Music in Irish Theatre: The Sound of the People

  • Ciara Fleming


This chapter sets out to investigate the use of music in the works of canonical Irish playwrights, and note how this has been echoed by contemporary theatremakers. It examines, in particular, the function of music as it relates to identity, on both a personal and a national level.

The chapter takes three playwrights from different points in Irish theatre history, as benchmarks for the broader trends within Irish theatre. The first focus is W.B. Yeats, examining his use of music as part of the Irish Literary Revival, and how this added to his authorship of a cultural identity for the Irish people. The chapter moves on to investigate Brian Friel, noting his use of music to emphasize identity on a personal level. Also examined is his use of music where words can no longer function to overcome a crisis of representation within the Irish canon. Thomas Murphy is the final playwright to be studied in depth. The chapter excavates the changes he brought about in the way that music was used within Irish theatre. His use of music to engender the female voice is also significant, and something which is explored. Throughout, this chapter aims to draw parallels between these canonical playwrights and some of their contemporary counterparts. It charts the use of music within Irish plays, and looks to the present moment of popularity Irish-generated musical theatre is experiencing.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ciara Fleming
    • 1
  1. 1.Trinity College DublinDublinIreland

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