Shaw and the Stage Englishman in Irish Literature

  • David Clare
Part of the Bernard Shaw and His Contemporaries book series (BSC)


Much has been written by critics about the phenomenon of the Stage Irishman in English drama. For centuries, the Irish were depicted on the English stage as ugly, drunken, sentimental, pugnacious, patriotic buffoons. But how have the English been portrayed in Irish fiction and drama? While Irish writers have resisted the temptation to create deeply offensive ciphers like the Stage Irishman, over the past two centuries a number of important dramatists and fiction writers have repeatedly placed English characters into their work in order to take satirical swipes at the English and their handling of Ireland. These characters may not be crude caricatures like the Stage Irishman, but they are far from completely objective portraits of English people. In fact, even in the cases where these writers intended their English characters to be good, or at least harmless, they still used these portraits to reveal what they saw as drawbacks or peculiarities in the English national character.1 One of the most famous Stage Englishmen in Irish literary history is, of course, Tom Broadbent from John Bull’s Other Island, but, as this chapter will demonstrate, Broadbent must be contextualized within a long, under-considered, virtually invisible, tradition of Irish writing, in which the commendable Irish Self is repeatedly contrasted with the less admirable English Other.


English People Irish People Home Rule Fiction Writer Irish Language 
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