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


In Daniel Corkery’s notorious 1931 study, Synge and Anglo-Irish Literature, he claims that Shaw is one of the Irish Protestant writers “for whom Ireland was never a patria in any sense.”1 This book has demonstrated just how preposterous such a statement is; Shaw maintained a strongly Irish outlook throughout his life, and it inspired or significantly informed most of his best work. Critics and commentators after Corkery have continued to exclude Shaw from the truly Irish canon (one thinks of Brian Friel’s contention that Shaw “no more belong[s] to Irish drama than John Field belongs to Irish music or Francis Bacon to Irish painting”).2 However, the vast majority of critics have included Shaw but kept him quarantined among the London-based Irish writers from Church of Ireland backgrounds who set most of their work in England and who wrote primarily for English audiences. As chapter 3 affirms, Shaw certainly belongs to the Irish Anglican literary tradition. However, given the time period in which he wrote, his pro-Irish reverse snobbery, the subject matter handled in his plays, his literary influences, and his personal and professional connections, he should also be considered part of the Irish Literary Revival. The arguments in the body of this book demand that Shaw’s position with respect to more mainstream Irish writing be reassessed, and the idea of Shaw as a Revival writer is by no means far-fetched.3


Irish Painting Ireland Background Irish Language Summer House British Stress 
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  1. 1.
    Daniel Corkery. Synge and Anglo-Irish Literature. Cork: Cork University Press, 1931. 3.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Brian Friel. Essays, Diaries, Interviews: 1964–1999. Ed. Christopher Murray. London: Faber, 1999. 51. This quote is from the essay “Plays Peasant and Unpeasant,” which originally appeared in the Times Literary Supplement on March 17, 1972. The title of this essay, of course, derives from the title of Shaw’s first play collection, Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant (1898). Friel asserts that Shaw and other Irish Protestant playwrights should be excluded from the Irish canon because they “wrote within the English tradition, for the English stage and for the English people.” (Friel, Essays, Diaries, Interviews: 1964–1999, 51.)Google Scholar
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    For a wider consideration of Shaw’s relationship to the Irish canon, see Peter Gahan. “Introduction: Bernard Shaw and the Irish Literary Tradition.” SHAW: The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies 30 (2010): 1–26.Google Scholar
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  26. 36.
    See Nelson O’Ceallaigh Ritschel. Shaw, Synge, Connolly, and Socialist Provocation. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2011. Ritschel also suggests that Synge’s last play, Deirdre of the Sorrows, may have been influenced by John Bull’s Other Island. (Ritschel, Shaw, Synge, Connolly, and Socialist Provocation, 87–88.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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© David Clare 2016

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