Just Moseying Around

Where the Abbey Theatre should be on the map

After comparing Thom’s map of 1904 to the 360 cities map, I found many of the buildings and landmarks I have been visiting while in Dublin, like St. Stephen’s Green, Merrion Square, The Dublin Zoo, and so forth. It was fun and I made it a little game for myself, going back and forth between the maps, trying to see how many places I could spot. I found many, but not the Abbey Theatre, which I was planning on visiting later in the day. I found out it was open in December of that same year, so that is why it wasn’t on the map yet. After staring at these maps for some time, I became bored. What can I say, my attention span resembles that of Winnie the Pooh.

I decided to meander on over to the Abbey Theatre. There wasn’t a show for that night so the theatre was pretty empty. I was lucky in that they let me roam the place. I was expecting a huge, mind-blowing theatre. I don’t really know why…I guess my brain just always leans to extravagance unnecessarily. I blame Hollywood. Plus, it doesn’t make sense for it to be some flashy theatre. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful little theatre, full of a strong Irish history. Kilfeather’s book, Dublin: A Cultural History, mentions that it was built during the Irish Literary Revival to help bring back some of the Gaelic culture (pg. 142). The sheer determination of the Irish people to hold fast to their own culture and resist the changes England was trying to force on them is something to be admired. Brown’s “Images and Realities” also put it nicely, “The new state inherited therefore both the more traditional symbols of national identity and the modes and motifs that were the fruit of the Literary Revival which had come to vigorous life when, from the 1880s onward, scholars, poets, playwrights, historians, and folklorists rescued much from the Gaelic past and reinterpreted that past in the interests of a raised national consciousness.” I love that it permeated every aspect of Irish life, their art, the theatre, literature, their language, everything. They’re a fierce people and I am growing increasingly fond of them (not that I didn’t already like them. The fondness is just growing the more I learn of them.)

…a superficial consideration will show us that the Irish nation’s insistence on developing its own culture by itself is not so much the demand of a young nation that wants to make good in the European concert as the demand for a very old nation to renew under new forms the glories of a past civilization.

James Joyce, “Ireland, Island of Saints and Sages”, pg 157

1 Comment

  1. I also found the experience of the Abbey Theater to be a bit underwhelming. However, I really like your point that the theater does not need to be flashy to be an important space. The importance of theater is not the building in which it takes place but the human impact on the audience.
    However, even though the Abbey Theater is not an extravagant place, I wonder what the typical audience member is like. I am curious if the audience mainly consists of the mainly the wealthy and elite, like many other theater audiences. Additionally, what are the backgrounds of the newer playwrights and actors at the Abbey Theater? I would love to further explore how the Abbey Theater continues to shape and respond to Irish national identity and whether this identity has changed in modern times.

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