Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 12, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 256

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Padraic Colum wrote The Fiddler’s House near the beginning of his distinguished literary career, which lasted almost seven decades. He wrote important works in such diverse genres as lyric poetry, the novel, drama, biography, and children’s literature. His fame as a dramatist is based largely on three plays, The Land (pr., pb. 1905), The Fiddler’s House, and Thomas Muskerry (pr., pb. 1910). Along with such distinguished playwrights as William Butler Yeats, John Millington Synge, and Lady Augusta Gregory, Colum created a new Irish theatrical tradition. As an important member of the movement called the Irish Literary Revival, Colum developed purely Irish characters and situations so artistically that he revealed their universal significance for spectators from any culture. The Fiddler’s House illustrates the great dignity and humanity of simple Irish peasants, whom Colum describes without sentimentality and with much humor.

The Fiddler’s House is not merely a play of historical interest to specialists in modern Irish drama. In 1981, Dublin’s Peacock Theatre performed the play in celebration of the centenary of Colum’s birth. These performances were very well received, a fact that suggests that Colum’s witty and powerful portrayal of human beings’ conflicting desires for security and freedom continues to fascinate new generations of theatergoers.

After his emigration to the United States in 1914, Padraic Colum became known largely for his lyric poetry and works of children’s literature. His early plays, however, are effective dramas of universal interest, and they do not merit the neglect they suffered in the late twentieth century.