Selected Plays of George Shiels
Chosen and Introduced by Christopher Murray
The fifteenth volume of the Irish Drama Selections series (ISSN 0260-7962), General Editors: Joseph Ronsley and Ann Saddlemyer.
21.6 x 13.8cm.
Contains The Retrievers (hitherto unpublished), Professor Tim, The New Gossoon, The Passing Day, The Rugged Path, and The Summit, bibliographical checklist.
George Shiels (1886-1949) was one of the most prolific and most successful playwrights in the history of the Abbey Theatre. Before his debut at the Abbey, Shiels's early work was staged by the Ulster Literary Theatre in Belfast and later on his work was taken up by the dynamic Group Theatre, also in Belfast. As a Northerner, Shiels embraced the whole island in his work, his use of dialect and his characterisation. Moreover, while his plays were broadly popular and wonderfully well suited to the acting talents of theatre companies North and South, his all-Ireland perspective lent his work a keen critical edge masked by easy realism and hilarious comedy. Nowadays, we turn to the dark comedy of a play like The Passing Day to re-adjust our view of Shiels and to see his plays as seriously concerned with the land question and issues of identity, gender and the law in post-colonial Ireland. From that perspective, The New Gossoon and in particular The Rugged Path (which in 1940 broke all previous box-office receipts at the Abbey, when the production played for an unprecedented twelve weeks, all previous plays having been limited to two) challenge us to look again at Shiels and see him as public commentator as well as consummate entertainer.
The present collection attempts to facilitate this needed redefinition of Shiels's place in the Irish dramatic canon. To that end it includes The Retrievers (1924), his first full-length political play, never before published, together with Professor Tim (1925), The New Gossoon (1930), The Passing Day (1936), The Rugged Path (1940) and its sequel The Summit (1941), together with a Bibliographical Checklist.
Christopher Murray is Professor Emeritus in the School of English and Drama at University College Dublin. He is former editor of Irish University Review and former chair of the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures (IASIL). Among his publications are Twentieth-Century Irish Drama: Mirror up to Nation and Sean O'Casey, Writer at Work: A Biography.