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Over the years American—especially New York—audiences have evolved a consistent set of expectations for the “Irish play." Traditionally the term implied a specific subject matter, invariably rural and Catholic, and embodied a reductive notion of Irish drama and society. This view continues to influence the types of Irish drama produced in the United States today. By examining seven different opening nights in New York theaters over the course of the last century, John Harrington considers the reception of Irish drama on the American stage and explores the complex interplay between drama and audience expectations. All of these productions provoked some form of public disagreement when they were first staged in New York, ranging from the confrontation between Shaw and the Society for the Suppression of Vice to the intellectual outcry provoked by billing Waiting for Godot as “the laugh sensation of two continents." The inaugural volume in the series Irish Literature, History, and Culture, The Irish Play on the New York Stage explores the New York premieres of The Shaughraun (1874), Mrs. Warren’s Profession (1905), The Playboy of the Western World (1911), Exiles (1925), Within the Gates (1934), Waiting for Godot (1956), and Philadelphia, Here I Come! (1966).

John P. Harrington is dean of the faculty of humanities and social sciences at the Cooper Union, author of The Irish Beckett, and editor of Modern Irish Drama.

Winner of the 1998 Michael Durkan Prize given by the American Conference for Irish Studies.

"Has written a fascinating study of Irish dramatic genius battling the restrictions of theater production and the preconceptions of American audiences."—The Boston Irish Reporter

"One of those books which opens up vistas of inquiry, awakening the reader to the way in which a particular field of study has been skewed in one direction or another."—Bullan

"The choice of plays and productions is both ingenious and unerring. The result is a whole much greater than the sum of its parts. Built on specific events and impressively deep contexts, this is a history of major Irish/American cultural transactions over some 150 years."—Charles Fanning

"A stimulating and shapely book."—Irish University Review

"He has assembled a fine cultural history which is written in a lively and jargon-free style."—James Joyce Literary Supplement

"Unites the literature, history, and culture of Irish and American theater into an admirable and provocative book. Much more than a study of seven plays, John Harrington's The Irish Play on the New York Stage is an absorbing chronicle of 150 years of Irish-American culture."—New Hibernia Review

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Irish drama, Irish plays, New York theater, Ireland in literature


Literature in English, Anglophone outside British Isles and North America

The Irish Play on the New York Stage, 1874-1966
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