn the Shaughraun (Robert's helper), Captain Molineaux (an Englishmen with the mission of catching Fenian fugitives), and Claire Ffolliott (Robert's sister and Molineaux's lover).

Conn's role in the overall chain of action is to interfere with Kinchela's apparently sound plans, making it virtually impossible for the evil landlord to succeed in his mission to remove Robert from the lands that he intends to come into possession of.

Considering Boucicault's fame at the time when he issued this play, it is of no surprise that the international public was immediately presented with the critical conditions in Ireland. The playwright was however careful so as for the play not to trigger anti-Irish sentiments in audiences as a result of the fact that Irish politics seemed to be exaggerated at times. Most probably with the purpose of proving his objectivity (and the play's impartiality in general), Boucicault introduced the character of Molineaux. In spite of his British ethnicity, the Captain did not express any anti-Irish feelings, as he was primarily interested in imposing justice where it was needed.

2. How does Dion Boucicault's placing of the Stage Irishman among fellow Irish alter this stage stereotype? Use concrete examples from the earlier plays featuring this stock character (the Irish Tutor, the Irish Attorney) as a point of departure. Also be certain to discuss how the type(s) of comedy involved in each play colors the depiction of the Irish. How does placing the Stage Irishman in the American milieu affect this stage stereotype in the Irish Yankee and Mulligan Guard Ball? Be sure to discuss how theme, ethnic… [END OF PREVIEW]

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