Staging Hibernia: Female Allegories of Ireland in Cathleen Ní Houlihan and Dawn

Tanya Dean

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    3 Citations (Scopus)


    In the midst of the Irish uprisings of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a subsidiary war was being fought on a cultural front. In tandem with the movement to liberate Ireland from British sovereignty, a parallel crusade was gaining momentum, one that sought to assert Ireland’s artistic independence from what was felt to be Britain’s malign cultural domination. Within this artistic revolution, theatre was used by notable groups like the Irish Literary Theatre and Inghinidhe Na h-Éireann (Daughters of Ireland) as a prime battleground to reassert national authority over depictions of the “real” Ireland and the Irish, and to offer an alternative to the (mis)representations of Irishness emanating from a colonial force. To this end, W. B. Yeats and Augusta Gregory’s play Cathleen Ní Houlihan and Maud Gonne’s Dawn both featured anthropomorphic incarnations of Ireland as a female character. In this essay I examine the context in which the two plays were written, and their dramaturgical and political use of the allegorical female figure. I believe that this trope was employed both in conversation with Irish mythological tradition and in reaction to derogatory representations of Ireland in foreign popular arts and media. I also consider these works within the framework of the roles and representations of women as part of the Irish nationalist agenda.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)71-82
    JournalTheatre History Studies
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2014


    • Modern Irish Theatre
    • Abbey Theatre
    • Cathleen Ni Houlihan
    • Dawn
    • W.B. Yeats
    • Lady Augusta Gregory
    • Maud Gonne


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