Part 13, Chapter 1 : William Butler Yeats

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Part 13, Chapter 1

Emma Goldman, The Social Significance of the Modern Drama (Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1914; The Gorham Press, Boston, U.S.A.)


     MOST Americans know about the Irish people only that they are not averse to drink, and that they make brutal policemen and corrupt politicians. But those who are familiar with the revolutionary movements of the past are aware of the fortitude and courage, aye, of the heroism of the Irish, manifested during their uprisings, and especially in the Fenian movement--the people's revolt against political despotism and land robbery.

     And though for years Ireland has contributed to the very worst features of American life, those interested in the fate of its people did not despair; they knew that the spirit of unrest in Ireland was not appeased, and that it would make itself felt again in no uncertain form.

     The cultural and rebellious awakening in that country within the last twenty-five years once more proves that neither God nor King can for long suppress the manifestation of the latent possibilities of a people. The possibilities of the Irish must indeed be great if they could inspire the rich humor of a Lady Gregory, the deep symbolism of a Yeats, the poetic fancy of a Synge, and the rebellion of a Robinson and Murray.

     Only a people unspoiled by the dulling hand of civilization and free from artifice can retain such simplicity of faith and remain so imaginative, so full of fancy and dreams, wild and fiery, which have kindled the creative spark in the Irish dramatists of our time. It is true that the work of only the younger element among them is of social significance, yet all of them have rendered their people and the rest of the world a cultural service of no mean value. William Butler Yeats is among the latter, together with Synge and Lady Gregory; his art, though deep in human appeal, has no bearing on the pressing questions of our time. Mr. Yeats himself would repudiate any implication of a social character, as he considers such dramas too " topical " and therefore " half bad " plays. In view of this attitude, it is difficult to reconcile his standard of true art with the repertoire of the Abbey Theater, which consists mainly of social dramas. Still more difficult is it to account for his work, " Where There is Nothing," which is no less social in its philosophy and tendency than lbsen's " Brand."

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January 25, 2017 16:51:34 :
Part 13, Chapter 1 -- Added to

September 23, 2017 10:56:37 :
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