Since the seventeenth century, Shakespeare has proved an abiding presence in Irish history, politics and culture.1 The tradition of performing Shakespeare in Ireland dates back to this period, and subsequent theatrical endeavours have demonstrated his continuing appeal to Irish audiences. Shakespeare’s work has served not only as a source of inspiration but also as an agent of frustration for succeeding generations of Irish novelists, poets and playwrights. Drawn to the lyrical beauty of the English Renaissance, many Irish writers have found themselves simultaneously troubled by Shakespeare’s symbolization of English cultural hegemony. Oscar Wilde eloquently expressed such a sentiment when he declared: ‘I am Irish by race… but the English have condemned me to speak the language of Shakespeare’.2 Given the prominent role played by Shakespeare at every level of education in Ireland, this paradoxical situation is easy to understand. At Trinity College, Dublin, and at the Queen’s University of Belfast, there is a long-standing tradition of Shakespearean scholarship, while the dramatist is a compulsory element in school and college curriculums, both north and south of the border.3 Three centuries of reading, production and appropriation testify to the vexed but integral place of Shakespeare in the Irish imagination.
KeywordsPermeability Europe Edna
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