Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

In theme, structure, and dialogue, The Rising of the Moon is typical of the series of brief, one-act plays which were presented as curtain-raisers in the Abbey Theatre in Dublin during its celebrated early years, which date from its foundation in 1904 to the attainment of Irish independence and the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. A large number of these plays, and almost all those that may be considered artistically successful within their obviously prescribed format, were written by Lady Augusta Gregory. The years in question are celebrated for having inaugurated a new kind of dramaturgy in English, for the discovery of a new generation of Irish playwrights (most notably John Millington Synge), and for making a significant contribution to cultural consciousness and cultural self-respect in Ireland at that time. Lady Gregory made artistic as well as practical contributions to these events, though her managerial skills and moral support meant more to the Abbey Theatre’s survival than her dramatic works.

Although The Rising of the Moon is not in the first rank of the theater’s plays, it does focus attention on the wider world that the theater was addressing and on the Abbey Theatre’s sense of its own importance. The play’s sketchiness, while dramatically limiting, underscores the representation of political activism as an area of stark choices and difficult compromises. Rather than having a plot as such, The...

(The entire section is 548 words.)