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Irish Women Playwrights 1900-1939

Gender and Violence on Stage


Cathy Leeney

Irish Women Playwrights 1900-1939 is the first book to examine the plays of five fascinating and creative women, placing their work for theatre in co-relation to suggest a parallel tradition that reframes the development of Irish theatre into the present day.
How these playwrights dramatize violence and its impacts in political, social, and personal life is a central concern of this book. Augusta Gregory, Eva Gore-Booth, Dorothy Macardle, Mary Manning, and Teresa Deevy re-model theatrical form, re-structuring action and narrative, and exploring closure as a way of disrupting audience expectation. Their plays create stage spaces and images that expose relationships of power and authority, and invite the audience to see the performance not as illusion, but as framed by the conventions and limits of theatrical representation.
Irish Women Playwrights 1900-1939 is suitable for courses in Irish theatre, women in theatre, gender and performance, dramaturgy, and Irish drama in the twentieth century as well as for those interested in women’s work in theatre and in Irish theatre in the twentieth century.


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Chapter 2: Eva Gore-Booth: Staging the Dream / 59


ChAPTeR 2 Eva Gore-Booth (1870–1926) Staging the Dream Eva Gore-Booth was born in 1870 into a privileged ascendancy family at Lissadell, their estate north of Sligo town. The physical surroundings and associations of Lissadell, at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, and its mythology and folklore were the landscape of Eva’s childhood and the inspiration and matrix of her poetic and dramatic imagination. Queen Medbh’s tomb surmounting Knocknarea mountain defines the horizon from the shore of the Lissadell demesne; indeed, everywhere around the intricacies of Sligo Bay, and in the high drama of Ben Bulben and Knocknarea you can see actualized the spaces imagined in her plays. Ironically, Gore-Booth chose, in adulthood, to leave this iconic physical and cultural land- scape, but its epic theatricality is a key element in all of her plays. Gore-Booth, even as a child, was passionately interested in literature, learning Latin and Greek, and reading Dante and Shakespeare.1 In her generation, her fam- ily, whose reputation as enlightened landlords was widespread, became more and more involved in the concerns of tenants, and in the dream of a new, independent Ireland. Eva’s elder sister Constance later took part in the Rising of 1916 and was the first woman elected to Parliament in 1918. Both Gore-Booth sisters rejected the life available to women in the aristocracy: marriage, motherhood, and the duties of society. Visiting Lissadell at the very end of the twentieth century, before the house was sold by the Gore-Booth family, little trace of either...

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