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The Irish plays of James Shirley, 1636-1640

By Justine Isabella Williams

Abstract

Although he was a prominent and influential playwright during his theatrical career,\ud the work of James Shirley (1596-1666) has been neglected since Dryden's description\ud of him in 'MacFlecknoe' as a mere 'type...of tautology'. Shirley holds a unique place\ud amongst Caroline dramatists as, at the height of his career, he left London to become\ud resident playwright of the first purpose-built theatre in Ireland, the Werburgh Street\ud Theatre. This seminal event has received fairly little attention from scholars, and the\ud plays of this Irish period (The Royal Master, The Doubtful Heir, The Gentleman of\ud Venice, The Politician and St. Patrick for Ireland) have not previously been examined\ud as a whole.\ud This thesis examines Shirley's Irish period in its entirety, from the\ud circumstances surrounding his move to Dublin in 1636, through an exploration of his\ud relationship with the Werburgh Street Theatre and what influenced his Irish plays, to\ud the factors which resulted in his return to England in 1640. The thesis historicises the\ud production of these plays in their socio-political context. The chapters\ud (chronologically arranged by play) provide close textual studies and contextual\ud material relating the texts to their patrons, performance spaces, audiences, print history\ud and Irish politics. This research reveals that during this four year period, Shirley\ud gradually adapted his writing style in a targeted attempt to appeal to the tastes of the\ud Dublin audience. Shirley managed the theatre with John Ogilby, who was appointed\ud Master of the Revels in Ireland by Lord Deputy Wentworth. An analysis of the\ud relationship between these three key figures has contributed to a comprehensive\ud picture of the socio-political conditions of Shirley‘s writing. Through the investigation\ud of Shirley's work and professional position during this time, this thesis builds on\ud recent critical recovery work (including that by Hadfield/Maley, Rankin, Dutton) on\ud the literary-political circumstances of Stuart Ireland

Topics: PR
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:3933

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