Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Richard Harp

Number of Pages



This dissertation presents a critical study of five dramatic works first performed at Dublin's Abbey Theatre in the early twentieth century. The plays considered here have often been called masterpieces by critics, yet they have received little serious scholarly attention and today are forgotten relics of the Abbey's past. Nonetheless, these plays---Padraic Colum's Thomas Muskerry (1910), St. John Ervine's John Ferguson (1915), T. C. Murray's Autumn Fire (1924), Lennox Robinson's The Big House (1926), and Teresa Deevy's Katie Roche (1936)---formed a backbone for the fledgling national theater. They were successful because they attracted and engaged their audiences, but furthermore they challenged conventional notions (sometimes creating alternate notions) of gender, class, nationality, and social status. As serious dramatic works, these plays represented probably the most successful achievement of Yeats's vision for the theater as "a mirror showing the nation a true image of its mind and features." Thus, the plays helped to "invent Ireland" (in the words of Declan Kiberd's important study of Irish literature), and they contributed significantly to the Abbey's establishment as one of the world's great repertory theaters. This dissertation, then, redresses critical neglect of the five plays in an attempt to initiate deeper ways of understanding and interpreting them through social, political, and economic contexts, textual backgrounds, and critical, publication, and stage histories.


Abbey; Abbey Theatre; Colum, Padraic; Critical; Critical Introductions; Deevy, Teresa; Early; Ervine, St. John; Ireland; Lennox Robinson; Murray, T. C.; Padraic Colum; Pioneering; Realism; Robinson, Lennox; St. John Ervine; Social Realism; St. John Ervine; T. C. Murray; Theatre; Teresa Deevy; Works

Controlled Subject

Literature, Modern; British literature; English literature--Irish authors; Irish literature; Theater

File Format


File Size

6144 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




If you are the rightful copyright holder of this dissertation or thesis and wish to have the full text removed from Digital Scholarship@UNLV, please submit a request to and include clear identification of the work, preferably with URL.


IN COPYRIGHT. For more information about this rights statement, please visit