The Irish contribution to world theatre is famous, but today awareness of Irish theatrical activity is chiefly confined to the modern period. This book corrects that imbalance with an unparalleled study of the early history of drama and performance in Ireland, from the seventh century through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and ending on the eve of the arrival of Oliver Cromwell. The work of professional entertainers is discussed, as is that of amateurs, in theatricals sponsored by churches, guilds, civic authorities, and aristocratic patrons. Drawing on a wide variety of sources, many unpublished, Alan Fletcher opens up a vibrant but forgotten Irish landscape in which drama and performance collaborated actively in the mapping and manufacture of social history.
Modern Irish drama is acknowledged as having a rich and vibrant tradition. Drama, Performance and Polity in Pre-Cromwellian Ireland helps to show how that vibrant tradition of drama and theatre has a very long history. Dr. Fletcher deals not only with performance traditions outside the Pale in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but for the first time delves into such traditions as can be gleaned about Gaelic Ireland during the preceding millennium. Fletcher surveys the 'native' traditions beyond the Pale; early and sixteenth-century activities within Dublin; Kilkenny drama; provincial centres outside Dublin; and Dublin in the seventeenth century up to the arrival of Oliver Cromwell, when the Irish theatres were closed.