Ibsen, Yeats, Synge and the Development of Irish Cultural and Political Identity

Submission Deadline-30th July 2024
June 2024 Issue : Publication Fee: 30$ USD Submit Now
Submission Deadline-20th July 2024
Special Issue of Education: Publication Fee: 30$ USD Submit Now

International Journal of Research and Innovation in Social Science (IJRISS) | Volume IV, Issue VII, July 2020 | ISSN 2454–6186

 Ibsen, Yeats, Synge and the Development of Irish Cultural and Political Identity

Didachos Mbeng Afuh (Ph.D)
The Department of English Modern Letters, the University of Ngaoundere, Cameroon

IJRISS Call for paper

Abstract: Ireland’s over seven hundred years under British imperialism saw its national identity suffer immeasurably as the Irish themselves did. This is because imperialism was an educational movement where colonizers set out to “consciously modernize, develop, instruct, and civilize the colonized” (Said, 94). As many commentators of Irish history of colonization have reported, Irish native features like the ancient Gaelic culture, Ireland’s mother tongue, Irish traditions, thoughts and ideas, to say nothing of its independent identity were Anglicized. This article focuses on the cultural and political struggle for a reawakening of the Irish consciousness, and defends the view that the adoption of Ibsen’s works in Ireland was largely responsible for future political and literary developments in Ireland. I argue that Ibsen’s writings succeeded in establishing a new type of national identity in Ireland.
Ibsen’s early plays like The Pretenders, without doubt, drove the poetic dramatist, W.B. Yeats to focus on dignifying Ireland’s Celtic past and Irish peasant life. By symbolically representing the Gaelic culture with its legends and heroes in Cathleen Ni Houlihan, Yeats intended to make the Irish conscious of their historical and mythological heritage. He used traditional Celtic symbols and shaped them in his own way. With this, he succeeded in transferring them into contemporary Ireland with a slightly different additional meaning. In addition, Ibsen’s master piece, An Enemy of the People, caused Synge to write plays that violated the existing picture of Irish nationality, thus bringing to limelight his personal conception of a new Irish political identity.

Key Words: identity, Irish culture, nationalist drama, nationalism, Irish, Ibsen, Yeats, Synge.


In dealing with Yeats’ and Synge’s relationship with Ibsen, we address their indebtedness to Ibsen in relation to culture and leader/masses crises. Ibsen’s early drama, The Pretenders, and his revolutionary play, An Enemy of the People conditioned Yeats’ and Synge’s private interpretation of their society. Their voiced anxieties, associated with Ibsen’s influence, reveal their attitude to dramatic realism. I. R. Malome in Ibsen and the Irish Revival asserts that “during the period 1903 and 1912 Ibsen’s dramas were not only explored by several Irish writers, they were played out in the Irish political arena” (5). Yeats and Synge, just like T. C. Murray, Edward Martyn and Brian O’Cassey saw in Ibsen’s plays a reflection of their own socio-cultural and political concerns in relation to nationalist fervour