Staging Ireland

Representations in Shakespeare and Renaissance drama

Stephen O'Neill

Hardback €49.50
Catalogue Price: €55.00
ISBN: 978-1-85182-989-7
June 2007. 208pp.

‘An academic study that may become something of a milestone', Books Ireland.

'O'Neill has clearly understood the power of the stage in the early modern period as creator and modifier of individual and collective stereotypes, identities, and images ... A significant contribution to our understanding of early modern dramatic representation of Ireland and its people,' Rosalinde Schut, Irish University Review.

‘O’Neill … covers more ground more thoroughly than one is used to in treatments of “staged Ireland” … [O]ne could argue that Ireland means everything and nothing in this book. But as this book makes clear, Ireland did-and does-mean many things and signifies in many directions. O’Neill closes hopefully, too, showing that a flexible approach to the past may help us be more flexible toward the future: “[I]t is in the drama of history that we can continue to challenge and re-imagine the stock roles of national identity, Irish and English and Other, handed down by history”’, Peter G. Platt, Studies in English Literature 1500–1900 (Spring 2008).

'Stephen O’Neill’s account of staged representations of the Irish is the logical response to criticism that locked Ireland together with Spenser, reading the poet as a kind of ideological touchstone for English colonialist views at large. Staging Ireland supplements this focus on elite literary modes by highlighting how pervasive Ireland was as a topic for the early modern theatre. In asking how dramatists represented Ireland during the 1590s when the war of conquest escalated, O’Neill follows in the footsteps of a few earlier critics—including Christopher Highley and Andrew Murphy—who supplemented interpretations of Spenser with readings of Shakespeare’s plays, particularly the histories. But O’Neill’s approach differs in making the stage the exclusive focus, and in moving beyond Shakespeare’s corpus in delimiting the range of meanings and responses that Ireland evoked for early modern dramatists .... Indeed, the book’s richest contribution is its success in identifying a much wider range of plays that ripple with Irish undercurrents .... O’Neill sifts powerfully through a range of readings, paying particular attention to syntax and word choice', Jean Feerick, Shakespeare Quarterly (Winter 2008).

‘… a timely study of Ireland and the Irish on the commercial stages of Elizabethan London … a worthwhile addition to the growing body of criticism on race, culture, and difference in the early modern period … a wide-ranging book that is engaging in its local readings of individual plays and their topical contexts … Staging Ireland is a worthy study of Ireland’s presence in early modern drama, one that brings critical attention to scenes, characters, and plays that might otherwise be easily overlooked’, Marianne Montgomery, Eolas (2007).

‘[This book] explores various representations of Ireland via the Shakespearean stage and Renaissance drama … O’Neill’s concluding sentence best sums up the extent of his study: ‘drama explored and scrutinised the broader questions of identity, and it is in the drama of history that we can continue to challenge and re-imagine the stock roles of national identity, Irish and English and Other, handed down by history’ (p. 194). This is an intriguing interpretation and reading of Elizabethan drama', Declan Mallon, Irish Economic and Social History (Spring 2011).