Fueled by the Enlightenment’s model of revolutionary cultural change, the hopeful Irish rose against British rule in the famous rebellion of 1798. The British responded quickly and violently to suppress it, and for generations after, Irish school children knew intimately the stories of patriotism, terror, and betrayal that came out of the ’98 Rising. The enactment of these stories, through a series of extremely popular political melodramas, reinforced that learning and was fundamental to the evolving sense of Irish nationhood.
For the Land They Loved makes available in print for the first time the complete texts of four of the most ideologically complex and theatrically effective of the many “lost” Irish melodramas produced at the popular Queen’s Theatre in Dublin during the late nineteenth and earl twentieth centuries. This edition, complete with period illustrations of playbills, pictorial ads, and portraits, includes a detailed critical and historical essay that weaves the separate narratives of the plays into a sustained story of Irish sociopolitical life in the revolutionary 1790s.
All four plays focus on the ’98 Rising. J. W. Whitbread’s Lord Edward, Or ’98 (1894) and Wolfe Tone (1898) dramatize the consequences of heroism from the aristocratic and United Irish point of view, while P. J. Bourke’s When Wexford Rose (1910) and For the Land She Loved (1915) engage resistance from working-class and feminist-nationalist perspectives.
Such plays, shown constantly in Irish cities and small towns as well as overseas, were to become part of the social dialogue that produced another rising in 1916 and beyond. For scholars and students of Irish history and culture, and for anyone interested in understanding the consciousness behind modern Irish resistance, For the Land They Loved will prove to be essential reading.
Cheryl Herr, Associate Professor of English at the University of Iowa, is the author of Joyce's Anatomy of Culture, numerous articles on Joyce, Irish literature, and modern fiction, and is a contributor to Yeats and Postmodernism.
Series: Irish Studies
6 x 9, 384 pages, 22 black and white illustrations